An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

The tragedy of our predicament, when we are within ideology, is that when we think we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.”
– Slavoj Žižek (no, really)

Disenchanted and disappointed long-term fans aside, It is obvious where the attraction of the current Genshiken lies. The mangaka is also playing it coy; otakus and fujoshis are no longer the societal pariahs they once were, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise is now a comfortably boring slice of life sitcom. There is plenty of fun yet to be had, especially with the longstanding puzzle challenge: guess what Hato is!

Let’s try again. If you figure out what Hato “is”, you get the “reason” Kio Shimoku is telling the story!

Hato is (/written as):

A straight male otaku who was inexplicably drawn to BL, who uses female presenting personas to enjoy the fandom surrounding BL and who abstracts the desire portrayed within the genre to his own condition (whatever that may be).

He crossplays a fujoshi to be part of the charmed circle of fans. His conflicts over reading BL and his fear of being rejected and shamed again leads him to panicked fugue states wherein he offers “gifts” to the fujoshi social when he feels that his position is endangered. First he offers the possibility of shipping himself as a male seme to Madarame’s sou-uke. This causes distress and threatens his position in the group. Then he gives the circle the “gift” of his drawing potential, if they help him to unlock it. He cannot draw a full narrative, only clench scenes. The work is an amazing copy of Kaminaga’s, so he needs support to find his own unique style. Finally he must wear women’s clothes, or at least underwear when drawing. Boy-drawn BL might be too jarring to the circle – this blunts the shock, while retaining some shred of female exclusivity in the ritual production of fujoshi fan-made material.

His latest gift, the creation of Nadeshiko no Genshiken again offers a shipping fantasy/ possibility as a candidate in the Mada harem: a demure, passive ultra-feminine character, erroneously conflated with the josou/ otokonoko (trap) genre. The story that he believes that Madarame has an interest in these provides sufficient cover. As the rest of the harem is mostly composed of peripheral Genshiken affiliates, the circle is not threatened. (Sue really doesn’t belong and has denied membership in the harem, but as magical outlander girl she can claim observer status. This begs the peripheral question: how much could Sue blab? Harem dinner reports? The secret stash of Mada x Hato-chan drawings?)

Why BL (and yaoi)? It does something for Hato. I have previously wondered if he (could be written as having) tried  Bara/ “real” gay-male-made gay comics, but I missed something obvious. Hato has given no indication of finding these appealing. But neither does he offer any proof of interest in conventional m:f narratives, seinen or josei, yuri or even loli. He seems to like Durarara!! – based dojins and the works of a few hard-to-identify circles. He declines to borrow Madarame’s josou games. Male otaku style pr0n-ish loli ecchi stuff “works” on him (at least when in male persona, at comiket, reading the other guys’ hunt list loot) but it holds little of the fascination of rotten-girl authored smut.

Could it be that none of the other genres are interesting enough? Do conventional boy-plots only offer wish fulfilment along lines of now-disenchanted models? Yuri? (the female-authored/shinso variant) The girls are interesting but how to connect? Loli otaku smut? Creepy! Real gay guy comics – we like this, it is fun, you can do this/ fantasize about this, invoke often!

How depressing!

Hato’s fascination for BL seems to skip over commercial products for fan-produced works. His interest highlights the open-source copy and transform nature of fujoshi dojinshi culture. This is not surprising, given his interest in drawing .The rituals of secondary production, the fan communities and their tastes as well as the exchange and sharing of outre enthusiasms promises to be far more interesting than discussing the weaponry featured in Black Lagoon and Jormungand or arguing over which Gundam is cooler. Don’t even start with the ecchi stuff and the waifus – it is cringe inducing. The fujoshi stuff looks more “adult”, but not disenchanted. On a meta- level, his creator could be using Hato to acknowledge the incredible contribution womens’ fandom has made to Japanese manga culture, at the very least for expending story boundaries and serving as the backbone of comiket for the last 25 years. Hato’s fascination is a curious, but earnest tribute.

Contra:
Hato was drawing female Hato being clenched by manly Mada before the harem manifested. Before that he was interested in fantasy m:m erotica. Why can’t he just be a nice well-behaved male-presenting fu-danshi who likes guys? Or has he “the heart of a girl in a boy’s body”? He cannot draw BL in a polished style characteristic of the genre unless he is dressed, not as a fujoshi but as a woman.

Aside: I still think his male persona drawing is interesting – it should have been pushed further to see where it leads. Japan is full of polished manga illustrators, professional and amateur: why add another? – unless to worship his creator.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Wilde (use auto xlate)

As well as these, these and these

Finally, note how Kaminaga’s chiding “You can’t read this stuff without it having some effect“, echoes Dr Mizoguchi, yet Kio Shimoku plays one further trick. The original statement is anti-essentialist and queer (completely straight for the female BL readership doesn’t quite fit), while Kaminaga’s restatement is heteronormative and essentialist (that stuff will make you gay!) Kaminaga situates fujoshi practice firmly within heteronormative female experience, She will soon marry to prove this point. Kaminaga is not (written as being) a nice person.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male homosexual. He wants (is written as wanting) Madarame, as a male subject to another male. All his desires are for other males, (any interest in Kaminaga was misplaced admiration, or even a gesture towards that most elusive of Japanese feelings; ittaikan ) BL provides him an alibi; “its only you” is his way of negotiating his emerging sexuality. He dreams of a romantic, intense monogamous relationship, rather than meeting lots of sex-friends, so he avoids any stereotypically imagined gay “scenes” and/or their fiction; the fantasies provided by BL are more than enough for him at present. His crossdressing is a method, a hobby and a kink. Crossplaying a fujoshi first suggested a possible way to remain closeted and later when Hato as seme proved unworkable, a fall-back strategy. Wow; guess he is a bottom. But watch the drama unfold as he gets cold feet in the harem. Back to fanning over BL guys and his solitary fantasies for now. His creator is spinning a tale by staging a battle between “that stuff will make you gay” vs “that stuff might attract repressed young gay guys – what would happen?

Contra:
Hato presenting as a male is rare within Genshiken-space. This can be finessed if his crossdressing is his naive interpretation of the josou (trap) genre or an earlier take on stereotypically effeminate gay male identities. To naive (or over-enamoured with tradition) folks in Japan, presenting a “drag” feminine persona is seen as fulfilling a normal, if somewhat out-of-date stereotype of public male homosexuality(1). Drawing BL in pantsu is a symptom of a larger kink: Hato enjoys presenting in drag as adjunct of the libidinous charge he derives from his thrice-forbidden (as smut, as gay-ish smut and as a guy reading female smut) fantasy material. If Hato was gay, then he would do gay desire without prodding and what would be the fun of that? If Hato was an emerging transwoman, then the Stands would not try to ship him, because it would not be BL, it would be kind of straight and therefore boring.

Further problem:
this interpretation verges on extremely contentious IRL controversies, being related to the arguments used by hardline female-essentialists to denounce trans folk and inclusive queer ideas of feminism and female identity.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

An emerging, extremely repressed trans-woman. Hato is conflicted and his feelings of being wrong-bodied are just beginning to manifest themselves. Despite saying “I’m a guy”, Hato presents as a female in safe spaces and has idealized female selves; the rebuking Stands. Hato fantasizes about being female and intimate with Madarame (?), is concerned over facial hair when presenting as female, enjoys yaoi because it is a quintessential female libidinized activity and seeks out female socials. Hato naturally prefered to slip into the girls facilities to change (that’s stretching it – Hato feels no existential dread using the male facilities at comiket, except when costumed.) Trans-woman Hato would not be “gay” in her desire for Mada, as she would be female. Any residual male-ness in Hato is being shipped by the emerging female subjectivity via methods suggested by fujoshi enthusiasms, so as to be rid of “the accursed remainder” – how’s that for dragging euro-pop psychology into the Genshiken? Plot mojo comes from the unsuitability of the Genshiken fujoshi social in supporting an emerging transwoman.

Spotted Flower “proves” this. No-honestly-not-Hato-for-contractual-reasons will go on to become a successful BL mangaka, adopt a public female presence and undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Contra:
His internal dialogue as “a crossdressing male BL mangaka” does not acknowledge any gender confusion, simply that the sexualities implied by his interests resist conventional categorization. Initial BL smut drawn by Hato was m:m with him as seme. His first crush was the mighty, yet very female Kaminaga. Query: does the smut he draws for his private Mada x Hato posit him as female or as a crossdressing male?

As well, he has never expressed the feeling of being in the wrong body – the female Hato is an expansion of his self that he has created; She is limited to presenting as a fujoshi in fan-space socials. The Nadeshiko character is purposed to succeed as a harem member; if she was to succeed further by seducing Madarame, it would be cruel and disruptive. The heroic sacrifice also gives the retreat a storybook melodramatic tone. Any flirting has been within a chaste, Sue-chaperoned harem script.

The Stands are remarkably stupid or at least extremely purposeful: the original only teased Hato when he was in male-male ship-able situations, mostly with Madarame. It demanded that BL scripts be played out by male Hato. Perhaps this was to drive him more into a feminine persona, but it was sure a roundabout way of doing it. The second version, the flatter-chested Kaminaga-esque one, demands that he pursue Madarame even when he is in girl-character, but an internalized Kaminaga-ur-fujoshi-ish point of view would only do so if it still saw the core of Hato as male and therefore a target for demands he act out BL scripts. Even if Hato-san acknowledges and assimilates them into his conscious, admitted-to-himself desires, they remain focused on very limited concerns surrounding his fannish enthusiasms.

What little self-hatred or self-destructive behaviour Hato engages does not center around the suppression of a unitary female subjectivity, e.g. admitting that “he” “is a woman trapped in a man’s body”. Hato doesn’t engage in risky sexual behaviour, hang around in seedy bars or even engage in online attention-seeking/ shaming rituals. It is probably a good thing that his creator does not drag out all the tired and insulting stereotypes that suggest that anyone who suffers gender dysphoria issues will self-harm. Hato presents as female in a cloistered, extremely safe and supportive community and has used the space provided to develop new skills, make friends and enjoy normally proscribed enthusiasms. Hato! Check your privilege?

Finally, “word of kami” from Kio Shimoku and Spotted Flower are both notoriously hard to pin down. “Flower” may be any number of things. As well, the recent English language translated interview with the mangaka must be taken with a grain or three of salt, even as it adds very little to arguments one way or another. Contractual obligations forbid him from acknowledging ANY correspondence between Genshiken and Spotted Flower, and besides, he likes to play coy and maintain his secret identity; so even if he could, he wouldn’t. More questions are raised than answered by the doppelganger in Spotted Flower having a “boob job”  – which is how the mangaka lieks it! 

Hato is (/written as):

Originally straight, but inventing his own extreme (big R) Romantic, rebellious queer-ness/ gender-queer-ness. Part of this is a kink that fixates on sempais. All that Mada has to do is give him a pair of slippers and the kid would sit in a corner warming them against his chest (a historical trope beloved by medievalist Japanese fujoshi, as used in Haganai (2)) blubbering for the next hour. Hato holds the view that true romantic love must be powerful enough to break societal rules and bounds; that it is not only the finding of a soul-mate, but an extreme recreation of the self through desire. There are elements of classical masochism in his desires, but these run through fujoshi lore in any case. His cross-play and crossdressing serve to fit him to a fujoshi social, serve to offer the other members exchange and serve to pursue desire itself: gender and sexuality categories be damned – all while transcending, by transgressing not only his male role but the female social as well. The lad likes transgression, as long as it is well-behaved.

There is a strong whiff of narcissism here as well, although narcissism is less of a pathological  than a chronic condition of the modern subject, now that the global economy runs on it.

I repeat: the global economy now runs on narcissism. A bit of it is perfectly acceptable for well-adjusted citizens and don’t you really want an Apple watch?

If he was a transwoman caught in a male body, any romance would still be raiju-ish. If he was gay, similarly raiju. If he was “Bi” (that old standby of western slash-fen), he would be raiju (and indiscriminate) If he gave up on BL and just fixated on loli charas he would still be uncomfortably raiju, in the sense that all those other desires match up to what is expected of them, now that they are no longer deep dark secrets to be hidden but acceptable market niches and or “tastes”. In this sense, Hato is also Kio Shimoku’s way of dealing with the new-found acceptance that otaku and fujoshi have gained within Japan. He is a further disruption, in essence the last etranger standing in the Genshiken.

Hato’s desire has to be “you and only you” to break societal rules and thereby prove the power of its truth. This also confirms the authenticity of his self and that of the equally true and free and yet to appear soul-mate. This spell always invokes desire for desire, the lover is a phantasm that has yet to appear.

I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

Then they take you.

Once more note that his original cross-play as fujoshi was an uncanny replica of his first crush, now soon to be his sister in-law. If she ever cuts her hair short she will look like her husband’s brother! And she has a bad case of rotten too, so she shares the itch! Hato: avoid family reunions!

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

Otaku-dom is no longer seen as an abject, pariah state, but as an otaku cross-dressing male fujoshi mangaka in training, the transgression is restored, redoubled and redoubled again. All Mada has to do to avoid the drama is to play boring until Risa enrolls.

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

Contra:
All this may be Hato’s cover/ rationalization for an underlying gender dysphoria condition, as it piles absurdity upon contradiction, upon further absurdity. Oh, and he is a manga character, so the mangaka is being clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive.

Most of the confusion leads back to the logic bomb that is BL and yaoi.

As a spectre of male homosexual desire created and enjoyed by the female gaze, it haunts the Japanese patriarchy, positing an eroticized romantic exchange that both abstracts male behaviour stereotypes, including aggressive/ violent ones and rewrites them as female authored scripts of repressed, forbidden desire and identity to be shared among women.

It is raw, undiluted, powerful female sexuality. It disrupts. it mocks. It rages. It refuses “to take responsibility”. It plays hob with every “official” categorization it can lay its mittens on. It has issues. It is not well behaved. Bakhtin’s Carnival theories cannot touch it. It is far more insidious than “drag”. It will kill the puppy if you do not buy the magazine. But it also screams out for what it finds lacking in the real world.

It is the desire for desire, for a tale of “love” that destroys and remakes the entire world.

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

This is not uncommon in romantic fiction and there are plenty of other genres that take a related, but more well-behaved approach.

Hato is moving towards an extreme acting out of individuation within Japanese society, based on fujoshi romantic tropes that privilege transgression against social codes of sexuality and power, not transgendered identity. Hato’s solution seems to start with folk notions of two-souled individuation and play with them. It is a trial by combat of desire, as a possibility for escape or accommodation or salvation; against a society whose rules and structures appear to make any love or desire an impossible, naive longing.

Shut up and get back to work.

It is also a very old story: like Quixote, it dares to remake the world, hurling defiance while demanding that society obliterate it or accommodate it.

The problem for Hato and the furtive kami that creates him lies in the confusion that this presentation offers: within the Genshiken-verse it makes for fine plot mojo. However IRL concerns threaten to make the extreme liminality of the characterization and the situation appear (again) clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive. Nerves, in some quarters of the meat-verse are raw especially when you have skin in the game or know someone who does. Whatever “girl’s heart in a boy’s body” notions that have been left to float around should fast be circumscribed, or at least toned down to:

“Hato’s rotten enthusiasms made female, sharing space with him in his body”.

“Why can’t I have both? It’s less ronery this way!”

It would be wrong to go towards any soap-opera notions of split personality/ dissociative disorder. Both versions are aspects of Hato. Gender is what is treated as optional, yet essential to the “role” required. It is as if “male” and female” are relative and situationally based public facets of the self, like “sempai” and kouhai”. Extreme Judith Butler time. The female aspect of Hato declines to “drive the Hato truck” for any other purpose than her fujoshi interests. This begs the question: what role and/or purpose does Hato-as-male answer? Student? Son? The guy who helps carry drunk acquaintances back to their hotel?

Perhaps in a rejoinder to the pop psychology surrounding otaku (and fujoshi) studies, Kio Shimoku is edging towards positing moe otaku and fujoshi desire as emergent variant sexualities in their own right? (3)

Extreme otaku and fujoshi desire as a new form of queer, part of a larger tendency in the meat-verse towards asceticism and virtualism or fantasism? This strategy also holds the promise of understanding cybersex enthusiasts, cosplayers, furries and the Takarazuka Review. (Fantasy is fantasy and reality is ugly, complicated and leaves me cold!!!!) but is closer to the range of paraphilias than a sexuality. And it does nothing to answer messier questions of gender identity – unless gender identity takes a back seat to individuation in construction of subject-hood.

If this sounds too weird, imagine individual practitioners of an outre kink, who are fabulously wealthy, head a commercial empire and are descended from European nobility. Their indulgences are consensual and they do societal good works; no Dr Evil with fluffy white cat stuff.

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

Lookie how thin our modernist-derived ideas of “identity” are. Storybook critters all!

Hato likes BL, likes BL fanning and enjoys BL sexual fantasies (but he won’t say how). BL works for Hato and that’s the way he was created, even if it has been made difficult to precisely situate Hato within the enjoyment.

Bara and the rest of it doesn’t turn his crank. Doing fujoshi stuff as a guy is uncomfortable and has been a real heartbreak. Now that he can do rotten girl, it wouldn’t be as fun: he is comfortable with his fujoshi aspect and she helps him draw too! He only goes a bit weird when his place in his fannish circle (which underpins his identity) is threatened. The most maddening thing about Hato is that he is “just what it says on the label

He is also plainly uneasy with the idea of having 3D secks with anyone, male or female: at very least he must be in love first. Not mere raiju love either: crazy, hits like lightning, very very frightening, break all the rules love. Special, unique, uncategorizable love. Not raiju. Raiju=death. Gay would be raiju. Bisexual would be raiju. Transwoman to male would be raiju because Japan’s laws say that a transwoman is a woman and Hato’s rebellious subconscious is also very law-abiding and polite. Asexual would be raiju. Aliens, time travelers or espers might do in a pinch but if they were too random they would be raiju (they are alien, one expects them to do alien things) as well and therefore unsuitable.

The ideal lover would probably be someone as equally plagued by fantasies as Hato is. This of course is the older “misfits into the sack” view that posits that the best match for an X is another X – a large part of why we do the whole categorization thing in the first place. The further complication to this, a sardonic jest on the part of the mangaka, remains that so far Hato can barely manage friendship.

A further interesting question pops up. The libidinous spaces of Japanese fandom are filled to the brim with invented others defined by odly imagined sexualities and desires. Genshiken’s Saki lampshaded how tenuous these can get when she casually alludes to having (“real”) gay friends. Buzz-kill! But if the world is full of interesting real folks, why spend so much time creating the fantastic? Why all the straight boys and girls keep making up their versions of others’  sexualities, goes far beyond imagining what those people do and/or boxes of tissues. The latter wouldn’t be needed if these shoddy constructs and the fantasies created with them didn’t scratch some deeper itch. These needs are complex, submerged and multi-faceted, but by no means unique: they are largely conventional and mundane, when taken in toto. As such they appear as tantalizing clues that promise insights into how we fit into the messy world that we have created. They make fine fodder for pop psychology and sociology.

Nawww… It all means nothing. Just kick back and enjoy the silly stories…

A radical queer/ genderqueer approach is probably the most productive means of situating the questions posed by the Hato character, (and /or just throwing up one’s arms while exclaiming “fugggettit!”) as long as we qualify it by positing an extreme aversion to any limiting aspects that societies always seek to impose on any categorizations.

Demanding a place in the world that fits the shape of one’s own heart is always a risky and somewhat foolish enterprise but given the state of Japanese society and the Japanese economy, Hato’s passive-aggressive rebellion is not risking much. It isn’t like he is sacrificing a job for life, a loving bride who becomes a shufu and a happy family – these are in short supply lately. With little to lose and the breathing room offered by university little prevents him from doing some product development research.

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

Sometimes the world finds a place, even a tenured teaching position for nice Jewish cis-grandmothers who are also gay “bear” trans-men. A trick like that however takes a lot of chutzpah as well as relentless, persistent and creative kicking.

Kenjiro Hato should seek out (or be written as seeking out) some new reading materials for pointers.

The alternative is to adopt the radical view championed by grumpy old neo-Hegelian Lacanians that the pursuit of a sexuality that fits one’s heart is fool’s errand because all sexuality is a manifestation of the universal force of human fail. Sexuality=fail and fail=eroticism and no one really fits in to anything or anywhere until we are measured for a pine box…

Suck it up and keep rowing.
.

(1) As well as the monk/ acolyte, warrior/ page tropes contained within the nanshoku/ wakashūdo/ shudō traditions, Also of note are the Onnagata (female-role) and wakashū-gata (adolescent boy-role) historical traditions of the theatre and floating world, Citing these however draws criticism from those who claim that an essentialist historic view is too often deployed to mask contentious current issues in Japan. For an overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan and an older work that was often cited in BL/yaoi bibliographies 10 years ago; an historical survey of male homosexuality in Japan, as it applies to the yaoi genre by Mark McHarry, originally printed in the Boston-based gay magazine, The Guide, November, 2003. Had to scrape “The Archive” a few times for this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20050111090154/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html
Note as well the interesting side-note in the wiki regarding the curious absence of the female from the first three generations of the genealogy of the gods, as found in the Nihon Shoki, which begs a whole slew of questions.

(2) The “jump the kouhai” scene from haganai is now even more confusing as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Yukimura Kusunoki turns out to be a girl who normally presents as a boy but presents as a boy crossdressing as a girly maid to “learn masculinity” from the male main character. Yukimura-san’s gender-fluidity is ascribed to “family circumstances“, the other great explain-all of Japanese comedies of gender identity along with “it’s a hobby!” Now that her secret is out, she has switched to a butler routine, which just goes to show that trying to get any sense out of a comedy manga might be asking too much.

(3) Dr Saito Tamaki has wondered about this, but put it aside preferring to see otaku behaviour as an elegant adaptation to contemporary conditions. Dr Akiko Mizoguchi has suggested that nominally straight fujoshi who internalize the fictional sexualities are not “straight” any more, but is imprecise as to how one would characterise them – either as virtual yaoi males in bed or virtual lesbians in their fan circles: the “you cannot look at all that…” effect once again. Earlier hints of this tendency to “ghost the shell” of the Japanese otaku can be found, such as in the 1999 “I’m alone, but not lonely”, Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place by Volker Grassmuck, as well as his 2000 Man, Nation & Machine: The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society. Although both are highly conversational and impressionistic, with too much bubble economy and Gibson references  they have been widely cited as early materials in what would become “otaku studies”.

Insane Bonus Track: A french film from 1994: Jean-Jacques Beineix’s rather sensationalist  ‘Otaku’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCj9cQdIr8

Legends of the fall, conditions of the fall

The fall Genshiken web

Spoiler lamp ON for Genshiken Ch 110.

Once again Reality is reality and fantasy is fantasy is the fall-back mantra for Kio Shimoku’s fave conflicted Genshiken character. I should be doing a big wrap-up of the whole Kuchiki’s farewell trip arc, but it ain’t over yet. Yet a few things are already nagging me, and the jet-lag from my return trip is refusing to let me sleep.

As ch 110 ends, Hato-as-kun has just been tripped over and is pinned on a bed, drunk and helpless by an equally drunk Madarame. Rotten girls everywhere are letting out small squeees, or perhaps only grudging “hmmmmmmmm”s. Three full pages with explanations were needed to explain the mechanics of how A tripped and fell on B. Surely, thou doth protest a bit much. (Don’t call me…)

Aside: Qualia‘s last chapter has surfaced. Amazing how another clichéd trip and fall into the arms of… can disrupt the entire structure of reality across multiverses. And some folks thought that Sasameki Koto went to insane lengths before the happy girl-couple nerved up to share a smooch…

Qualia clench web

A clichéd fall into each other’s arms scene, one of the oldest tricks in the book. Is it ironic presentation? A forced trope moment to send a confused and no longer “objectively viewed” (and directed) Hato into a full BL fugue state? Service to the rotten- girl readership? (if so, it is pretty vanilla, we’ve seen steamier in Haganai) or pure burlesque?

tomodochi get goggles real bad web

An otokonoko version of a hotel room scene would be obvious and direct.

typical otokonoko fall web

A yaoi version even more so. (insert your own…)

thomas_fall web

A restrained 1970’s shonan-ai version would drag on a bit longer, be drawn in wispy lines and come with a floral panel and an over-the-top vow of eternal soul-mate-ness that would transcend time and death via both re-incarnation and the “other shore”.

Thomas web

(Are there no Photoshop users among hardcore Genshiken fans? C’mon; Hato, plus a rose-filled floral background, plus big, wordy word-balloon! Am I the only one on this fricking planet who would find such a pastiche funny???)

Other options are as quickly dispensed with. I note that when considering how the Genshiken could” play out (eg: “the playset”) I lean towards more dialogue. So apparently do more than a few fanfiction writers – it is a common error: Genshiken is a visual narrative, not a light novel.

Kio Shimoku stages the scene in his own way. His authorial voice, his style demands that he write it like a middle-aged married guy mangaka who is peeking in on the current version of the male otaku of his youth and the newly emerged tribes of rotten girls and then arranging his characters to play out situations that highlight certain weaknesses and contradictions in their social codes. All with plenty of light chiding humour and enough economy of dialogue and enough movement to keep the story going. A very skilled, veteran middle-aged guy mangaka…

Hackneyed tropes will be deployed, but they are done so in a manner that looks like a shout-out, or an ironic presentation at first glance. Only with closer consideration do they morph into something else, something in the way.

HSDXD clench fall web

Why does it take 3 pages for Mada to fall onto Hato? Three pages that could have been better used, perhaps for talk-talk?

Kio Shimoku has always maintained a distanced, anthropological view in his slice-of-life relationship-py manga. It is a guy’s take on the more serious Josei form and/ or a holdover from 1980’s 1990’s manga that attempted to fuse comedy with some aspects of social realism. Slice of Life says a bit about what he is doing; how he does it is far more interesting.

With the excessive amount of porn in fan materials why are his characters almost all 3D intimacy-avoiding virgins? And while at university? What the effing hell is university good for if not for losing it? It is not as if they are trying and failing – even nerds can find true love if they clean up and try a bit. That’s how we get a technical class. All the Genshiken critters are experts in 2D intimacy and scared crapless of the messy random painfulness of 3D affection.

CJVC narratives are full of way too many happy young folks who are too paralyzed to make a move. That allows their authors to pile on even more shiny young characters, usually female and run the usual gags. But the Genshiken is set up with older characters, 19-22 age range, at a University, who are enthusiasts of the diverse genres that trot out all of these cheesy tropes.

So each trope that plays out on and with the Genshiken characters is at once a shout-out, an ironic presentation, a curious deja-vue moment, something to go along with for fun and a nuisance, an impediment to authentic 3D human interaction and friendship.

Saki’s presence, as bullshit detector and reality check is sorely missed.

Note the economy of dialogue between Madarame and Hato-kun. Recall that Mada and Hato haven’t really talked much anyway, which is part of the problem if not a formal structural law of romantic manga and anime comedies of error. Nope; there never is enough time to talk over the “important stuff“. The urgency of the exchange when it finally takes place can be cut with a knife.

“You stopped coming by!” “I was afraid!” “I am not the fantasy I created – chose someone else!” “By the way, I need pantsu to draw…” “OOOOPS!”

Of course keeping the dialogue lean and to the point keeps the story moving along at a fine clip. A newb would drown it in text, Shimoku-sensei reins in the urge.

But then…

We now pause to consider the prodigious drink intake by Madarame (and Hato) over the course of the evening as well as the effect of Kuchiki’s weight on Mada’s knees, his general state of exhaustion, the previously highlighted thrown shoe, plus the angular momentum of the earth and the gravitational constant of ….

3 pages later…

Trip and fall accomplished!

“Buffy: The next thing I knew we’re being attacked by this mutant ninja demon thing, and then we’re on the floor on top of each other, and it’s just really confusing being around you.”  – Slavoj Žižek

Resume game.

F1 – Black out
F2 – Throw up
F3 – Kissssssssu!
F4 – <user input> “Would you like a bucket of pudding?”

Of note to cross-cultural students of rotten-ish western mass culture; the BBC’s Sherlock has made it over to Japan and is doing fine business as a dub, with light novel adaptations (covers by a noted rotten mangaka), plus manga treatments. Shimoku sensei could have pinched the Holmes/ Watson piss-up routine…

…but nooooooooooo….

sherlock-john-drunk

Holmes and Watson are friends.

Hato-as-kun and as-self is about to pop. He should already be in fugue state, acting out a BL script or fanning over the possibilities, with him as main character. He most likely already is: selflessly sacrificing his love for the good of his sempai, Madarame is in the curious position of being the only adult in the room not under the influence of a delusion field.

I wonder what could be (/written as) going through his head?

“Dumped again, aw shit… Sou-uke? Hmmmmmph! Harem lead? That was a lot of work. Well, the food and attention was something… Oh wait, I guess I am the “circle queen” about to destroy the Genshiken, as the members vie for my charms.”

“A scary furreign amazon wants to have a convention romance with me, then vanish. As if we could even talk to each other, my English sucks. Keiko wants to sully me, if I get laid, she’ll make sure it feels like shit. Sue is a cute – why didn’t I notice sooner? She might be a bit interested in me, but she can barely manage any Japanese and is too shy to even talk to me without a kinky setup – which could be fun later, but too weird a way to start dating and besides she wants to see a stupid BL story play out between me and Hato – why? The rest of them are all rooting for that stupid BL story to play out between me and Hato too. And then there is Hato. He’s bought into it, or he’s the one behind the whole thing; he’s kinda cute in girl-mode, but doing it??? Oh wait, yeah, I blushed. And I’m playing otokonoko games. Well fuuuuuuuck me! Am I supposed to suddenly be seized with the irresistible urge to ass-rape Hato, chan and kun? Don’t we even get to talk a bit first? Go on a date or something? Nobody tells me nuthin!”

“This sucks!”

“I should just tell Yoshitake that she is the only one I want, but she has to dress like a boy. That would screw up their stupid BL thing right to the moon. Leave the Genshiken? They came and dragged me back, dammit! A fine way to treat an ex-president and a sempai!”

Hmmmmph!

Kio Shimoku would never use this much internal blah blah. TL:DR. And he can’t fall into the trope either. I’m guessing that no first kisssus will be stolen. Likewise, I will be sorely disappointed if the moment ends with Mada jumping back as if electrified, or Hato managing some ninja wrestling escape/ attack move. I’ll forgive it if…

Nawwwww… Don’t tell me…

Becoming Sasahara V2 wont work. I’m guessing that Madarame has to become Saki.

Keiko was never up to the Saki role. Saki was always much more than the raiju girlfriend, and Keiko can’t even manage that. As a raiju girlfriend, she fails miserably; her floating world experience and kogal-girl teen misadventures put her squarely in another fantasy-land, a few blocks south. She gets the mechanics of 3D relationship delusions, but has only the slimmest understanding of how the beloved lore of fandom can serve as an enabling mechanism for avoiding messy 3D personal interaction. The side bits about Keiko not grasping the full BL/yaoi implications and the rotten-fantasy potential of a prettied up Hato-kun going back with Mada to a hotel room is pointed out for a reason.

More importantly, she lacks something else: Keiko cannot serve as the Genshiken’s bullshit detector. Reality check was Saki’s main role and that’s why she wasn’t just “the raiju girlfriend”, but a mainstay of the Genshiken. Yoshitake and Yajima are too caught up in their own stuff, Ogiue has her hands full with day-to-day club ops, she has done nothing to intervene in the HatoxMadaxHato melodrama. Ohno has to be Ohno the fairy godmother.

Shimoku-sensei likes mirroring tricks and parallelisms. if you use Saki for a mostly guy Genshiken you need a guy for a mostly girl Genshiken. He has to be an outsider, at least to fujoshi lore but he has to also be sympathetic enough to the dangers of over-fanning to sound the bullshit alarm, without sounding like some guy who thinks he can tell rotten girls how to behave, who would then be a complete outsider, the enemy, a jerk.

Which, if you step back a bit is the giant yawning chasm that Kio Shimoku has been edging around since he turned the Genshiken into a rotten-girl hangout. What the heck is HE doing there anyway?

How many male mangakas are out there creating somewhat-serious social studies style slice of life manga in the Seinen genre right now? The “serious” stories are all owned by women. Seinen and Josei, especially the more female concerned (if not feminist) Josei are continents apart. What is Kio Shimoku doing with a new series in Rakuen Le Paradis ???

What can Madarame-sempai bring that is of worth to the new Genshiken? The Genshiken fails if Hato cracks up from the pressure of trying to be a male BL fan without being overtly queer (Aside: new research on male BL/yaoi consumption in Japan suggests that perhaps the yaoi ronso/ appropriation of voice concerns have died down a bit as the diversity and perhaps the quality of the genre has leveled up a notch or two. Some Japanese guys who like guys reportedly now credit it as a niche product, a related form of narrative by somewhat queer-ish allies, or at least a gateway or emergency substitute. More on this available soon.)

…And what kind of story would that be for Shimoku-sensei to spin? Yoai and BL turns guy readers into a gay caricatures and/or makes them crazy?

Similarly the Genshiken fails if HatoxMadaxHato ever gets off the ground. Lookie at the middle-aged straight boy writing ham-fisted BL. Is he making fun of a venerable woman’s narrative form? What a jerk!

What if Madarame is left hanging as the perpetual butt of an endless elaborate rotten-girl joke? There is no room for the old-style male otaku in this brave new world. They can all go crawl back to their moe-pits and dream of incest with their busty big-eyed adopted kid sister waifu charas, perhaps with a giant robot or a magic battle tossed in every other weekend. And as for middle-aged straight boy mangakas…

Is everything you worked so long and hard for is now obsolete?

Back to our steamy hotel room scene:

Hato’s “look at myself objectively” thing has always been a bit vague. Now it is in tatters. What he really meant was “remove part of myself from the role to a safe position“. Hato has never really talked much to Mada because he doesn’t know how to, so he takes refuge in the character he has created – who must always be flustered. And now comes the dramatic moment, with no Hato-as-omniscient-author-director to watch over it. But he is still playing a role. It is perhaps his biggest performance yet to date.

“Watch as I make the ultimate sacrifice for my sempai’s happiness!”

BULLSHIT!

Hato’s entire confused liminality, his neither fish nor fowl, gay or straight, trans or cis, crossdress or cross-play, yaoi consuming, harem joining, nadeshiko levelling up and Sou-uke yelling presentation over the past Genshiken year has been pure and utter shambulatory late onset chunny, lashed together creaking and about to fall apart… bullshit.

There may be real feelings hiding behind the mess, but who can tell. Even Hato can’t tell, which is probably why he built the mess in first place.

Keiko may instinctively feel this and the fallout she thinks is hitting Madarame is annoying as all heck, with or without shadings of homophobia/transphobe-ishness. And it is blocking the little drama that she wants to stage. But what Keiko and the rest of the girls will probably never wrap their heads around is how much Hato’s over-the-top, self-deluded bullshit looks more and more like a ritual gift being offered to the closest person he has to a male friend, in the subconscious hope that Mada will call him on it.

BULLSHIT!

“Hato-kun, no, Kenjiro, really…”

“…you have to wear pantsu to be able to draw yaoi?”

“Pantsu!”

“Ufu Fu Ufu…”

“You read waaaaaaaaay too much BL!

Don’t I get to prepare my heart?

Were he so inclined, or given enough dialogue pages by the mangaka, Madarame could easily tick off the absurdities. He is long overdue for a Picard-style “Enough of this farce!” exposition. Start with the violin solo accompanying the “I am not the otokonoko you think I am, forget me” song. Madarame plays otokonoko games and can be safely assumed to have read some of the other materials in the genre. Madarame knows otokonoko. The most Hato has let on knowing about otokonoko is lurking 3D cross-play hobbyist sites for makeup tips. Mada should gently break it to Hato that he makes a lousy 2D style otokonoko. Hato don’t know shit about (2D) otokonoko. And don’t the 3D ones do it as a cross-play-ish hobby? Perhaps he has seen a fujoshi version or two in dojins but the fujoshi variant would leave out all the girl+/plus stuff the guy version play with: better than ‘real’ girls, the magical man-preg nonsense, the flirtatious challenge and promise of a transgressive, but still easily manageable fantasy kink. Aren’t they also supposed to come with an appropriated manga/anime chara costume variant, cat ears, school-ish uniform, magical girl costume or something?

Sorry Hato, you are not the otokonokos we are looking for.

Hato cross-dresses as a shojou heroine from 20 years ago, before they got spunky. One of the sad ones. And she can cook! Wow! A shojou otokonoko? So cross-playing-as-fujoshi Hato creates then offers cross-dressing Hato to Mada for him to fall for in a harem story. Oh goodie! Is that for Mada? For the rotten girls in the peanut gallery? For the secret heart of Hato Kenjiro?

Cue background music: Un Bell di Vedremo or The Flower Duet?

Mada most likely continues to see Hato for what he can be “objectively” described as in Mada-ish terms: an otaku guy. Otaku, otaku otakuuuuuu, from planet otaku. Hato likes reading BL. Excellent! It’s a hobby. No biggie. It’s not like Hato is into scat robo-shota guro twincest. Hato wanted to fan over his fave genre with the girls, so he started crossdressing. He got good at it and found he likes cross-playing a fujoshi. Again, no biggie, the Genshiken fujoshi accept it. Hato reads too much BL and overdoes it… Over-fanning happens. But it looks like all of this is at least enabling Hato to draw, and creative output is sacred, so what to do?

But now Mada has to ask: “What’s all this about stealing (or declining to steal) my first kisssu Kenjiro Hato? This is the first time we’ve talked mano a mano since Comiket.” What of Hato-chan the cross-play fujoshi Genshiken member? “Haven’t seen her since the school festival”. “Is it Nadeshiko Genshiken Hato-chan, the demure domestic angel routine that you have been practicing while cooking for me, that you are speaking for?” If Hato is dumping Mada, which Hato is doing the dumping?

One blush means hard gay? A girl’s heart in a boy’s body? What’s next? An evil twin? Amnesia? A Takarazuka dance number?

How about a good mano a mano fight over “goggles”?

The rotten girls see the belligerence as sublimation, but they discount the foreplay.

Hato is either completely caught up in the hall of mirrors of his enthusiasms, which is an otaku complaint, or he has fused his runaway otaku enthusiasms with an underlying sexuality and/or gender dysphoria issue, in which case he needs to untangle the fandom from the personal issues and get some support from folks who can offer knowledgeable advice. The Genshiken is a supportive community for otaku, but it would be foolish for any of them to be written as primary advice providers to a young gay person or trans person trying to grapple with their emerging identity. Especially when labels like gay or trans don’t seem to fit very well in any case.

The situation was funny; now it is getting heavy.

Mada has asked Hato before: “Are you sure you are not gay?” Does he have enough pieces of the puzzle to now ask: “Hato, where are those feelings coming from?” and “Who says 3D has to go like a BL story?

Faced with a person whom he knows in such distress, could Harunobu Madarame start spewing homophobia and/or transphobia at Hato? Could he recoil in horror and refuse to help? Most people would just throw up their hands and tell the Hato continuum to deal with their own shit. But Madarame has been honoured in a curious way: Hato trusts him enough to have a meltdown on his doorstep. Not in the clubroom, not in a heart to heart with Ogiue, or Yajima or Yoshitake or Sue.

How is Kio Shimoku going to play this?

As a mirror reflection of the last great circle-trip romantic crisis, this situation is far more littered with real-life landmines. The mangaka doesn’t have to be politically correct, but if he writes it mean or stupid, his magnum opus will take a hit.

Stuff like this is what one finds in josei and adult shinso yuri. I have no idea if some BL tales take on this level of emotional complexity, or if any of these genres can at the same time play a similar situation for laughs.
:
Here is a weird thought: If the subtext in this story was yuri rather than BL, and the characters were all girls, then Hato would be doing a classic type-S sempai crush. Mada could get to be Bakemonogatari‘s Hitagi Senjōgahara to Hato’s Suruga Kanbaru. It ain’t going anywhere, but be gentle with the kouhai’s heart.

The kid only falls for sempais?

So… kick the can down the road a bit longer?

Mada jumps off, cringing while doing a mortified jaw-drop Gehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! An equally mortified Hato bolts out the door into the cold night…

Cue a repeat of the “go after Ogiue” scene: “He hasn’t made it back?” “What did you do?” “Go after him!” etc. Which postpones any reckoning while ramping up the confusion. More confession-ing to ensue in a park or at the train station as dawn breaks. Does Hato have to sit down with Mada and show him all his clench drawings once they get back?

How Marxian of the mangaka.

How to keep it light and funny but respectful of any underlying issues of sexuality or identity?

Complete Aside: Anyone notice that the weird manga/ anime franchise Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! takes place at the “same” university as the Genshiken? Lookie at all the monorail sequences!

Escape maneuver “hanami” !

What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.
― Kobayashi Issa

This blog will be on hiatus soon, as I forsake the last of winter in Southwestern Ontario,
for the regions around Kamakura during the month of March.

(  UPDATE/ ASIDE: Sket-Effing-Dan !!!!  Admiration !!!! Good Job !!!!  )

Playing Hookey!

Hopefully there will still be plum blossoms when I arrive and cherry blossoms before I leave.

There is a very interesting community festival that is going into setup mode and I want to see how they do it. Carpe Diem!

The Takarazuka Revue is doing a Lupin III musical with a silly story line that includes time travel, Marie Antoinette and Count Cagliostro: Lupin III ~ Chase After The Queen’s Necklace!
http://kotaku.com/lupin-the-third-turned-into-an-all-womens-musical-1628368523
http://kageki.hankyu.co.jp/lupin/

When my friend mentioned this I went all happy-crazy and tracked down what I could find on the internet… And sure enough, I had read right past it in a Okazu review by Erica-sensei of a show she attended last fall. I should pay better attention. Last year when hit by a nasty cold and fits of sleeplessness I enjoyed hours of promo Takarazuka somethings – infomercial rehearsals(?) on Japanese cable TV late at night. Done the Sumo and the Noh already; must see the Takarazuka Revue even if I won’t understand a word of it. Tickets prices for the nosebleed seats are reasonable.

It’s Lupin III dammit! I would have preferred a green jacket Lupin, but I understand the choice of red.

UPDATE: Who’d have thot: The Taka Tokyo shows are all sold out! The scalpers are out in full force, asking ridiculous prices! Much running around to follow…

FURTHER UPDATE: Yahoo auctions comes through, helping an enterprising reseller of Takarazuka tix more than double their money. This better be good, I could almost get that wide-angle lens I have been lusting after for what we just dropped on balcony seats for the Saturday matinee.

FURTHER UPDATE: WOW!
Lupin III works as a Takarazuka musical and yup, there was singing and dancing o plenty and they do it very well. Executive summary: It isn’t just about Otoko-Yaku, it’s about Hero-yaku. The Takas did indeed nab something precious. I salute them.

UPDATE: http://www.anime-japan.jp/en/ Will be running the third weekend in March at the Tokyo Big Sight. Dare I venture into the crowds, cough up the admission and wander around like a complete illiterate?

A Comic Market Special “OTAKU Summit 2015” will be held at the old Chiba Comiket location, the Makuhari Messe during the last days of March. Since I could never make it to Comiket, this is a chance for a “lite” Comiket experience. It is run by the official Comiket Committee and looks like it will try to feature as much “Cool Japan” international participation as possible. The weather should be fine too. http://cmksp.jp/cs6/en/

UPDATE: I have secured press accreditation for the event. I will be able to take a few discrete photos! hooray!

There are a whole bunch of interesting Media Arts/ New Media events I need to catch, including a co-presentation from the 18th Japan Media Art Festival – Digital Choc 2015 : The Real Factory http://www.institutfrancais.jp/tokyo/events-manager/digital-choc-2015-la-fabrique-du-reel/
J’espère que je peux me souvenir d’assez de mon français pour profiter des événements.

And while it looks like there aren’t any interesting academic conferences on Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture -ish topics in the Kanto region that I can crash during March, I will be keeping an eye on the few listing forums I have found for such things. I wanted some academic theory-moe about CJVC, in Japan. Is that too much to ask for?

I should settle for a Genshiken “pilgrimage” to Nikko.

And there will be cherry blossoms.

Too Cheesy?

There’s a reason why I am sharing all this besides crowing. I am moving towards doing a lot more freelance cultural and research work in the near future. I haven’t had the time to do any “projects” for a while – though more folks seem to read this blog than ever saw my art, even when I was landing solo shows and spots in regional group shows. Work had become futile, stressful and ugly. My health was failing and nothing of worth was getting accomplished. It was time to hit the eject button. So: Consultant to the community arts, independent curator and researcher; I am waiting for the cards to come back from the printer. All the online expert advice on this kind of adventure advise that I shouldn’t be so furtive. The last academic conference on fandom I wormed my way into reminded me of what I was missing, what I enjoy and what I could be doing with my life. Time to take a chance, chase after the good stuff and share anything neat I find!

I might even be a bit less pseudonymous in the future, now that an ability to string words together in something approaching essay form will neither get me fired or be added to my responsibilities without a pay raise. Did you ever wonder how reviews are written?

So, if you happen to be in the Tokyo/ Yokohama/ Kamakura area this March and you see an over-enthusiastic, bald, once tall, now stooped, middle-aged outlander with a collapsible walking stick being elbowed by his friend as she reminds him to lower his voice… Or wobbling down the street on a one-speed granny bike with a huge box of groceries lashed to the rear carrier… Pay him no mind.

Unless you know of a show, a conference or something else really neat going on…

Also of note, from the point of logistics and Japan-visit-fu: I think I have at last figured out how to have a local cell phone number, plus a smartphone with a data plan for Google Maps, translation and instant pic-posting, working, in Japan, on a tourist visa, without breaking the bank. One month, appx $65 total. This is harder than it sounds unless you care to pay insane daily rent-a-sim rates for your unlocked iphone. Softbank pay-as-you-go on the old flip phone for text and calls, a data-only sim from Asahi.net / NTT for the Android beast. This actually makes sense in the highly restricted Japanese mobile phone market. There are things you just cannot do on a tourist visa. Japan does not believe in free public wi-fi. Past trips and minor pratfalls left me obsessive in the accumulation of legitimate, activate-able Japanese cell phones (I have spares that I could be bribed into parting with, drop a line if), but getting a data plan always eluded me.  This time I think I have nailed it!

So that’s the plan!

In lieu of next month’s posts, here are some interesting reads and news bits:

Congratulations to (the soon to be diploma’d) Dr. Nele Noppe!
Her thesis, with its research on dojinshi culture and economies can be read here: http://www.nelenoppe.net/dojinshi/Thesis

Also of interest: two earlier posts by her with ca. 2011 tips on how to navigate comiket:

Comiket report, part 1_ The basics, the catalog, and keeping things fannish
http://unjapanologist.dreamwidth.org/33967.html

Comiket report, part 2_ Finding the way, fun with crowds and queues, and Snape-spotting. http://unjapanologist.dreamwidth.org/34365.html

…because I have noted that while everyone assumes that detailed information on “How to Comiket for outlanders” is already all over the blogosphere. It ain’t…

In case you missed it, the new ANN interview with Kio Shimoku is out:
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/feature/2015-02-03/interview-genshiken-creator-shimoku-kio/.84036

Ogiue Maniax‘s proprietor had his question accepted, posed and answered, as did one of his correspondent’s. The reader questions and the interview are excellent – a lot of information was teased out of the elusive, secretive mangaka. Still, I feel teeny pangs of jealousy even though 1) I only learnt of the open call for questions through Ogiue Maniax‘s blog, 2) I only got mine in late and 3) posed an arch question about the influence of theory writings on Hato’s construction and 4) and I got my Japanese wrong in constructing a neologism and had to send an immediate correction, which probably made my question look even weirder than it already was. Good that someone had their stuff together.

You should visit Ogiue Maniax‘s blog (at the very least) for an excellent translation of a Japanese fan’s musings on the current state of the Genshiken (and Otakudom in Japan). This one is gold. https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2015/01/27/translation-otaku-are-hybridized-genshiken-nidaime-is-painful/

Visit “What is Manga” https://whatismanga.wordpress.com/ as its proprietor rolls out his book on the history of manga in short posts. This is fine stuff, with previous posts discussing neglected resources in the field, material that has been passed over in the rush to jump on the Mechademia pop-theory-ish Cool Japan mikoshi. Hey, I like reading Mechademia as much as the next academic weeaboo, but It really bugs me that it is paywalled, expensive and a bit too sloppy for the coin I have to cough up for it – even used on Amazon. “What is Manga” serves as a long overdue corrective, as well as providing a broad historical perspective on the form.

A really good thing, referred to me by What is Manga‘s proprietor: “Where Do I Belong? The Shape Of the Heart As Reflected in Shoujo Manga.” by Fujimoto Yukari (1998). A fan translation of the first chapter can be found at OWLECTOMY http://owlectomy.dreamwidth.org/114796.html

This is a much quoted book on shoujo manga and proto BL from the late 1980’s.
I do not believe that it has ever been translated into English in full. Use the tag ANDROGYNY to get the four following posts for the entire translation.

“Amongst the mountains of scholars’ papers on shoujo manga, there was one thing in common: a reference to Yukari Fujimoto‘s “Watashi no Ibasho wa Doha Ni Am No?“, in which it clearly shows its writer’s extreme knowledge of the history and social contexts of shoujo manga.

The rather long title of this book actually reads, “Where Do I Belong? The Shape of the Heart as Reflected in Shoujo Manga“. With hundreds of examples and pictures of classical pieces (which a lot of us are familiar with ^^), Fujimoto explains how shoujo manga reflects an adolescent girl’s intense desire to have her self-identity affirmed positively by the self and others in a Japanese society.””

– from, a further consideration of the work at:
MANGA TALK ? “When a non-manga about shoujo manga is more interesting than a shoujo manga“, FEBRUARY 20, 2014
https://xkazemg.wordpress.com/2014/02/20/when-a-non-manga-about-shoujo-manga-is-more-interesting-than-a-shoujo-manga/

An interesting approach stands out from chapter one: that the girl reader of fantastic gender-blurred shoujo manga in the 1970’s and 1980’s gendered or “sexed” herself as subject only in the presence of the male gaze. This looks like the old “Tomboy’s lament” trope: an interesting way of explaining how easy to digest and popular asexual, gender-switching and gender-blurred characters could have been for a young female audience. Reminds me as well the plot device used on Family Compo‘s Shion.

Interesting work by Tomoko Aoyama:

Note: Prof. Aoyama wrote the very interesting (from the point of Genshiken II and fascinating as background now that Eureka Magazine is doing Yuri) article on how Eureka magazine stoked the yoai BL boom in the mid 2000’s : “Eureka Discovers Culture Girls, Fujoshi, and BL: Essay Review of Three Issues of the Japanese Literary magazine, Yuriika (Eureka)” by Tomoko Aoyama at: http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/aoyama.htm
My earlier comments on it at: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/the-possibility-of-global-causality-violation/

The Peach Girl Views: Appropriating the Gaze by Tomoko Aoyama.
Original location was scrubbed but The Archive worked once again. On the history of the Shoujo. https://web.archive.org/web/20120211141846/http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/ASAA/biennial-conference/2004/Aoyama-T-ASAA.pdf

BL (Boys’ Love) Literacy: Subversion, Resuscitation, and Transformation of the (Father’s) Text by Tomoko Aoyama, 2012, Jōsai International Center for the Promotion of Art and Science, Jōsai University. Published in the U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal, Number 43, 2013, pp. 63-84 (Article), University of Hawai’i Press.
https://www.academia.edu/4162389/BL_Literacy_Subversion_Resuscitation_and_Transformation_of_the_Father_s_Text

The love that poisons: Japanese parody and the new literacy by Tomoko Aoyama. Japan Forum, 1994 – Taylor & Francis.
https://www.academia.edu/4207142/The_Love_that_Poisons_Japanese_Parody_and_the_New_Literacy

More Aoyama, a bibliography: http://espace.library.uq.edu.au/jataoyam

This looks interesting:
The Female Gaze in Contemporary Japanese Literature by Kathryn Hemmann
Dissertation for a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations,
University of Pennsylvania 2013
http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1920&context=edissertations

A short compare and contrast, with some bibliography:
On the depiction of love between girls across cultures: Comparing the U.S. American webcomic YU+ME: dream and the yuri manga “Maria-sama ga miteru” by Verena Maser. International Manga Research Center, Kyoto Seika University. http://imrc.jp/
https://www.academia.edu/3762706/On_the_Depiction_of_Love_between_Girls_Across_Cultures_Comparing_the_U.S.-American_Webcomic_YU_ME_dream_and_the_Yuri_Manga_Maria-sama_ga_miteru_

Time to bug her to upload it to Academia.edu:
Taking Otaku Theory Overseas: Comics Studies and Japan’s Theorists of Postmodern Cultural Consumption by Casey Brienza

“scholars of popular culture should start looking east for renewed theoretical inspiration, to the writings of the so-called `otaku theorists’ Hiroki Azuma, Eiji Otsuka and Tamaki Saito-. Though they write about fans and consumption, they think neither in terms of, say, British cultural studies nor Pierre Bourdieu’s sociology of culture. Instead, the three theorists, working in dialogue with each other, apply postmodern theory to obsessed consumers called `otaku’ and find new, and sometimes problematic, forms of cognition, sociality and relations of power.”
(-precis)

Which pretty well sums up half of the theory moe in this joint.

This was a good read:
Gender Ambiguity and Liberation of Female Sexual Desire in Fantasy Spaces of Shojo Manga and the Shojo Subculture by Maana Sasaki, Critical Theory and Social Justice / Journal of Undergraduate Research / Occidental College, Iss. 1 Vol. 2
http://scholar.oxy.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1044&context=ctsj

Referenced previously – not quite sure of the chronology but I guess it depends on what yuri is being considered:
The Structure of Yuri_ the Shift from Female to Male Audiences, by Kylaran, in Behind The Nihon Review, February 15th, 2010 http://behind-the.nihonreview.com/20100215/the-structure-of-yuri-the-shift-from-female-to-male-audiences/

An oft-quoted old standard in the genre. Lots of folks have quibbles with it, and it is pure 1990’s but still worth a look: Japanese Subculture in the 1990s: Otaku and the Amateur Manga Movement by Sharon Kinsella, Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Summer, 1998), pp. 289-316
https://www.sfu.ca/cmns/courses/2011/488/1-Readings/Kinsella%20Japanese%20Subculture%20in%20the%201990s.pdf

More web archeology ca. 2002 (the Archive is your friend for dead links):
http://homepages.rpi.edu/~bulloj/search/MANGA.html

The crap one has to put up with to sneak around paywalls!
An Unholy Alliance of Eisenstein and Disney:The Fascist Origins of Otaku Culture by OTSUKA EIJI, Translated by Thomas Lamarre
http://libgen.org/scimag/get.php?doi=10.1353/mec.2013.0002
No idea how long this link will function, get it while you can.
If unreadable, shorten the file name-dot-pdf

Here is something on Chinese yuri-esue shippers of IRL talent show contestants: QUEERLY INTIMATE:Friends, fans and affective communication in a Super Girl fan fiction community by Ling Yang & Hongwei Bao,  2012  https://www.academia.edu/10593408/Queerly_Intimate_Friends_fans_and_affective_communication_in_a_Super_Girl_fan_fiction_community

Here is a critical take on the “My Little Sister can’t be this cute” thing. Glad I gave the manga a pass; the slapstick takeoff on the genre that I reviewed earlier is a lot more redeemable, funnier and comes with less sqick-pandering plot-line. Details of what was avoided, and a consideration thereof, in:

My Little Japan Can’t Be This Tolerant: Deviant Sexualities in the Anime Industry
by Stephen Henry. https://www.academia.edu/10441962/My_Little_Japan_Can_t_Be_This_Tolerant_Deviant_Sexualities_in_the_Anime_Industry
Wherin “oreimo” is presented as exemplar of “the death spiral” in manga and effects on the export market are suggested. Needs a bit of work on the background (newer ‘ket figures, please) and the author should consider the related arguments from Neojaponism (quoted previous post) -but that’s just my 2cents.

Finally, of interest only to readers of old-school American sci-fi and anyone who actually paid attention to the Darger outsider art chapters in Dr Saito Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl. Must all dojinshi-like impulses be born out of a secret obsession? Someone should email Dr.Tamaki the link: My Dad, the Pornographer – A memoir of the sci-fi writer A.J. Offutt (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_J._Offutt) by his son at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/magazine/my-dad-the-pornographer.html?_r=0

If anything else interesting pops up in the next few weeks, I will add it into the above list.
Cheers and thanks for dropping by!
/Mudakun.

Destroy everything you touch

On Moe and too much fan-service (Edits in progress, pix to follow)

After an epic post on smut, as manifested in old-school-male-gaze V 1.0 “Yuri” it seems productive to continue on to the roots of the “condition” or problem or “peculiar institution” characteristic of so much of Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture: excessive fanservice.

Otaku-gaze titilation, burlesque, sleaze, creepy creepy creepy, lewd, ecchi hentai stuff as far as the eye can see. So much in fact that it is too damn easy to get used to it and begin to edit it out while reading. Which is a shame, for reasons beyond the annoying objectification of characters (outside of BL/yaoi land overwhelmingly female and written as young, possibly much too young).

It is getting in the way.

Why bother? Respect and maturity is one reason. A better product is another. World domination makes convincing third

Much must be untangled first, starting with moe.

“Particularly if you like series with gentlemen in them. Day two seemed to be dominated by gigantic doujin communities for a smaller number of popular propeties, and despite a spirited showing by Touhou and KanColle, BL had the weight of numbers thanks to Attack on Titan (my word Levi, you have a lot of boyfriends), Yowamushi Pedal and the series with an oni-looking main character whose name I’m struggling to find.

It’s difficult to understand the sheer scale of BL and how thoroughly a female space it is until you see it. It’s certainly illuminating from a male perspective, particularly if you want to see what men being objectified by women *really* looks like. And you can understand how a male-dominated approach to lesbians in fiction could be alienating to women. But it’s not the other side of the coin to Yuri – it’s the other side of the coin to moe. (Erica again: Yes, absolutely)

– Jye N’s 2014 Winter Comiket Report!, January 2nd, 2015 http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/01/02/event-jye-ns-2014-winter-comiket-report/

Aside from the “Wow, would have liked to see that” description of Yaoi day at Comiket (upon which I have hung a few previous posts – Sirens, etc., on), there was the interesting aside in the direction of the “asymmetry’ effect in the way male and female fandoms imagine the other sex and queer variants thereof for fun and curiosity. I mean it is slippery, right? Yaoi and BL are supposed to be the female flip-side to Yuri; imagined m-m pairings and imagined f-f pairings for the respective other sides of the boulevard. But both Erica-sensei and her correspondent Jye, as well as Kio Shimoku situate Yaoi and BL as the flip-side of moe (Hi Mada!). That would leave Yuri as either the flip-side of Bara or the flip-side of nothing dammit, get your flip-siding outta here!

This works and does not work, much like one of those Escher staircase prints, as a trick of perspective. Since this trick pops up in a lot of the theoretical literature, it might be worth another look.

Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl (BFG) and the Hiroki Azuma’s response both addressed a kind of moe aimed at the gaze of the male otaku. We can posit the BFG as an extreme variant of the moe girl, with seifuku’d high school girls, lolis, old-school shoujo-ai, siscon, maids, cat girls etc ad nauseum as variants of the same impulse. Basically the (male) otaku impulse to erase adult female agency, (ability, position, education, desire, everything) in favour of pre-agency, pre- any- worldly- experience “pure” female-oid characters.

There will be fan-service.

Recall as well that Dr Saito Tamaki is adamant that a libidinous charge must run through the narrative, lest it fail to enchant/ cathect/ re-cathect the mundane real world of the consumer of these tales.

But wait: the fujoshi tribes were fast to adopt and re-purpose the idea of moe too – they too have their own versions of it, which includes bishie, hunk, shota, even oyagi weirdness, plus elaborate pairing typologies (evolved perhaps from the dating classified ad descriptions in 1970’s – 1980 gay magazines?). Moe is no absolute guidepost, unless we audience-segregate and/or gaze-segregate our definitions of moe.

In an earlier post I reviewed Galbraith’s essay on moe, noting the deft update of Bronisław Malinowski’s concept of the phatic object as a focal point for fan enthusiasm, practice and identity. All very good for sociology papers – In practice Moe moe moe(!) now runs as shorthand for a form of abstracted desire manifested as interest for a character that is somehow conceptually removed from normal categories of desire allowed/ prescribed to the moe-fying subject. Moe somehow serves as a point of stopping short before an acknowledgement of full desire

So a rotten girl can see/ have moe for a pairing of hunky guys, a shota character and…, or even imagine that one inanimate object would have the hots for another in a manner that “is so moe” or that sparks a feeling of moe in the observer. Similarly the general issue guy otaku can get all moe for maids, robot girls, lolis, other underage female-ish characters, otokonoko, improbable “lesbians”, tsunderes, yanderes, miko, teenage female pilots of giant robots in too-tight-fitting costumes, high school girls, (and high school girls piloting giant robots in sailor suits), mini skirted magical girls, improbable young “nuns” and even girl-gang members.

But they do not get all moe for adult female characters or BL-ish guys.

Hmmmm The BL-guys thing is easy to understand, but why no adult females?

There is one type of adult female that can be moe-ed a tiny bit: The perpetually 29-year-old sexy high-school teacher lady who is in a desperate funk and/or crazed mood because she cannot find a husband.

Meanwhile across the boulevard, the fujoshi is not going to consider a shoujo D’awwwww girl & boy couple as “moe”, unless perhaps the girl likes to dress like a guy (Hey, its a hobby). Rotten girls are at least a bit more varied in their tastes; some reportedly find old guys interesting, though I must wonder if they are considered so alone or only in the context of half a potential pairing.

Similarly, a female BL/yaoi enthusiast, even one who may desire women in real life would most likely not find female characters worthy of moe. Hence the reported “Die in a ditch” effect that banishes the presence of almost all females from fujoshi fantasies.

There is desire in the moe gaze.

It is just abruptly pulled over to the side of the road before it can crash into its target.

“Humor is characteristic of an interrupted defense mechanism.
No sane being interrupts a defense mechanism.”

– Nessus the puppeteer from Ringworld by Larry Niven.

Moe is interrupted desire. Moe is the kitsch shadow of desire.

“Moe causes two feelings to develop in otaku hearts in quick succession. The first feeling says: ‘How nice to see the big-eyed girl character leaning toward me, the reader!’
The second feeling says: ‘How nice to be moved, together with all my otaku brethren, by the big-eyed girl character leaning toward us, the readers!!’ ”
― The Unbearable Moe-ness of Moe

Pity Genshiken’s Madarame; real women are scary. Or not scary enough in the right way.

Moe is also problematic, as it is the main alibi and excuse for shoddy product design and the omnipresent, wearying overload of same old, same old fanservice in CJVC. It wasn’t just the death of sci-fi heroic adventure themes that changed manga and anime in the mid aughts. The moe-blob and her attendant over-the-top creepy presentation is probably one of the main impediments to successfully exporting more Cool Japan cultural product.

Consider the licensing of manga and anime to the rest of the world. Ghibli exports well because it doesn’t fanservice out. Otaku might go Moe, moe moe at strong Ghibli girl characters but the characters are written to serve the story and themselves – not to pander. Ghibli properties quickly become world renown classics.

This part of the equation struck me upon stumbling across the manga Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (The City still turns) and then watching the anime. I am annoyed. The genki main character is a teenage girl who aspires to be a mystery writer. Aside from this ambition she is happy go lucky, forgetful, lazy and often a catalyst for minor disasters. She has a circle of friends and works at a laughable excuse for a maid cafe; a run-down diner owned by a grumpy granny who dreamed up the maid angle on a whim, sewed the uniforms, but can’t even be bothered to do more then tape a piece of paper with the word “maid” on the cafe sign. So: an anti-maid cafe and curry lunch joint. All the other teen characters are conscientious though quirky and the adults of the business district are all set in their ways and ready to act as the chorus as either odd things happen or are instigated by our plucky heroine.

Now watch the anime: right off the opening sequence has our young heroine flashing thigh, butt and garter while donning her maid outfit. Facepalm. I like a bit of garter as much as the next guy, even 2D garter-flash, but the effect in this case is wrong and jarring. She is by no means written as being “sexy”. She has zero interest in relationships and none of the story-lines touch in any way on any awakening desire in her. Although her best friend is her rival for the attentions of a boy, she is oblivious to his shy interest in her. Nothing here, move along. There is a ghost story, a ridiculous UFO tale, a high school band with her friends, nice pleasant stuff. No onsen episodes, shower scenes, boob compare grabs, nadda. She walks the pet tanuki that her family has adopted as a dog.

Most of Soredemo is about the teens beginning to enter into the adult work-world social that is the little business district: are their future lives set out for them, or can they find their own way? The perpetually annoyed beat cop comments on our heroine that “she won’t stop being a nuisance until she gets married and settles down.” The boy will invariably follow his father as a fishmonger. The rebel girl wants to be a guitar hero rock star. Only the perpetually 29 year-old proprietor of the antique store offers a compromise escape route: she is secretly a published mystery author, her pen-name’s books are the main inspiration to our heroine, who has yet to stumble upon the secret identity. Meanwhile, our heroine’s own writing efforts are beyond dismal, but of course she is too clueless to realize it.

It could have made a fine export property.

So why the damn garter thigh/ flank shot every intro segment? Followed by a goofy maid cafe dance guaranteed to establish the main character as a “clumsy maid” character – which is never worked up in the episodes?

There goes the series as potential gift to the nieces, unless I want to get out Adobe Premiere and fix it myself.

The animation studio did not trust the property, so they “salted” the intro to try to draw otaku. Next we’ll put a “yuri”-esque shower scene into the opening credits of Aria the Natural and fuck that up too.

Facepalm.

Anything that has terra-forming and Cordwainer Smith sci-fi references in it will get me to watch 3 episodes. Add Cait Sith and a fox wedding and I am easily charmed. No service is needed.

“Currently, however, the most conspicuous Japanese culture of otaku and yankii represents value sets with little connection to affluent consumers elsewhere. Most men around the world are not wracked by such deep status insecurity that they want to live in a world where chesty two-dimensional 12 year-old girls grovel at their feet and call them big brother. The average university student in Paris is likely to read Murakami Haruki and may listen to a Japanese DJ but not wear silky long cocktail dresses or fake eyelashes from a brand created by a 23 year-old former divorcee hostess with two kids. Overseas consumers remain affluent, educated, and open to Japanese culture, but Japan’s pop culture complex — by increasingly catering to marginal groups (or ignoring global tastes, which is another problem altogether) — is less likely to create products relevant for them.
[…]
Japanese companies now face a true crisis: Appealing to the most powerful consumers in Japan will lead them away from tastes and values that can be easily exported overseas. AKB48 may be opening vanity branches in Taiwan and Jakarta, but will the world inherently be interested in an idol group meant to please a small group of men’s reactionary attitudes towards women and desire for songs that ignore the last twenty years of musical change? And as we’ve seen with the success of K-Pop in Japan, companies cannot automatically protect the domestic market against invasion. When the mainstream consumers do see something they like, that reflects their values in a way that otaku and gyaru content does not, they pounce. But until they reawaken as a consistent consumer force or rebuild cultural online to be less centered around product purchase, we are likely to stay within the current situation — where marginal subcultures rule the school.

-The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Five: The Difficulty of Exporting Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/02/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-five/

The kicker is set out in Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures

” Marginal groups’ up their voting power in the consumer vacuum

The end result is that the otaku and yankii have an almost inelastic demand for their favorite goods. They must consume, no matter the economic or personal financial situation. They may move to cheaper goods, but they will always be buying something. Otherwise they lose their identity. While normal consumers curb consumption in the light of falling wages, the marginal otaku and yankii keep buying. And that means the markets built around these subcultures are relatively stable in size.

So as the total market shrinks, the marginal groups — in their stability — are no longer minor segments but now form a respectable plurality in the market. In other words, if otaku or yankii all throw their support through a specific cultural item, that item will end up being the most supported within the wider market.

The clearest example of this is AKB48. With the letters AKB in their name, this group of girls was unequivocally marketed towards older males based in the Akihabara otaku culture. Compared to past mass market groups such as Speed, the girls are intentionally chosen and styled to look like elementary schoolgirls and lyrically address older men with direct sexual references. (See the “cat-eared brothel” video for “Heavy Rotation” and the unambiguous “love knows no age” lyrics for “Seifuku ga jama wo suru.”)

The mass idol group regularly has an “election” (sousenkyo) where fans try to vote their favorite girl to Number One. Buying certain AKB48 CD singles gives the fan a vote in the AKB48 election, which thus incentivizes otaku to buy multiple copies of the CD to increase their “political” power. The CD is thus no longer a means of listening to music but a way to influence the future of AKB48. This has created a legion of fans who buy dozens and hundreds of the same AKB48 CD or even 5500 copies. There are now doubts about that story’s authenticity but it basically was an exaggeration of an existing principle. Regardless, the marketing strategy of AKB48 does encourage the purchase of multiple goods, thus amplifying the buying power of nerds beyond their small numbers. This means as a consumer bloc, the AKB48 otaku fans can rival the non-otaku consumer base.

This otaku bloc strength, as well as other niche’s dedicated buying, can be seen through the music charts. In 2010 only three artists made the Oricon best-selling singles market — AKB48 and a Johnny’s Jimusho group Arashi. (At this stage, you can almost argue that music fans of Johnny’s groups are themselves a conspicuous cult rather than a mass market phenomenon.) Only two artists taking the entire singles market is unprecedented in Japanese musical history. In the previous decade, the average number of artists in the top ten was 8.2. The best explanation is that mainstream consumers stopped buying music, even single song downloads, so the favorite acts of marginal subcultures now appear to be the most popular.

Otaku and gyaru: winners by default”

The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/01/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-four/

Note that Japanese animation and manga were not the only vernacular genres ever to suffer a distortion due to a sales and distribution slump. The histories of North American vernacular media in the 20th century are full of these effects. Yet the latest shift for Japanese visual culture was extreme and remarkable. Some commentators saw it but read it wrong; as in the “Lament of the Ota-king” for an earlier age of grand sci-fi and giant robot adventures, almost anticipating a “gamer-gate”reaction.

What is all this unmanly moe-blob stuff? It must be linked to:

  • the decline of grand narratives.
  • the rise of the libidinized BFG and or the database of modular moe-blobs.
  • the magical girl as feminist trojan horse.
  • a descent into ecchi smut.
  • the rise of dojinshi culture as a cheap farm team for publishers, and the corresponding influence of…
  • the rise in Shoujo-ish libidnized offshoots (female participation and production still makes up the bulk of Comiket and dojin culture)
  • The normalization of otaku/ geek culture, failure to launch adults, economic stagnation, the end of adolescence/ adolescence without end in Japanese society, decline of marriage, infantilization, herbivore men…
  • Add a few of your own…
  • And so it goes…

More to the point, there is plenty of diaspora research on how fanservice, especially the loli stuff can really sink the export prospects for a Japanese franchise, especially if it looks like it strays into the sights of other countries’ anti-child exploitation legislation. Fantasy is fantasy will not save your bookstore proprietor from a bust and experienced outlanders make it a point to box up their Comiket haul and send the packet back by sea mail lest they have to explain their hobbies to airport customs officers. Queer folk long had to adopt such strategies, now it is everyone’s turn. You never know what can set off a nasty incident.

This does not make for a viable export market.

It does explain the continued appeal of grey-sourced versions, even in the face of legitimate sources. Do you really want your credit card number on that purchase?

Even when licensed, a censorship/ scrubbing protocol starts up in tandem with the localization efforts and we are back to the problem of bad dubbing, excessive re-cutting and story-line redaction that has plagued Japanese visual culture exports for the last 50 years. The interesting, the socialy progressive, the quirky and the unique are excised along with the more obnoxious stuff. Only mild service is left as a bit of an “Oh those wacky Japanese” tease for the outlander fans.

Perhaps Shintaro Ishihara was onto something, even as he was going about it WRONG!

A current example:

Ken Akamatsu’s UQ Holder is a far more export-savvy product than Negima. The teen girl posse after a 10 to 11 year old magic boy harem is gone, as is the excessive penchant for making the girls’clothing vanish, disintegrate, fall off or suffer artful disarrangement every third page. Both female characters who will be enlisted to provide service shots are powerful authority figures with agency; the service is still there but at least it is on the level of western female superheroes who get their uniforms shredded and still fight on. Even the onsen scenes are restrained to a Genshiken level. Any service-grade yuri-esque longings are presented more as hero worship and the one character who could have been an otokonoko/ trans* stereotype is upgraded to indeterminate and asexual, thereby bypassing the usual comedies of identity for a more poignant “what will I be?” characterization. The main character is going to be an impulsive teen battle training good natured fool for a while, so desire need not poke its nose into the tent. Evangeline AK McDowell, Negima’s fearsome anti-social loli mage, the Dark Gospel has been turned into step-mom.

This series has export potential.

In contrast, the Negima properties – especially the two anime seasons/series betray their roots as ecchi riffs on a Harry Potter impulse, loaded to the boards with harem fanservice. Even the manga takes forever to get off the ground – until Evangeline is socialized and recruited into the magical world campaign the thing just flails around looking for another excuse for a pantsu shot and a big magical battle.

Exportable for sure, but only to a niche market.

Contrast these to Blue Exorcist. The writer is a woman, the service is negligible. The female characters while secondary have power, ability, back-stories and agency – even the weakest of them can be formidable when roused to battle. The plotting is a more durable template of finding each team member’s strengths, becoming friends and learning to cooperate in the face of ever-more monstrous threats. Blue exorcist does not traffic in fanservice or even much teen romance. It does not suffer from the lack.

This series has export potential.

Mouretsu Space Pirates manages to keep school uniform skirt lengths to a modest range. Adult women wear pants and pack impressive arsenals in their car’s trunks. The girls can pilot an interplanetary sail-ship and apply the Kzinti lesson when threatened. Even the hacker scenes have a tiny nod towards tech realism in them, though what mercenary hacker would fall that easily for a honey-pot?

This series has export potential.

Longer skirts for high school uniforms in general, Please, if only out of economic concerns! Besides, otaku boys can learn to fetishize anything. Long school uniform skirts? Hawt!

At this point however, service in the genres seems to be a structural problem. The male fans expect it, as does the spin-off merchandise market. And then there is the alibi problem alluded to in my previous post. Fanservice and smut situate any narrative comfortably within a safe male space. We seem to need this.

Drop some ecchi bits into the package and we guys can read shoujo-ish story lines in comfort.

We may be sneered at as otaku pervs, but boys will be boys, men will be perpetually boys and as long as there are a few pantsu shots or relatively restrained clench scenes, entry level salaryman cadres can even read josei-level complicated emotionally driven stories. If the reading material is called out, they can brush the magazine aside and complain that they thought there would be more “Hawt whatever” in the work. Or giant robots, or both.

We would even settle for a level-up battle grinder, or ronin swordmen. Just give us some cover.

Because we men-folk are traditionally supposed to be a bit slow on the emotional and social interaction stuff and because interest in such is even more suspect than interest in other guys, this camouflage netting is ubiquitous. It will be hard to give up.

“…Therefore, the condition of the moe-blob female-oid exists, but as a symptom of male readership, created to ensure our ontological consistency.”

Thanks mister Žižek.

I can read all the Takemiya Jin stuff I want and fall back to the easily defensible position of an old school guy looking for yuri fanservice. I can enjoy story lines that would normally be unavailable to me. I am a fan, even as I note that the aspirational nature of her story A plots have recently made her characters far too wise and level-headed for their situations. Recover from your trauma with the support of your friends, face your fears, deploy some empathy towards the other, see past injuries in a new light, talk it over with the other parties and reach a mutually satisfactory point from which all can move on from. Please pull the other one, it has bells on it. Or worse, the power level of working this complicated interpersonal stuff out is so far beyond my understanding that it reads as “alien”. (that why they do alien things,, because…) This lacks a certain dramatic flair, but these are short aspirational learn-to-solve-problems pieces, not (bitter-) Sweet Blue Flowers.

The best us guys can manage in an emotionally fraught situation is either a bender, a fistfight or a cold refusal to ever talk or even look at the offending party again. Or all three. That’s what we do. Anything else is Richard III, Cardinal Richelieu or Mephistopheles.

Great Ghu! No wonder we are trampling around in the Lily garden.

Worse, if a shounen action adventure grinder ever began to show emotional complexity and sensitivity beyond say, the catatonic trauma and hysteria of Evangelion, the rotten girls would ship it clear through to next month. Above all the devil and the salaryman cannot abide to be mocked – especially by the women-folk who are far more worldly on such matters. Te-heee: basketball star A and basketball star B are having long talks on the high school roof again, squeeeeee! Sez B to A: “They are laughing at us again, I knew we should have just duked it out behind the gym.” “Nawwww, they like that too… “. Jeeeesh!”

And yet we guys hunger for a glimpse of the insights offered by complex emotionally driven stories. Stumbling across a josei genre character story collection titled “HER”, because it was cross-listed in the yuri section gave me the pleasure of reading a short chapter where a slightly angsty teen girl starts to pester a wise old (old as in wrinkled 60-ish) woman photographer who still enjoys the affection of younger (30-ish?) adult women. When asked the inevitable “how, why” question by the teen, the wise woman simply tells her that intimacy with men would feel not just out of her sexuality, but out of her species. (Woof!) I immediately harkened back to the testimony of one of Dr. Mizoguchi’s correspondents who declared that sex with guys feels like having a cardboard lover.

Cardboard.

Un-desire explained as easily as desire.

Otherwise the tale presents a number of “time will change your perspective, to yourself be true, those aren’t very good friends then, are they?” nostrums for mildly angsty teens.

Nothing too shocking here. All nicely reassuring and good hearted. A good read.

Wait a second! There wasn’t any fanservice. Maybe I didn’t need it after all?

Which brings us to the issue of quality. If you can pad a weak or poorly written story with plenty of moe and ecchi fanservice, then filling running time and chapter pages gets way too easy while the writing gets lazy. Both Negima! and Negima? anime were pretty damn pointless without the service and soon even the service grew to uncomfortable creepy levels. This stuff is not healthy. The Shaft take on “Holy Mary Watches Over Us“, Maria?Holic was a toxic brew of creep-ery and cookie cutter fetishes done small and squeaky. Plus it decided to expand its paraphilia range and threw an obnoxious trap character in as antagonist, just for added spite. Admittedly it was built to only do this, but the mind can only take so much lame bullying, smirking lite smut before it rebels.

Even with far milder examples of the harem genre, the service begins to get in the way, unless managed for exclusively for pure burlesque. Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa is a goofy, good-hearted high school o’ weirdlings comedy with a pile of secret super-powered students tropes cranked to 11 for laughs. At first it looks like a harem, but the other girls never had a chance. Normal boring guy gets a crush on the silent cool beauty girl in class only to discover that she is a bubbly good-natured half-shinso vampire who 1) would never drink anyone’s blood unless she was married to them – and then only a teeny bit, 2) keeps quiet and eats by herself because of her snaggle teeth and hick/ Kansai accent and 3) will have to leave the school if her secret gets out. Buddy boy was smitten; now he is 10x more smitten. Still he can’t get up the courage to confess and when ever he comes close, something ridiculous happens to stop it. From then on weird characters are continuously added into the mix – it seems the school is some kind of nature preserve for powerful weirdlings, most of whom are of course high-school age girls. Buddy boy has a few raiju male friends too, but he is now leery of hanging out with them too much because he can’t keep a secret to save his life.

The series is silly to extremes, dropping every Aliens, Time Travelers and Espers trope it can find into its pages along with a sex-shifting werewolf, an ageless demon child principal (not loli, just a low-grade pain in the ass demon) a naive fallen angel, an 18 foot high vampire monster dad who has is the scariest “meet dad” father a young swain could ever face and a homeroom teacher of the perpetually 29 and single variety who used to be a fearsome girl gang leader. There is a small degree of fanservice: the werewolf, when not a Johnny rotten-looking punk-rocker admirer of teacher (admirer – he lets slip that she is too old for him to consider as hawt, which earns him a thrashing from hell hath no fury teach) is a cynical sexy tease girl who is mostly put in place to provide fanservice and to serve as a foil to the shy vampire girl’s modesty. She also cheerleads the couple and drives some of the more outlandish plot devices in the story forward. Happy couple have yet to smooch. Boy has yet to straight-out confess. Vampire girl is embarrassed and worried that she will be pulled out of high-school. All of their friends are rooting for them and trying to get the two to clue in; even two of the other girls who consider themselves rivals have decided to help out. The raiju guys have settled on the idea that buddy boy’s big secret is his undeclared crush on the girl. Happy high school hijinx ensue.

My point? It could probably do with even less fanservice. What is deployed is more for low teen sex comedy, nosebleeds, mild rivalry, meddling well-wishers, the whole nine yards.

It is refreshing. I don’t have to worry about turning a page and seeing squick. I could take the tankubon through customs. (I do buy some of the stuff I like – one day I will be able to read it, one day…) It has a good heart, even if it is a pile of cliches looking for a reason to keep rolling down a well-worn path.

The mangaka gets the point about the gratuitous service; hangs a lampshade on it in fact. A recent story arc added one more character; the time-travelling grand-daughter of someone, who has to stop sex-shifting were-girl or her mom (seen only in cheesecake pose silhouette as “The Charismatic Pervert”) from taking over the world in the future and turning Japan into a totalitarian pervert empire of enforced depravity. If time-travel prude girl hits an improperly attired female with her magic sword any risque pantsu or worse are turned into cycling shorts. Shirt buttons do themselves up and stay done up. Hooray!

And sex, or any real intimacy is banished to the realm of happily married adulthood.

Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa has export potential.

A Crusade for Modesty!

Against this runs the perpetual argument that Japanese cultural producers care not a fig for foreign markets and care to learn to understand these even less. This is not surprising, as Japan prides itself on being a high late-modernist mass-culture society. It expropriates the forms of others’ cultural artifacts, but the substance is bent to internal ends – just as we do. It will not do third-world tourism pandering: Tourists who venture to its shores are visiting an advanced culture and should expect to adapt to Japanese priorities; such as carrying wads of cash, having their credit cards rendered useless, their mobile phones inert (or prohibitively expensive to use), free wifi unavailable, their driving skills made inadequate and please keep your hands off the door handles on our taxis – they open and close themselves. And don’t get your shoe caught between the train door and the platform edge, thank you!

The nuance behind the reasons for the moe outbreak go even further than the internal economies of cheap serially replaceable and disposable formulaic output for a domestic market, or the demand for sexy figurines and pencil sets, or even simple structural inertia in the production chain.

So about changing the way we do manga and anime and games so that a hypothetical future export market is happier: right, yup we’re on that, sooner or later, fuck you very much for your opinion.

You still here?

Perhaps the moe disease is insidious and what the western gamer-gate guys were secretly, if inarticulately scared spitless of. Let the moe habit in and the next thing you know Halo will be full of ship-able bishies and miniskirted lolis. There goes all the machine guns and vicarious testosterone. Considering that the plot lines of shooter game side-products make the execrable Paul Verhoeven Starship Troopers movie read like high European existential (bent to neo-fascist ends) literature, a take-over wouldn’t be that hard.

Here’s an exercise. Download a Chris Hedges “War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” video jeremiad of sufficient length from youtube. Extract the sound and measure the length. Now cut the title sequence off the Halo Nightfall OAV, measure from the ending back, cut, re-splice and drop the Hedges talk over as commentary.

Cardboard.

Drop any other commentary over it, the thing is so thin that you can detourner it six ways from next Tuesday. That makes it weak and foolish… and vulnerable. One day someone is going to do a Chris Marker on it and then we will have something for the ages. In the meantime, maybe an AMV?

Moe and its attendant cheesy fanservice habits offer better fantasies of power, security and privilege than any first person shooter fests, even if the latter come with the promise of battlefield action and drama.

Moe is a Disease That Gives Us Meaning?

But even these pale soon enough as well.

At this point, perhaps only demographics and changing tastes in an aging population can turn the tide. I am feeling a bit old lately. While I could probably figure out Snapchat if so inclined, I cannot wrap my head or my attention span around such recent big things as Kill La Kill, Attack on Titan (ok idiot giant adults eat children, Lawd said Abraham, la la la) A certain Spinning Penguin Drum (yeh it repeats; seriality is the differance in repetition, la la la…) or even attack of the yuri bears. (you guys are just throwing pasta at the wall!) It just doesn’t work for moi, that’s just me. I can put up with all manner of weird crap – heck I watched all of Gasaraki, Ergo Proxy and The Big O,  but I gave up halfway through Evangelion. On Tonight: A collapsing gotterdammerung of narcissistic fantasies and American College Football! Ooops I forgot to set my PVR.

Perhaps only sneaking over for Josei-level V2/ True Ancestor Yuri with adult-ish characters, concerns, authentic, sympathetic and aspirational depictions of queer sexualities and mature interpersonal character dynamics will raise up the otaku soul. Perhaps it is already saved and the need for a new otaku, like Baudrillard’s messiah has been proclaimed a day late, a buck short and there no longer really is any need for him.

Everyone has already moved on.

Perhaps we outlander fans will catch on sooner or later too.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Repent! cried the reformed Loser Fan Boy…

… to the heart of the Yuri world!

Wherein I attempt a highly subjective and impressionistic consideration of the urgent need for an upgraded Yuri and contemplate the possibilities for a similarly upgraded male fandom. Warning; epic flood of man-splaining, sardonic humour, some bitterness follows below the cutline…

Complete with background music; an entire playlist is cued up…

Continue reading

My characters are making love, so it says

It is difficult to write this, so bear with me. I was scanning the feed on Academia.org, which lead to an article at the TWC Journal, which led to another article about (wtf???) Iron Man x Captain America slash (apparently a very big thing in the West and in China – who’d ‘ave thot..), which led to An Archive of Our Own and then the folder of Genshiken -urrrm- fanfiction. It is difficult to write this because what left of my honor as a middle-aged cis straight male compelled me to try to gouge my eyes out after a cursory reading.

So I exaggerate; it didn’t kill me.

I didn’t try to gouge my eyes out in a fit of ‘phobic guy hysteria. I didn’t even blush. I blame Genshiken and this blog. (I award myself two adult maturity points, take back one for the eye gouging intro gambit) I saw a lot of care and concern in the writing, even though it didn’t work for me. A few of the stories activated my clunky prose warning light, but that also made me recall the ancient and venerable words of slash-kami Alias Mary Jeanne Johnson about fanfiction, and what the heck, it keeps ’em out of the pool halls.

Oh heck, I over-quote this one in too many posts, so this time, more of it:

…And there’s a third detail that needs addressing here. Fantasies are nothing if not personal. The yaoi writer is writing what turns her on- what satisfies her – what consoles her. A reader isn’t really necessary. You didn’t want to hear that, did you? But it’s a fact. Yaoi is a personal fantasy, written primarily to satisfy the writer’s kinks and those who share those kinks. Like porn. Other people can come and read it, no doubt, but if they don’t share that kink, they might as well go away again. The story isn’t written for them.

Yaoi isn’t like other fictional writing. It’s a private vision written for personal satisfaction, and to apply the standards by which we judge ordinary literature to yaoi is to willfully ignore this private element. 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. As for trashing a fanwriter’s style, it’s like shooting the piano player. Chances are she’s doing the best she can. The only way you get to play the piano better is by playing the piano more. And quite possibly she writes that way because she likes writing that way, typos and all, and belongs to that huge group of people (of whom Word’s Spell-check is one) who really believe that its should be written it’s on all occasions.”
– The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi , Oct, 2001 by M.J.Johnson,  Aestheticism.com (site archived at:)
http://web.archive.org/web/20080820030543/http://www.aestheticism.com/visitors/editor/jeanne/10_things/index.htm

Perhaps this is too reasoned and calm a defense of the personal for our troubled times. A bit more anger makes the point too:

“So they place unfair expectations on what you create. Tell you it’s too short, too ugly, too personal, ask you why it doesn’t resemble what already exists. And the answer is, why would we want it to?

They impart the subtle idea that a handful of geniuses are born and the rest clean up after them.

They want us to believe that our thoughts are not worth voicing.

How the fuck is life worth living if the brains we have right now aren’t good enough?

The audience/performer dynamic as it exists is built on capitalism, on academia, on a proper way of doing things defined by people who do not have our best interests at heart and indeed don’t care if we live or die.

Like I wrote here, “Under our capitalist system, to accept other ways of communicating is to devalue the cash value of the communication style learned in college.”

They don’t want your stories because the idea that someone can tell a story without going to college or someone can make a game for free is a betrayal of capitalism, it’s a betrayal of an industry that says creativity can only be imparted for money.

People are taught to believe they aren’t someone. Taught to believe they aren’t a Creator. Not an Artist, not an Intellectual. No one is taught that more than minorities.”

– Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution,  November 25, 2012 By Porpentine , a game creator.

I stand corrected, – scratch the pool hall comment.

web commenter dude

My clumsy compare and contrast exercise is presented only to drive home the point that if Kio Shimoku ever chooses to slam Hato-chan (or kun) and Madarame-sempai together, it should be an epic tale of comedic fail. Far more fraught than a late-night brush with Keiko’s charms. I now await the train wreck; it must at least measure up to fan attempts. What the few slash fics I sampled glossed over in their hurry to bring direct resolution to certain longstanding tensions in the Genshiken epic is how massively inept, hesitant and pathologically skilled at avoidance and self delusion both Madarame and Hato (kun, chan and fan posited josou-game otomeyaku variants) are. A steamy ending is by no means guaranteed

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_15.59_[2013.09.03_13.03.02]

Faced with an emotionally uncomfortable moment Madarame would first try to run, then if cornered would start dissembling in planet Otaku-speak at 200 wpm. Hato meanwhile would turn beet red and start yammering on about pairings, though he may also instinctively take Mada’s enthusiastic waving gestures as a threat and shoulder-throw him.  It is inevitable. Poke armadillos and they roll up into a balls. They have been so constructed for a reason – which if tracked back far enough probably involves Kio Shimoku’s mortgage.

(Btw, don’t you think that Poke Armadillos would be a great name for a band?)

Sayonara fetish

…Or a band name

One Ao3 writer had an interesting, if under-developed angle. Madarame, if driven to fits of uncontrollable lust, would try to act out the ero bits of josou games. Hato would go from what he read about weirdly improbable yaoi lust techniques. Much clumsy pawing would ensue. Those little mentions were funny as heck and could have been dragged out for many, many more laughs. I advise Shimoku -sensei to start with at least a case of beer (no, not for him, for the nervous couple) and be aware of the comedic possibilities of classic pratfall slapstick.

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_06.13_[2013.09.03_12.50.53]

As if he needs my advice.

I wonder if any Japanese fan-fiction writers are writing Genshiken fanfiction and how they are writing it. A few smutty dojin are scanlated but he imaginations of the fans for whom the work is written for remain tantalizingly obscured from our view. Ao3 works are all “diaspora” artifacts.

A question for the slash-writers: where are all the Heart of the Wind and Trees and Thomas high melodramatic declarations and emotionally bits? The Cliffs Notes say these are important to the genre. Perhaps less so for the Western variant?  I feel a bit let down. The chorus from Ao3 chides me that if I have ideas, I should put up or shut up, but I don’t want to start writing Genshiken slash, (Oy Veh!) so my opinion doesn’t count.

So I like the heroic mushy stuff, you got a problem with that?

So I like heroic mushy stuff, you got a problem with that? 

I will say that Utsosuki Lily does a fine job with fantasy cross-dressed characters without falling into josou game inspired otokonoko ecchi-ness. The mangaka Ayumi Komura went as far as to try some real-life 3D cross-play at some of her book signings – so while her critters are still complete fictions, she at least dipped her toes into it. Apparently her fans loved it. So what if Lily gets a bit preachy…

Wherein our hero begins to feel a bit overwhelmed

Utsosuki Lily’s cross-dressing hero begins to feel a bit overwhelmed

Stop straw-dogging the fan-fiction writers. Time to prod the mangaka.

Viewed in the light of fannish fun or teachable moment shoujo romances, Kio Shimoku is playing it very, very safe. Presumably the tastes of his readers reflect approval of this as well as some kind of climate-of-the-times effect. Genshiken has evolved from being a mildly transgressive comedic effort that skewered Otaku foibles to something closer to a comforting slice of life “safe space” for grown-up post-Otaku.

This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but I am wondering if this is a case of “not much is being done with it“, or something else?

The contrast between what Genshiken could do and is doing is not just pointed out be fannish fiction. Enthusiastic scanlator types have of late resurrected some mighty odd 1980’s and 1990’s examples of “non-traditional sexualities in domestic settings” comedies and slice-of-life potboilers. One would expect these to be clumsy and politically incorrect as all heck. Surprisingly enough, they are not too vicious. They often verge on the considerate. They are bitingly funny in parts. Someone so inclined might even be tempted to rehabilitate them as proto-queer fiction for some academic grist-mill, even as they remain rock steady in adopting a cisgendered straight male POV. Blah blah blah… Academic fads invariably slide so sideways that they end up in “I am the Eggman territory”

Set the Way-Back Sherman; we are going to visit some slightly transgressive historical manga:

Stop!!_Hibari-kun!

Stop! Hibari-Kun! is frightenly politically incorrect and with its 1980’s drawing style an even odder read. Hisashi Eguchi‘s Hibari-kun (note the lack of Butlerian “presenting” concerns here) is the only son of a proud, though somewhat inept yakuza family. He has hit upon a sure-fire way to avoid the responsibilities of taking over the family business. He likes being a girl a lot more than he likes the idea of being a proper young male thug and boss-in-training. When the orphaned son of Pop’s old flame comes to live with the family, Hibari Oozora decides that Kousaku Sakamoto is just too much fun to leave alone and that they both should attend high school together. Naturally, Hibari-chan insists on attending as a girl. Hijinks Ensue.

Hibari is probably a prototype for a slew of comedy- of- gender- identity manga (and anime) that followed and it remains enjoyable because it writes Hibari as having almost superhuman sang-froid, competence and good, though mischievous nature. Hibari-chans just wanna have fun. Most everyone else around who would threaten his hobby/ inclination are over-the-top idiots, except his adopted step brother, who gets to be the goat during most of the ensuing chaos. Hibari may aspire to femininity, but her ideal feminine is a younger and richer version of Fujiko Mine. Hibari is a slightly queer-er and slightly more criminal predecessor to Kuragehime‘s Kuranosuke Koibuchi. As the manga progresses, the characters who take a longing interest in Hibari-chan become odder and odder. When the slavering moron son of a rival yakuza clan becomes fixated (said creature being too developmentally challenged, in a nasty way of course to even be smitten) on Hibari and yakuza Dad proves unable to fend off its slimy father’s attempts to coerce compliance by threatening Kousaku, Hibari goes into full metal Mine mode

full metal_hibari-kun_v001_c016_014

When a very severe bifauxnen sports star heartthrob at high school suddenly develops uncomfortable feelings of longing for Hibari-chan… to play on her volleyball team, we even get some light yuri steam. A subsequent glimpse at the bifauxnen’s home life is over the top burlesque; too silly to even call out as insulting. Having Mom as a Taka otoko-yaku who insists on practicing her Rhett Butler routine at home is a stroke of genius. I should also mention the Village People dance line of brothers… Jeesh!

Jeesh Mom hibari-kun_v002_c021_005

Not at all shabby for a 1980’s effort. The whole thing was re-released to an anniversary edition a few years ago – I have a feeling that it must be some kind of minor cultural artifact.

Odder still is the 1990’s Family Composition/ Family Compo or F.Compo (1996-2000) by Tsukasa Hojo. This is the most earnest heteronormative gender-bent family slice of life story I have stumbled across since the last stories of R.A.Heinlein. Love (and an independent income gained through professional skill and hard work) conquers all. Tsukasa Hojo is also known for the long-running City Hunter, Angel Heart and Cat’s Eye (co authored with Rieko Fukuda) series.

Family-compo-manga

Oh heck, cue the TV tropes synopsis:

“Ordinary college student Masahiko goes to live with his aunt and uncle, Yukari and Sora Wakanae. While excited about meeting his relatives for the first time, he is surprised to discover that his lovely aunt Yukari is actually male and his handsome uncle Sora is physically female. Their plucky daughter, Shion, is revealed to be… whichever gender she feels like (Though for the time being she’s sticking with female).

However, given Masahiko’s current fate: living alone in a fetid apartment that he can’t afford and with no family to return to: he decides to stay anyways. Eventually, Masahiko’s desire for a real home coincide with the Wakanaes’ surprising generosity to anyone who is willing to accept their family at face value, and he quickly becomes Happily Adopted into the household.

By the mangaka Tsukasa Hojo, Family Compo is a Slice of Life manga that, perhaps, is a more realistic than average depiction of trans* sexuality, and at the same time has a remarkably positive tone with tremendous emotional poignancy.”
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/FamilyCompo

The artwork is striking in a retro way; It verges towards comic book “realism”, or at least a more detailed style than is the norm today. Moe-free zone ahead! Once you get over the odd premise that a trans-man and a trans-woman (both pre-op, though both are hinted to have undergone hormone treatments, the transwoman mom, Yukari breast augmentation procedures) would settle down to maintain a boringly sweet and conventional household and raise an upright, high-achieving (most of the time, lately) daughter, you can read a story with plot lines would do Laura Ingalls Wilder proud.

The kid wanted us to dress according to our birth genders, We obliged

The kid wanted us to dress according to our birth genders, We obliged …

The daughter, Shion is the most interesting character in the whole story. Genderfluid, or verging on post-gendered at first, her final challenge to Masahiko is a reassuringly pure 1950’s man-up = get the girl challenge. Even as it is also gets the girl to decide to be a girl.

Because this is a 1990’s artifact there is a lot of blur between transfolk, crossdressers, gay folks of various stripes and gender dysphoria issues. Everybody so concerned ends up either at the Wakanae household or at a seedy crossdressing gay bars. Of note is that the nightlife is not portrayed as an evil in itself; only as an inadequate substitute for a fantasy “normal” (DAB inverted) domesticity. There is also plenty of crossdressing, both for identity and tourism reasons which mixes up transvestite, gay and transsexual identities, but the Wakanae household is so happily kumbaya supportive that it doesn’t really matter much. The second floor is also uncle Sora’s manga studio and the assistants are a comic-relief mob of bent DMAB gals, each with their own reasons for wearing dresses. They are the closest thing to an insulting stereotype in the story, but reserve their alcohol fueled “Surprise! It’s a Trap!” man-chasing forays for rude-boys who come on too strong towards “real” females. And Sora in manga-deadline mode is fearsomely serious. Disturb at your peril. Get back to work!

Sooner or later most characters get gender-bent a bit. Before long Masahiko is wheedled into crossdressing for his University film club and the next thing you know a yakuza boss smitten with him. Some plot turns later and the delinquent son of the same yakuza boss ends up living at the Wakanae house, but it turns out delinquent son started out life as a girl and is really over-compensating. He hates everyone; male and female and most of all himself. Yakuza dad tries to do right by the youth and means as well as a noble thug type can manage, but needs to ease off and give his now-son some space. The yakuza mom is a bitter piece of work, a classic scheming feminine betrayal engine but eventually even she shows a tiny shred of parental concern. Love conquers all. I should also add that the entire artifact is almost completely devoid of fanservice and that there are no sex scenes.

The only recurring motif appears to be that in a choice between your child’s needs for understanding, compassion and support and obeying the rules and strictures of society, one had best chose the child and damn the rest the to the fire.

Given some of the grim news in the real world of late, this is very good advice.

The only character who really gets short shrift is Masahiko’s long-suffering girlfriend. She is convinced that any straight male who sets foot in the Wakanae household is going to end up queered and bent either to crossdressing male gayness or an awakened trans* identity (which never seems to be same-sex attracted in the F-compo universe). The stuff must be contagious. Masahiko is too wishy-washy and is of course also attracted to Shion, but can never get up the nerve to ask and/ or directly confirm what genitalia Shion has, so he cannot acknowledge his feelings and/or break it off with girlfriend. Girlfriend finally dumps him for a more traditionally manly man childhood friend, leaving him to get over his little problem with whether Shion is or isn’t or if it even matters, or does any attraction feel a bit incestuous now that he’s living under their roof? Yikes!

Shion of course is there to shift the goalposts of the whole game – her parents encouraged her be whichever gender she wanted as she grew up, (and yes, it is pretty well intimated that Shion was deemed female at birth and remains biologically female-bodied) so the whole gender role thing is a bit of a needless complication for her. Towards the end, she begins to consider that it might be necessary though, in order to develop any romantic feelings for anyone. Mostly she doesn’t sweat too much about any of it. Besides, she, (at college he) wants to be a film director – so who has time? Shion’s radical indeterminacy is possibly the most interesting component of the series.

Moral of the story: Your gender identity is important, but so is developing a creative skill-set that will let you earn enough money to make your dreams possible – unless you aspire to become a perfect trans-woman housewife to a trans-man professional. Oh, and “inverts” (to use the dreaded archaic sociology term) make the best partners for each other.

Hmmph!

More Hmmph: While Compo looks like its author did a bit of research, the trans-folk portrayed within as well as all the other non-het characters were and remain cartoon creations; “fantasies of crossdressing” to borrow a term from Nagaike. They, like Hibari-kun were whomped up by straight guys for comedy, posing a few questions about gender and sexuality and advancing a few pleasing nostrums while selling manga. As imagined others/ imagined other sexualities, they fall prey to the same complaints leveled at fantasy yaoi puppets, fantasy yuri puppets and Kenjiro Hato, They pose far more questions than they purport to give easy answers for.

We are back to Chip Delany’s quip “if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.” …And my previous rejoinder.

Aside from a tour of retro queer-ish Japanese manga, I bring these up in contrast to the current story-line in Genshiken. For now, Kenjiro Hato’s little problem (or enthusiasms) look bland when compared to the neighbours. So do Madarame’s. Yawn! On the other hand, no one in the Genshiken is having family problems and what Family Compo, and to a lesser extent Hibari-kun are about are families, so perhaps a compare and contrast exercise is a bit of off.

Facing dad after all those years web Fcompo_v3_ch21_174

The best moments of Family Compo are when Uncle Sora has to return home to face his angry patriarchal father with wife and children in tow. This stuff is of course a gender-bent variant on the classic Japanese theme of family duty, which is still a big seller in today’s Japan.

Watch this mini documentary [http://vimeo.com/114879061] on Japan’s second oldest onsen and note the daughter’s quiet plight. This is right out of the pages of Compo, mirroring the Girlfriend‘s situation (or perhaps the filmmaker can’t resist pinning a comic book plot on a real-life setting?).

yajima family

Only with Kuchiki (perhaps soon Yajima??? All things considering, Rika’s folks are saints) do we see any hint of family pressure in the Genshiken-verse. Hato’s family is a cypher; all the tension is so far limited to his brother and sister-in-law to be. How did they react to their son’s ostracism at high school? Do they know of his enthusiasms? Genshiken members’ families are the classic absent parents of late-modern Japan.

Another note: the fictional trans-continuum characters of these early comics are nothing like the even odder fantasy Josou/ otokonoko/ third sex creatures that sprung from ero games in the latter years of the ‘aughts. They were not built for male-gaze moe. The otokonoko character may well be a stealth retread of an older rotten-girl pairing archetype, introduced into the male pr0n fan community to wreak havoc on hetero-normality, but it bears little resemblance to its crossdressing manga predecessors that were more for comedy and gender tourism. Genshiken’s Hato X Mada X Hato dynamic is firmly set in the current 2007-2015 archetype-verse.

mada should try this web

Aside re: the “That’s a bit obscure” rejoinders by Madarame to Sue’s initial Bakemonogatari references. In Genshiken-time only the light novels were available. In the real-time of serialization, the anime was current. As a fan and a friend of the Bake cabal, a shout-out was irresistible, but Kio Shimoku used to worry about situating his universe in a coherent time-frame. Less so now.

One further small thread of analysis to be tugged at: the quick trip with the Wayback Machine seems to point to a profound shift in manga storytelling conventions that has been brought on by the parallel evolution of games and visual storytelling. I wish I was more of a game person, but even my cursory experience seems to suggest that the effect is powerful, almost inescapable. Especially from dating-sims, eroge, otome games and the like. The references are unavoidable, as are the shorthand posited by the conventions of these games for interactive behavior among characters.

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_09.56_[2013.09.03_12.55.47]

Often lampshaded for extra comedic effect, they turn every poignant, difficult moment between characters into a mechanistic, alienated exchange.

terminator_possible_response_600

More Symptom or Condition of The Fall than aid to the shy, tongue-tied character, they increase isolation while invalidating the communication that they propose to aid. Of course their ironic use has its moments of genius.

bucket of puding

.
“It is not up to you to determine who you are. It is up to the people around you..”

Since New Year’s eve at the public bath, the current Genshiken members plus Keiko, Angela and Kousaka have made it clear that they are aware of Hato’s tentative you-and-only-you feelings towards Madarame. Hato knows that they know. Madarame and Kuchiki are out of the loop; we can assume that Tanaka gets filled in later. Hato’s nadeshiko power-up after returning from home must be taken as a sign that he intended to follow up on the idea. Soon there are all the dinners for Mada, until… Hato finds a new thing to obsess over. Some crush. Seduced and abandoned! No Hato coming by means no Sue either, except for the one weird visit with the mask and handcuffs. I guess Mada’s virtue is once again safe!

How 2 Harem ichiban_ushiro_no_daimaou_600

Nine more years and Mada will get Wizard status! 

Here is an odd thought: Spotted flower is not only where Kio Shimoku plays Red Dwarf double-double universe, it is also where he turns off the liminality field that smothers and yet propels so much of the Genshiken tale. The last two omake out have older Hato and Yajima analogues as friends, working a winter and then a summer Comiket. The entire purpose of theses two two-page shorts seems to be to blatantly telegraph: “yes analogue-Hato went on the be a mangaka and live as a trans- person, yes she got breast augmentation surgery, but kept the boy bits below and yes she still hangs out with analogue-Yajima, who while supportive, will still chide analogue-Hato even more than she used to chide analogue-Rika.”

The uncertainty from the previous “meeting” chapter is reduced. Decisions have been made.

The new “safe-space” Genshiken seems to be more about not deciding if it hurts. After all, who says that a decision is mandatory? The fans? The mangaka-gami? Society? Religion? Manga Studies Departments syllabii? Tv Tropes? Some Blog?

“What happens to the daughters of these housebound women in the suburbs? Have they turned into the yaoi girls who are the consumers of the cute boy images and their erotic stories? The participants of the otaku debate unanimously agree that in this context gender difference is asymmetrical. The girls who do not want to repeat the Mothers’ life have two choices; to embody their time-frozen images as a little girl in order to get men’s attention, or to live in the liminal space between such images and their own bodily actuality.”

– Rio Otomo: A Girl with the Amoebic Body and her Writing Machine
https://web.archive.org/web/20120609085942/http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/ASAA/biennial-conference/2006/Otomo-Rio-ASAA2006.pdf

no more despair 600

In a time when real world conditions conspire to inexorably choke off and limit choices, perhaps the indeterminacy of the Genshiken was overlooked and undervalued, even by fans like me. It is ok, Genshiken critters; you don’t have to resolve if you don’t want to. There is comfort and support in that too.

Be safe and happy.

Speak like a child

It’s that time of the year again!

.
Nothing quite sets the mood for the holidays like a a bit of Scrooge and his 3 ghosts. While I have given up on my conceit that Kio Shimoku should just drop everything and do a Hato- is- visited- by- his- 3- stands (or two stands plus “Where should I go?” guy), I still appreciate an innovative retelling of a classic, especially if it can serve as an excuse to forgo the original.

And since I am Canadian, I might as well hold out for an anime-esgue retelling of Forsyth’s The Shepherd, done by studio SHAFT and the Bakemonogatari team:

dawn

“He held station alongside me for a few seconds, down moon of me, half invisible, then banked gently to the left. I followed, keeping formation with him, for he was obviously the shepherd sent up to bring me down, and he had the compass and the radio, not I…”

I need more silly stories to displace the previous silly stories that got stuck in my wetware.

The blame for A Klingon Christmas Story and the whole Klingon language thing that turned STTOS Klingons from cold-war artifacts into flawed yet noble alien-furreign “others” can be laid at the feet of the scriptwriters and fans (and fan scriptwriters) who took the sneaky, duplicitous evil commie Russian/ Chinese enemy late cold-war stand-ins of the 1960’s (the Romulans were “good” German WWII submarine captains) and turned them into Japanese Cat Samurai in the manner of Larry Niven’s Kzinti. The present-day appeal of cosplay Klingon is obvious from the theater clip: you get to be loud, speak in short, harsh, spat out syllables and posture heroically. A Klingon warrior does everything loud and heroically – except when they are heroically trying to control themselves and remain silent, for a few moments, before exploding in a loud and heroic manner.

“It is not a victory unless you say `Jumanji´.” – Slavoj Žižek

There are more reasons to create imagined others and stories for them then there are readers and viewers to consume them, so perhaps it is a fool’s errand to try to hunt down some of the tastier similarities and make wild guesses about them.

“It’s the slightly late brain-eating fungus from beyond the colours of time that gets the Doritos!” – Slavoj Žižek

While trolling around Academia.edu I saw a paper listed by James Welker, I like his writings, so when I found that the actual essay had yet to be uploaded, I emailed him a request for it and found out that it was developed for a conference talk and was not available, but that a related essay on the manga Yuri Danshi (aka Yuri Boys), in Japanese and part of a current special edition on Yuri as a genre by the Japanese pop culture magazine Eureka.would soon pop up.

Those of you who follow such things might remember what Eureka did back in 2006 with fujoshi and their fiction. Short answer: No Eureka yaoi issue, no Genshiken Nidaime as we know it. I wonder if they did an issue on popular misrepresentations of the “trans*” spectrum? They do seem to have the gift of grabbing fringe enthusiasms and dragging them out into the light of pop culture critique and commerce.

I was a bit surprised when James Welker wrote back to fill me in on the above details and to add that the latter work would eventually show up on Erica-sensei’s great yuricon project/ web domain, as part of a translation of the entire issue, along with the section by Erica Friedman herself.

Dec 2014 issue of Eureka, Japan

So Yuri about to try for another breakout in Japan, neh?

This prompted a rabbit hunt for a look-see at Yuri Danshi, the manga. First stop; the Okazu review. Executive summary: odd premise, creepy male gaze. Doesn’t seem to function as intended. Further blog reviews; file under the Ring-tailed Roarer heading: Apparently it parades BL style cartoon bishies around while they act like male flip-side versions of rotten girls and try to ship any and all females who come into their view.. 4Chan /u -style LFB yuri goggles… In a Japanese high school.

Time for a drinking game where all sentences have to have the phrase “In a Japanese High School” appended to them.

yuri-danshi

It seems that the Yuri Danshi manga wanted to both swim and fly, so it grew scales and feathers and thereafter found that it could do neither.

Further digging turned up four volumes of raws and the listing of the series on the “dropped projects” pile of a major scanlation group. Also a bit of title disambiguation: Yuri Danshi is also the name of a photo-book of Japanese otokonoko / otomeyaku cross-dressing guys who dress up as Japanese school girls and pose with longing glances at each other.

The other yuri danshi

.. In a Japanese high school.

You see they look like Japanese pop culture style faux schoolgirls doing the yuri titillation thing, but they are really….

.. In a Japanese high school.

Which is a quick and messy way of summarizing the complaint and the project of people who want to see real (istic) lesbian experiences reflected in their lesbian characters and what they are striving to change. Past Yuri was for the most part always a bunch of guys making up the whole “lesbian” thing for their (our) own prurient (and / or other) reasons. Kinda like the boys in drag from the other Yuri Danshi. Real women who happened to like other real women felt a bit left out, if not righteously cheesed off at some of the distortions that crept into the stories. Undoubtedly it was and remains complicated. I am sure some Japanese people find Belushi’s Samurai Deli skit a hoot.

Unlike the rotten girl tribes of Japan and their Euro-ethnic slash cousins, male heterosexual enthusiasts of hawt rezbian pwp pr0n have yet to adopt apologetic tones along the lines of the “these characters are in no way meant to depict real… and exist only for our own sadly rotten tastes and enthusiasms” warnings that preface so many slash/ BL/ yaoi fan archives. Dominant cultures seldom apologize for their excesses; we just kind of kick the embarrassing old stuff to the curb and make pleasant noises about the new, more sensitive and inclusive (and curiously hawt in its more truthy-ness -ness) stuff.

hideaki-kobayashi-japan-cosplay-old-guy-sailor-school-uniform-3

“To know your Asian girlfriend, you must become your Asian girlfriend.” -Slavoj Žižek, apres Sun-Tzu

And there are always reasons beyond the solitary vice why such exercises continue to hold such appeal. Why on earth is Kio Shimoku investigating “the problems of creativeness” (Google it; it is the title of an acerbic short sci-fi tale) as the “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka” ???

Gimme a bit more time, I’m still working on it…

Why did the author of the light novel series and the SHAFT crew behind the Bakemonogatari franchise feel the need to invent a young athletic monkey-arm-cursed female character who calls herself a lesbian and have her do an exorcism in her own (and IMHO far superior to the gormless male hero’s previous efforts) way? And then drape the story in cheesy Yuri visual motifs and title it apres the signature s-class tale of f/f love and friendship from 1920’s Japan?

.. In a Japanese high school.

One idea presents itself: the Bakemonogatari crew (who I bet are mostly or all male) heard of, or intuited something like Erica -sensei’s rules for commendable female protagonists. She has to have agency, but not be a guy hero in a female skin. Creating an athletic young woman who just happens to desire other women (but has a not-unheard of over-the-top taste for yaoi tales) sets her character apart from the other in-harem female characters and makes her style of direct agency more believable within the context of the tale. Besides, she was too much of a good character to waste after she had given up on beating the crap out of Araragi-kun because she was jealous of his relationship with her longtime crush Senjōgahara.

“Have you ever heard a quote that you were so sure was real? What if the first time you’d heard of that person was from that fake quote? How could you tell the fake quotes from the real quotes?”
– Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The simple mechanics of storytelling sometimes conspire with an odd conceit to create inadvertent feast for the theory hungry.

Why did the author of a relentlessly smutty old-school yuri girls’ school ecchi manga go out of his way to drop little bits of characterization, high romantic melodrama, Japanese isolationist feminist literature references and an over-the-top jealous, manipulative, possessive “bad lesbian” character (who ruins the idyllic everything- can- be- resolved- by- screwing- everybody- immediately “wa” and gets whacked with a fire extinguisher for her misbehaviour) into his otherwise simple smut-fest ??

.. In a Japanese high school.

“Do not try to re-write the blog. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.”
“What truth?”
“There is no blog.”
“There is no blog?”
“Then you’ll see that it is not the blog that you re-write, it is only yourself.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

Aside from a welcome antidote to romantic tales of youthful longing that take virtual angst-filled years and years for the main characters to even hold hands, a certain “sect” had the virtue of getting right to the naughty bits, followed by more naughty bits (did I mention the naughty bits?). But the characters are in no way “lesbians” or even female.. The only way to explain them as a coherent whole is to posit them as a male yuri enthusiast’s recasting of BL /yaoi character tropes into female skins, minus overt seme and uke trope clutter. Ken Kurogane’s signature work is a reworked BL grinder, written for guys.

“Did I mention we’re all going to Hell in big Chinese ovens?”
– Sylvia Plath

.. In a Japanese high school.

And of course there is the elephant in the room; the odd habit of so many women to make up faux-male- homosexual characters that can play out a form of -ahem- romance, along with plenty of incomprehensibly wrong naughty stuff and never-will-issue-forth-from-the-mouths-of-actual-males romantic blather.

Oh shit you read that stuff!

I just love the idea that they exist and have figured out how to ruthlessly pursue what turns their cranks.

Heck, their characters in their most advanced Japanese form of the genre disavow “official” male homosexuality, instead insisting that only mad desire for that one and only other dude has driven their characters to pine for male-ish intimacy. Here is a weird bit of cross-cultural compare and contrast: the Japanese rotten girl will adhere to the “only you” trope, while at least some of the Euroethnic slash-fen tribes will engage in endless speculation as to whether one of both of their pairing is “Bi“.

Huh? So the Archangel Gabriel is a robot cat toaster from the future that poops bus tokens. Whatever…

“I consume human soul-energy for a living, okay? It’s my job. Just shut up and let me do my job.” – Slavoj Žižek

Why do we humans go through all the bother of making up such messy and elaborate campfire stories?

“Tell me, Mr Anderson, what good is a phone call…if you are unable to speak.”
-Slavoj Žižek

I am going to add one more neato layer to the confusion surrounding the whole puppet show of odd gendered presentation in contemporary Japanese visual culture and ask about the nuances of dialogue that we, as outlanders could spend years trying to grasp, by means of this most excellent paper I stumbled across recently:

Insight into Masculinity of the Yakuza from Linguistic Discourse Analysis [https://www.academia.edu/9828558/Insight_into_Masculinity_of_the_Yakuza_from_Linguistic_Discourse_Analysis] by Hidefusa Okabe.

So, as proper leaching outlanders who read scanlated manga and watch fansubbed anime, we all appreciate the little touches like the honorifics, the ores and bokus, chans and kuns, even the margin notes that denote a switch to respect language/ formal language and/or the lapse into a regional accent/ Osaka-ben, etc., But after reading this it becomes painfully obvious how much we are missing.

A bit later: Wow, this area seems to be flavor of the month, if not the year. I caught a reference to a new Japanese publication in Neojaponisme’s year end review [http://neojaponisme.com/2014/12/29/the-year-2014-in-japan/#comment-69204] and hunted down a link for “Role Language – A small Dictionary” [ http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://yobanashi.seesaa.net/&prev=search ] which is apparently full of current and past pop culture exaggerated uses of the same for effect. Then there is the elusive “Modern Japanese “Role Language” (Yakuwarigo): fictionalised orality in Japanese literature” by Mihoko Teshigawara and Satoshi Kinsui of the aforementioned “small dictionary” ( short bio info here, buy the damn thing (boo hiss!) here) Here is a quick example of the use of, in a paper on Samurai Champloo [http://eaglefeather.honors.unt.edu/2014/article/306#.VKGJ-M4Bg]. 

Since we were looking at visual culture artifacts, we were paying attention to the pretty drawings, neh? Well now the cat’s outta the bag and armed with handy dictionaries and lots of useful research, we shoud probably be paying more attention to “arch” manga and anime dialogue.

I wonder how much of the “drag” that takes place in the construction of yaoi bishies and yuri girls has to do with the modes of speech/ vocabulary and dialogue that are reserved to that mode of gender-ed presentation in Japan and /or how these codes are violated for effect by the characters, for the fun and longing of their authors?

Write BL fanfiction and you get speak of love like a Yakuza tough reciting Sapphic poetry fragments.

... In a Japanese high school.

Looks like fujoshi are not just getting all squee on the parade of cartoon pretty boys and hunks and not just having fun by getting them all tangled up in “the human body can’t do that !!!” throws of passion, but also having the fun of having their puppets speak high romantic melodramatic declarations of mad desire at each other in tough-guy modes of speech that are nominally out of place for their creators..

I begin to understand how medieval Europe got its myths of chivalry, even as I lament my inability to get even the most rudimentary conversational Japanese into my brain-box.

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. I tried bolt-cutters for a while, but I kept straining my arms, so I went back to the hacksaw. And why do they keep chaining themselves up like that, anyway? Is that some weird sexual thing?” – Slavoj Zizek

It all gets really, really crunchy and tasty when we start hunting for excuses or reasons for the existence of narratives that make a fetish out of innovative “imagined others”. All of our “others” (..and our “selves” for that matter) are imagined constructs in any case, so why not eschew realism and create a bestiary of space aliens, villainous furreigners, sexpot objects of desire, powerful (though endearingly flawed) heroes, gods, demons, sidekicks, schoolgirls (and/ or school boys) vampires, otomeyaku, loli-complex afflicted bad priests, miniskirted nuns, mercenary orphans who pilot giant robots to save girls who dream of weapons from the future, flying monkeys, loaves of bread that are superheroes…

Oh crap I give up – please add your own.

Why bother with the May Sue Overdrive? Are we all stuck with a taste to occasionally revisit our long forgotten imaginary friends and transitional objects? Did the wiring get shorted out and enough of us “need’ our phantasy constructs to jump-start our mundane IRL desires? Isn’t this the sign of some terrible out-of-eden “fall” that we supplant fantasy for real intimacy with a real person, or are we just hunting “lurv secrets” so that we can amaze, amuse and annoy our IRL partners (when and if we have any)?

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all killers are punished, unless of course they do it in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. By the way, it is also forbidden to have sex with farm animals.” – Voltaire in conversation with Oscar Wilde (and Slavoj Zizek)

Perhaps because the long history of human fantasy has been until recently exclusively devoted toward far bloodier ends:

When W. B. Yeats wrote:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love…”

…He was watching as his small patch of Irish soil was doing the local road show of “The Rites of Spring“. Like mass culture’s insane overload of pretty pictures, pleasant music and even pretty colors, the profusion of narrative available to the average citizen of 2014 CE earth dwarfs what was available to even the richest and most powerful of the past. We just have more. It makes us a bit odd. (so sez Dr. Tamaki, Toffler and John Brunner, so it’s gotta be right, neh?) 

Chill out and learn to hack the spew.

“You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe
that you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to
you. Obviously you are mistaken.” – Slavoj Žižek

.
A quick glance at the news feeds reveals that we are all still enthralled with our conventional, accepted, real-life fantasies and that they still make the best excuses for mayhem, torture, neglect, oppression and murder. How else can we explain Dick Cheney? Isis? The Tea Party? Shintaro Ishihara?

“What does not kill you will hurt a lot.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

So three cheers for escapist reading material, Mary Sues, robot cats from the future, Hato, Madarame and Ogiue, Shinobu Handa and Shinobu Oshino Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade and Kanbaru Suruga, even cartoon rainbow-colored ponies and all the other odd and oddly gender-ed characters invented and/or admired by Alfred Prufrock and his brothers and sisters whenever the pressure at the office gets to be a real effing drag.

Gambatte Kudesai !!!

“I advise you to go on living, solely to enrage those who are paying your salary. ” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The best of the holiday season to everyone, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Chapter 104: The Fire Sermon

“Oh the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter and on her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water” – Slavoj Žižek

C104p4 no BL this time

Behold Hato-chan V2 as she decides to create a full manga narrative.

c104p14 discouraged

And then behold the setback. The look of disappointment on her face is shocking, verging on tragic even though we are diverted by the greater shock of finding out the Yajima can plot out very effectively funny 4-koma works. We are used to seeing Hato succeed effortlessly in pretty much everything he or she tries, so of course a lapse is telling.

Previous failures were always presented more in the manner of a two-sided quirky “super power”: he cannot draw well unless crossdressed, and then she can only draw steamy m/m clench scenes. This both bolsters the arguments for becoming Hato-chan within a fujoshi social and gives Hato something to exchange with the rest of the members.

Drawing work-safe manga stories is in no way central to fitting into the magic circle, so getting it perfect the first time does not push the usual compulsion buttons. Of course it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is almost as if Hato’s disappointment stems not from the failure, or from the failure to realise in advance that the manga she drew was a failure but from the fact that this failure that offers no tactical advantage. Perhaps this is too recursive but Hato is nothing if not immensely skilled at fooling his and her self into action. But there is shock on her face as well as disappointment. Could it be that the biggest surprise of the afternoon has been that Hato has just discovered how much she (and he) really, really wanted to be able to tell a story?

c104p22 blank look

Hato is failing in his first attempt as a mangaka/”auteur”. Hanging out with the fujoshi and exchanging odd smut was supposed to be the promised land. Oh sure, Hato-chan always wanted to be able to draw her (and Hato-kun’s suppressed) fantasies, but that was what the clench scenes were for. Now a new desire is stirring, and failure to easily snag it has left the Hato continuum deeply unsettled. “We did not know that we wanted it!”

What a set-up!

As the creation of a very successful mangaka/ auteur, one who has put in his time and paid his dues creating emotionally dense realistic, dramatic manga (Kagerou Nikki (陽炎日記?) (1995), Yonensei (四年生?) (1997), Gonensei (五年生?) (1998)) Hato is not going to get off easy.

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka is still very much in its first chapters. We have yet to make it even to the church retreat chapter. We have Hato with a pop-post-Lacanian wound, when he learned of yaoi dojins and that they did something (not -for- but) to him. We have the reinforcing trauma of the High School Art club- his first disastrous attempt at infiltrating a fujoshi social. We have his debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of his tiny, limited super-power. Finally we have his stands urging him to ship himself with Madarame and the progression from the fantasy of a classic BL m/m seduction as Hato x Mada to the project of attempting a newer hybrid otokonoko/ otomeyaku Mada x Hato “something”. What mischief will our plucky hero(ine) get up to next?

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

The Lacanian-ish wound/ shock/ trauma idea is worth reviewing: In Saito Tamaki’s analysis, what defines the Otaku is the disconcerting libidinous charge or cathexis, the desire that a cartoon female character evokes in the male reader. This desire is traumatic because the poor guy knows that it is only a cartoon character and experiences all manner of dissonance and distress over finding himself so stimulated by a crude 2D fiction. I mean, what’s next? Getting a woody from a math equation? Surely this is the path to madness! (Don’t call me…) There is something wrong with my wiring! Must take steps to master and comprehend these un-natural urges! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Saito Tamaki’s moment of unresolvable Otaku desire is spun as an origin myth starring none other than a young Hayao Miyazaki:

“…Saito hypothesizes that the young Miyazaki was caught off guard by a sexual attraction to the film’s heroine. The girl (actually the spirit of a white serpent named Bai-Nang) was an impossible object, a fictional creature who therefore “contained already within her the occasion for loss” [emp. mine] – yet Miyazaki desired her. This experience of being made to experience pleasure against his will by a fictional construct” constituted a trauma for Miyazaki. Because unresolved traumas can only be repeated, for Miyazaki this meant the creation of a whole string of beautiful fighting girls in his own works. While Miyazaki tends to insist on the wholesomeness of his works and disavow any sexual component, in Saito’s analysis the appeal of Miyazaki’s beautiful fighting girls has everything to do with sexuality. Insofar as their repetition perpetuates a libidinal attachment to a fictional construct, they also challenge us to rethink our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register.”

-Making it Real: Fiction, Desire, and the Queerness of the Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent, Introduction to his co-translation of Saito Tamaki’s ‘Beautiful Fighting Girl’ University of Minnesota Press, 2011
https://www.academia.edu/3682539/Making_it_Real_Fiction_Desire_and_the_Queerness_of_the_Beautiful_Fighting_Girl

Ch4 p13 stick figures

rethinking our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register – that’s what we are doing!

By the way, the Bard of Studio Ghibli has not even deigned to dignify Tamaki’s speculation with a response. His disdain for low otaku culture however is legendary.

Note as well the direct Tamaki quote: “contained already within her the occasion for loss” (!) If that doesn’t pretty well describe the way that Madarame looks at all 3D women. The inversion that the otaku performs on the weighted potentials for loss between 2D and 3D fixations is one of the great double-think sacraments of his tribe.

“No matter what you do, no matter what you say, the only real perfect love is one that gets away”. -The Residents

And so the Otaku becomes a connaisseur of the effect and the great range of possible character deployments that cause his trauma and in doing so endlessly repeats and encourages the replication, distribution and elaboration of this traumatic artifact. Yet like a flanneur on the streets of last century’s Paris, he is now a somewhat distanced expert observer of the spectacle of excess.

“Seriality is the difference in repetition”
Some pomo guy, was it Jimbo? Google draws a blank. If not, then moi! (win!) “Screw you Muda, If I didn’t say it, I said it now, so talk to my lawyers” -Slavoj Žižek “Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” -Walsh…

We now return to our regularly scheduled theory block-quotes:

“What seems different about otaku for Saito is that this formerly relatively private or even secret (if also widespread) practice has in the past few decades become an increasingly mass-mediated social role with an unprecedented amount of public visibility. Saito denies that the female partners of his (perverse) straight male otaku are in any sense “substitutes” for the heroines of anime that the otaku may (also?) adore and desire, and opines, “My personal impression is that marriage to another otaku of the opposite sex tends to be seen as the perfect ending to life as an otaku”. Vincent defends Saito from the charge of heteronormativity by arguing that while “Saito may describe the real-life sexuality of the otaku he knows as tending toward the heterosexual and the vanilla, . . . he never prescribes that it be so”. For Vincent, what gives Saito’s work its considerable interest to queer theorists is its theoretical tendency neither to privilege nor pathologize the otaku’s enjoyment of “the reality-producing charge [that] . . . the beautiful fighting girl sparks across the gap between” his outward performance of sexual “normality” (xx) and his sustained commitment to both his perverse imaginary pleasures and the media- saturated collective context that enables and sustains these pleasures.”

-Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory by Michael Moon
A review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki, translated by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson.
http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16379&context=criticism

Wow, the word queer keeps popping up; scary, scary, scary. No big deal; we are talking the mechanics of desire here, not the specifics. Besides, it works across all boundaries (and none). You doubt that Kio Shimoku had heard of Tamaki and his original year 2000 Japanese treatise on the BFG? See Mada’s little lecture with the stick figure lines above…

To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
burning

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

“And what about those relatively understudied (at least in this book)
female otaku? Saito offers no substantive consideration of them and
their practices; in his introduction, Vincent informs us that the author
has written about female otaku elsewhere, and that what Saito
seems to mean by “female otaku” are female fans of yaoi, another
huge subset of manga that, in contrast with girl-warrior narratives,
features beautiful schoolboys falling in love and (in many cases) having sex with each other—narratives that are mostly written and drawn by women authors for a largely female audience. (gay men my age might have found yaoi disturbing but fascinating when we were adolescents, but made do with Archie comics instead.)[3] In one of his few direct references to female otaku, Saito mentions not only yaoi but also shotakon, a manga and anime genre that features prepubescent or pubescent boys in romantic and sometimes erotic contexts (29).”
Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory, Moon, Ibid

Fat chance! Tamaki ventures only a tiny bit of post- Lacanian fluff on fujoshi desire in his 2006 essay Otaku Sexuality. Then he drops in the shota stuff! Gehhhh! Oh well; that explains Risa.

The folks who took issue with the blatant libidinization of Otaku desire, Azuma et al, with their Foucault/ Kojève approach are even more blind to the lack of the desiring female. As they erase desire within male Otaku moe, they seem to feel no need to give mention to fen desire at all.

A Japanese cultural critic with a background in the fine arts weighs in:

“The biggest problem of the book by Azuma lies in the fact that he has no view on female Otaku.”Of these discontents, the former means that aesthetics of “Moe” is not a comprehensive nature but only one aspect of the Otaku culture, when the latter refers to the gender problem within the Otaku culture.

This latter is my own discontent, too.

Indeed, it’s known there are a lot of female Otaku – of course, in my classroom in Japan – , but they have not been fully discussed. What kind of differences are there between male and female Otaku, then? Briefly speaking,(1)the gaze of female Otaku sometimes involves moments of homosexuality whether her interest goes to boys or girls:(1-a)Female Otaku who fall into the former category, gazing at relationships between beautiful male characters, are sometimes called “Yaoi,” while(1-b)those who fall into the latter category, develop interest in relationships between she herself(=subject)and female characters(=object).
However, the most important difference, I think, is that(2)the female Otaku sometimes has a specific aspect of transforming the body of herself: i.e. through costume play. In this phase, she tries to transform herself from the motive of doubting her identity, when male Otaku gazes and fetishizes a female figure composed of his favorite parts according to his “needs.”

OTAKU AS QUEER?

If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.

Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”

If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.

Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queerbut-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

In any case, I really think it’s anachronistic that such alleged (sub)culture of Otaku is promoted even by a governmental project. Otaku Culture and Its Discontents Or, why on earth do feminists in Japan hesitate to criticize such a male-centered movement?  By the similar argument, Azuma’s book is not only useless, but also harmful. Of course it would be like asking for the moon, if Azuma’s book dealt with the specific aspects of our age. But the subtitle of the book reads “Japanese Society from the View Point of Otaku.” Moreover the catch copy by the publisher reads “We cannot discuss Japan in 2000s without this book.” These remarks announce that the book presents a general theory.

The responsibility for this unhappy situation should be laid on the intellectuals who have not blamed such anachronistic male Otaku on the ground that they don’t know the Otaku well. Critique of Otaku culture can and should be made even by the people who have little or a little knowledge about Otaku culture even from Kantian transcendental point of view.
Of course, modernist must assume this responsibility, too. And that’s why I called today’s talk a little tentative.”

-Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, (October 17, 2007, University of Rochester)
http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf

Wow, it is either all queer theory all the way down, or (sometimes somewhat feminist) post-Lacanian stuff (or both). Cue Rio Otomo, who has recently published a fine essay on “Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love”:

“Viewed as irony, a seemingly monological pornographic text turns into a dialogical space, in which, as a reader, I extract, through a negotiation of distance, a pleasure of my own. This act of reading is an expression of my personal sexual fantasy, and I perform it in my own private space. Although it is my private practice, it is not a simple reflection of my private desire. I purchase the material to read, participating in public consumption, and at the same time my choice is to a large extent formed by the selection available to me in the market. Thus, what I believe to be my taste may not be truly mine, or rather, I may have been directed to prefer one thing to another by the socially constructed notions of what is desirable. Indeed, it can be said that the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I speak, all are my learned choice, and that my desire itself is largely what I learned to want. And yet, once I am aware that I embody and act out socially constructed desire through my reading, I can choose to be a critical and creative participant. A reader is, in this context, a public performer. In the following sections I look into different modes of reading in attempt to clarify particularities of BL reading.
[…]
When I read BL texts, I first identify different bodies, which are codes for different positions in the networks of human relations. The recognition of their differences provokes desire in multiple directions. I then re-enact the difference playing multiple roles in my single body—and, thus, reading (and writing) BL I am able to play with gender itself—a point also discussed by Fujimoto Yukari in her chapter in this volume. I am, thus, autoerotic, but my (female) body is erased in this process. Fantasy in its broad sense tells me a story in which I am everywhere. In BL texts I am simultaneously the character’s downcast eyes; the texture of the velvet couch he lounges on; the windows that fling open; and the wind that blows his curly locks. When his lover enters the room, I am also that lover who looks at him with heated desire. In reading like this, no single identification takes place, since the “I” is multiplied to govern each detail of the scene. The subject “I” as the unified centre no longer exists in this activity. Unlike Mishima’s narrator, I do not consolidate the subject “I” but instead lose sight of it in the landscape.
[…]
The distance that I thought existed between fantasy and myself does not seem reliable any more because I am now becoming my fantasy, writing the script, acting the roles, and capturing the scenes. I am efficient in creating pictures and narratives since my focus is on acquiring the utmost pleasure through the fantasy I am making. In the process, however, the “I” who is making disappears, a consequence that Mishima’s narrator could not afford   despite the happiness he knew it was offering. The disappearance of the “I” is the ultimate goal of fantasy making; I forget where I am and what I am. I do not remember whether I have even existed, when I am in a phantasmatic space. At that very moment of happiness I do not care how I appear to others; I am back in my childlike innocence. I have forgotten my gendered body. The reading subject is not born there, but disappears, as my autoerotic pleasure peculiarly excludes myself along with my body.
[…]
In the mid-1990s Nakajima Azusa made her feminist position clear, describing what she calls the “world of JUNE”:
{{The standing position for these girls has already been removed from the world they create… there is no “opposite” sex as the object of love. Turning themselves into shadow, the girls can play to their hearts content with materials unfamiliar to them, connecting one person to another, or making someone fall in love with another, without fear of being made to enter the “ring” where she is on display to be purchased by men.}}
[22 – JUNE magazine (1978–1979, 1981–1996), a popular BL-focused periodical, was during its time the hub for BL enthusiasts.]”

-The Politics of Utopia: Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love by Rio Otomo http://rio-otomo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2013.11.3FantasyPornographyBoyslove.pdf

Note that Otomo follows a fairly orthodox post-Lacanian script herein, when dealing with female desire as free-floating and un-fettered by a limiting phallic subjectivity.

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

“Enomoto explains that “male fans cannot experience moe until they have fixed their own position”— an observation that may well have validity beyond otaku and yaoi fans. In general a man fears the undermining of his own subject position, and he must establish that position firmly before he can desire an object. This is probably the fate of all who possess a phallus (as distinct from a penis): if the position and orientation of the phallus is not defined, the male cannot face even the object of his own desire.

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.””

Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki , in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

It appears that Tamaki and those with rejoinders to his brief mention of the fujoshi experience gloss over the initiatial Lacanian trauma/ shock/ wound of discovering yaoish desires (“Holy Shit !!! Are you serious ??? Where can I get… ?” – as one real life correspondent once exclaimed to me) in favor of the vertiginous pleasures of the shifting POV’s within these dangerous texts. Recall that Tamaki glosses over the fine details of the male experience of the “trauma” as well; which lead me in an earlier review to suggest a rude and simple flowchart.

Only Kio Shimoko, through Kanako Ohno makes any direct mention of the grotty details of any direct erotic use of the material, and what does he know? There is no law that requires that all erotic material must be consumed in “one hand play mode” either for guys or girls and any taxonomy of “appreciation” would probably be both pointless and corporatist-fascist; mega-corporations, as well as the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Academic researchers should consult ethics boards and then ask very, very politely.

The initial question however remains and seems to be only fleetingly addressed in materials available to the English-language-limited researcher. Mizoguchi (Akiko) mentions an initial discovery of early 49’er -style shojou manga (fantasy European) boys romance tales as support and inspiration to her, as her lesbian identity awakened  –  This effect seems far more important than any fleeting erotic charge these texts may or may not have provoked. Only Kazumi Nagaike in her doctoral thesis- “Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father: Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire” [https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962] and her later (unfortunately titled) expanded work on the subject- “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” [ http://www.amazon.ca/Fantasies-Cross-Dressing-Japanese-Male-Male-Erotica/dp/9004216952] gets down and dirty on early and mid-twentieth century Japanese literature that serves as the direct ancestor to the genre. I have previously reviewed these; the source material, which Nagaike translates in some length is not for the squeamish but is more than sufficient to provoke a Lacanian “trauma” and subsequent cathexis – if that kind of stuff turns your crank.

The disconnect, or asymmetry of the experience of libidinised popular visual cultural material between the boys and the girls seems to grow the more one examines it and yet if the differences cannot be laid at the foot of some crude biological determinism, they must then be ascribed to societally gendered codes of behaviour and consumption.

No wonder the entire gender-sexuality-queer-theory-whatnot theory brigades are swarming all over the crash scene! (Be grateful they are; good work is being done there!)

I made no comment.
What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”

Perhaps a simpler solution would be for someone to swipe a time machine, go back to France after the war, feed Lacan some mind-altering pharmaceuticals and drag him to a whole lot of movie theatres.

As critical-theory inclined film essayists have long pointed out, a floating, decentered subjectivity is not merely a matter of who has a delusion between their legs. The camera can do all kinds of tricky things, even if the majority of film makers stick to simple tried and true omniscient “male gaze” visual narrative conventions. Remember the multiple/split screen effects in the Woodstock music documentary were breathtakingly avant-garde and daring for 1970. Such innocent days… We have better cameras and computers now, so we can go crazy in the head and perhaps vicariously enjoy the perspective of the -gasp- Lacanian autre (read: female inscribed by lack) with special effects.

Or Lacan was a bit full of it and we can trash the whole line of inquiry…

Whatever the case, Kio Shimoku’s character mechanics tack quite close to post Lacanian shores. Note the scene in which a sworn-off BL Hato-kun experiences the classic shock that Tamaki has grounded his approach on:

Ch88p17 still works

Of course Hato’s big trauma/ shock/ wound was meant to lie in wait for unsuspecting young women. The Beautiful Bonking Bishie(s) is supposed to be the female counterpart to the Beautiful Fighting Girl. I have probably burnt too much powder on this one already, but a few other fine distinctions can be teased out of the tangle of 2D desire. Tamaki’s BFG in her purest state is a thinly drawn character, a nominally female cypher that lives to fight, requiring little or no back story or motivation and possessed of a sexuality that is sublimated toward battle. She is the phallic, or non-female female, There is a world of difference between such a character –almost a one person clench scene– and a fully written fictional female, heroic or not. Similarly, the Bonking Bishies of a BL tableau are far removed from even the minimal characterizations of parody yaoi dojins. You still need to do author-thing work to get a working story. And reports have it that the rotten girls seem to want more story/ situation/ relationshippy characterization than the Otaku guys do for their critters.

And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;

So Hato is suddenly realizing that his grand “fujoshi desire” project must now include becoming the improbable “male crossdressing BL mangaka”.

“How can I win if they keep moving the goalposts???”

Something about Carnegie Hall…

Since the first moment Hato’s (first) Stand appeared, Kio Shimolu has been hiding this card up his sleeve. Hato mirrors (in a distorted form) the original problem faced by Shimoku – how to properly pull off an ensemble manga full of fujoshi charas when you are a guy. The Stand (and later Stands) were all about making Hato act out classic BL scripts. Whether Hato puts on a dress and gets all hot ‘n bothered with yaoi pr0n or whether the mere knowledge that such creatures as fujoshi and such narratives of desire as BL and yoai exist is enough of a trauma to set him on his course, is immaterial. The only real desire he has ever really shown is towards his project and his project involves authorship – whether he knows and/or admits it or not.

Dammit! We cannot completely scrap the Lacanian approach. Implicit in Tamaki’s trauma scheme is Lacan’s idea that all experience is mediated in the imaginary, that the “real” is something that would drive mere mortals crazy, and that in the moment that mad desire is sparked by the seemingly innocuous or ridiculous cartoon image “Sex is broken down within the framework of fiction and then put back together again“.

A Later Aside: Don’t look or listen to closely to the Lacanian ‘real” or you might find that it is a re-tread of Euroethnic Judeo-Christian mysticism. Alanis Morisette explains:

Ok, so reality, the cave, shadows, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Otaku hysteria born out of the trauma is fundamentally a narrative, creative act and therefore in becoming-otaku (or fujoshi) one must inevitably undertake creative acts of secondary production. One must learn to ride the waves of mass mediated images- of- the- imaginary or be swept away to drown in the torrent. You have to hack the spew.

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand
And puts a record on the gramophone.

Genshiken has been called a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shojou components: shouldn’t we at least get to see Hato ache for Mada? …or even ache for an idealised phantasm of Mada? Kio Shimoku is great at the timid hesitation of Otaku courtship, and damn fine at the in-relationship and/or in-well-married couple frictions and their minor (sometimes major) discontents but he seldom deploys full-throttle romantic mush. Ohno & Tanaka came the closest when Ohno got hammered at the cosplay shoot, but Shimoku-sensei doesn’t do over-the-top melodramatic longing. Saki had a tiny bit, but it was quickly dealt with. The happy couple kisses and we move on to in-relationship comedy situations. Shimoku’s works appear more realistic or slice-of-life because he plays all his romance-ish notes in a restrained, pragmatic, somewhat disillusioned key. It is the old chestnut about the Japanese courting couple, with the guy who cannot ask the girl to marry him –  so he asks her to be the one to make breakfast miso soup for him for the rest of his life.  Ooooooh! That sets the heart a’ flutter!

Hato-as-chan acting out BL tropes, should be doing the full, overblown shojou-esue Heart of the Song of the Wind and Trees & Thomas ” I am yours until the earth claims my body vow of undywing trew ruv at a perplexed Madarame. And where are the full-page floral background portraits (dammit!)? Instead Hato is following the timid courtship rules of the Genshiken: potential partners are approached slowly, tentatively, and with a wearying deliberation that recalls the purchase of a major appliance or a used car. This might be funny, but it is not very big on the desire thing. If Hato has gone quasi you-and-only-you gay for Madarame (even if it shocks the hold-over mainstream male Japanese fan-base, as well as the legions of followers across the grey alleys of the world-wide interwebs) there has been scant evidence of friendship, no evidence of love (even one-sided) no evidence of lust (beyond drawn 2D Hato-works) and no evidence of desire. One outburst of loneliness is all that we have seen. That, the prodding of the Stands and a lot of leveling up in Hato’s femme-ish presentation.

Hato you cad !!! You are just toying with Mada for material for your damn comic.

Meanwhile Sue has “had” in one moment, more of Hato – chan and kun, than Mada ever will.

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

I wonder what she is threatening Mada about in Chapter 105 (the raws are out!), and why the handcuffs ????

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

Ok I am fanning out here, but I am also speculating about what i have long suspected as one of the over-arching plot engines of the whole fujoshi-with-Hato Genshiken. It’s not that you have to do the Anti-Oedipus becoming-woman/ becoming-monster thing to be a successful auteur. Nor is the consideration of decentered subjective multiplicities a feminist (or not) post-Lacanian or queer theory monopoly – though one can understand their interest in the idea. (Hegemony not good!) It’s just that the ability to load and process multiple subjectivities is helpful to the creative process in this day and age. Hato is being used as a slapstick allegory on this theme, as he edges towards being able to tell his stories. He will try all kinds of odd approaches. Like a certain cartoon penguin, He will not fail!

C’mon Hato, as an aspiring mangaka, you need a muse – being your own just isn’t cutting it lately. Sue or Yajimachi: pick one! (Sue best girl!) You can be a male crossdressing virtual lesbian BL mangaka and surpass all your sempais!

Hato-Lilly for great dojinshi creating justice!

 

Teenage wasteland

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

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

I stutterd Genshiken_v10_035wb

We know that Kio Shimoku and Kōji Kumeta are friends, and that SHAFT creative light Akiyuki Shinbo [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akiyuki_Shinbo] worked on the SZS animes – anyone care to do a full 6 degrees of… ?

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h55m05s107

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

Ice pick Genshiken_v10_121crop

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

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

capture_10092014_224548

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

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h18m35s202

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

Lets take a closer look:

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m32s43

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

deco bunk bed NiseMon e4web

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

isanely large bath web

(Aside: A nice consideration of Degas and bath scenes and loli fanservice in the show can be read here:  http://karice.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/p239/ 
And while I’m at it, a tips of the hat to “Entravity” http://www.entravity.com/monogatari-series-second-season/  for its episodic reviews, and to “Wrong Every Time” http://wrongeverytime.com/?s=monogatari&submit=Search for the considered essays on the series !!!)

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

uH7EeqI

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

monogatari-5-38

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h37m10s84

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-21h24m56s214

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m58s77

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

monogatari-8-17 (1)

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h57m46s238

Be careful what you wish for!

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-21h24m32s160

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

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-17h12m50s255

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

monogatari-4-25-tsukihi-karen

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

dont wake me like that web

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

monogatari-8-19-koyomi-mayoi

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-17h07m46s21

 Just ignore all the loli pantsu stuff…

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

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h14m42s251

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

Cold Equations:

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h51m38s31

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h44m22s121

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

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

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

You also get donuts!

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h45m47s207

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-16-21h40m08s145

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

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

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

Female trouble:

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h56m46s72

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

monogatari-21-23

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

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

capture_10092014_231928

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

Humph!

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h01m44s61

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

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

f04ho1thikzvtcoaugc1

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

spooky hei close

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

monogatari-7-4 crop

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

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

Hanamonogatari-Screenshot-246

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

So Monogatari(s) for the win…

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-16h40m48s247

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

capture_10092014_231115

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h51m26s33

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

University empty

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

vlcsnap-2014-10-15-00h24m32s208

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

hana12

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

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

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

Nawwwww, that probably wouldn’t work.

Random Endnotes:

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

One fan’s listing of the anime so far:

Story’s Chronological Order
1. Kizumonogatari -Movie Prequel (in perpetual post-production)
2. Nekomonogatari: Kuro
3. Bakemonogatari
4. Nisemonogatari
5. Monogatari Series Second Season
-Nekomonogatari: Shiro
-Kabukimonogatari
-Otorimonogatari
-Onimonogatari
-Koimonogatari
6. Hanamonogatari should be between Kabuki and Otori  (no, it happens after, Duh!)

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