12 days 2018 #4: Find and watch Wood Job

Wood Job! (2014) 116 minutes
based on a novel by Shion Miura
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_Job!

For my 4th post for #12Days(of)Anime(etc.). a small diversion from anime/ manga: this is still a massively fun thing to spend time watching. You should find and watch the 2014 Japanese movie Wood Job!

Shion Miura, of “Run with the Wind/ Feel the Wind” as well as the novel behind the 2016 anime version and the 2013 live-action version of The Great Passage wrote the original novel. Talk about a track record!

Young guy can’t get a job, bumbles into a forestry intern project, ends up in nowhere mountains rural Japan, learns forestry, falls for the girl, gets roped into big secret village ritual (based on similarly dangerous but less symbolic real ritual/ festival) and wins true love.

Possibly THE WORST ENGLISH TRAILER EVER MADE. Really stupid joke angle fail:

Better trailer:

Japanese guys in fundoshi miraculously avoid splinters!

Advertisements

12 days 2018 #3: Hibiki against the impermanence of all things

“Gion shouja no kane no koe
shogyou mujou no hibiki ari…”

Hibiki: Shōsetsuka ni Naru Hōhō (響 小説家になる方法)
by Mitsuharu Yanamoto, Seinen manga.
Big Comic Superior, August 2014 – ongoing, 10 Volumes
Spoilers ensue

Fuck yeah, I believe!

OOOPS COOLIO # 12Days(of)Anime(etc) post #3 MIGHT GET DELAYED DUE TO OUCHIE KNEE TWIST THAT WANTS TO SOAK IN HOT BATH. Go find some Hibiki, read it and check by later

Meanwhile have some Hibiki caps:

Hibiki is naturally pissed off

Except when she isnt

It’s not that she’s a psychopath or anything…

Her childhood best friend wants a safe normal life for her

Because he fears the alternative

So don’t underestimate her, or she’ll grab a 2×4 and come after you.

Because it’s all about being a Japanese author.

More later…

12 days 2018 #2: mirrors of desire

For my second post for 12days(of)Anime (etc), I should take a moment and go on a bit about the “why?” of this strange blog, for those of you who are dropping by for the first few times. Yup, I do the usual anime and manga reviews of stories that catch my eye and I have even been known to do “season line-up” coverage but that isn’t my main interest.

Kind of hard to explain…

Herr Doctor Professor Saitō Tamaki summed it up in his brilliant post-lacanian examination of otaku desire; Beautiful Fighting Girl. Libidinised desire, even displaced and sublimated through fantasy narratives can re-cathect and/or re-enchant an otherwise dead reality. Think of it as an updating of what Freud swiped from Mary Shelly.

Go back 8-10 years. I was reading scanlated manga and watching a few fansubbed anime and was beside myself. I blame  Kōji Kumeta and his insanely long-running and arch manga Sayonara, Zetsubo-Sensei [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sayonara,_Zetsubou-Sensei] The anime versions, staying quite close to the source material but cranking the problematic aspects to 11 only made matters worse.

I was soooooo embarrassed that I was reading and watching that sick shit.

Did I worry too much? Would you, even today post a series of opening (or closing) credit sequences from a Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei anime on your normie Faceebook page? No, really... Aside: search Vimeo and Dailymotion, the OP’s and EPs routinely get scrubbed from Youtube.

Even the mild Rolly- composed and sung Teacher’s Pet ED slips in a whackload of cringy and strange bits. It wasnt good enough to dismiss the entire mess as edgy satire. (BTW: that’s his sister who is wiggling her ass at sensei)  Sure; makes fun of… Ha Ha Ha, It’s a Japanese thing, they just do that kind of in-your-face pornish, death-obsessed, pedo-bear, lolicon weirdness. Then add the Showa bits to lampoon the “exoticization” of a past Japan; a trick Mamori Oshii cranked to 11 in his forgotten 2006 Tachiguishi-Retsuden [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachiguishi-Retsuden] (1)

Kumeta is making fun of all it, including all the Showa-era graphic conceits, nasty shout-outs, the insane labyrinth of footnote-able pop sociology (the manga scanlating crew was heroic, with end-pages full of references and decoded snark) and the ironic-but-still-get-to-gawk fanservice overload…

Yeah, that’s it.

Time to re-watch Full Metal Panic. Pacifist Japan dreams of warring secret societies with robots and futuristic weapons built with super tech from girls who dream of the future, playing global games of apocalyptic geopolitics. Complete with a chaste love story. You have to get through ALL the light novels before they even get to kiss. Jeesh! What’s left of the Arbalest’s AI wants a Camaro.

Suicide, bondage, stalking, madness, murderous jealousy. A high school class full of under-age nubile girls chasing a drama queen rich-boy teacher. A Japanese take on Harold and Maude, without the sex granny?

Why does this THING exist?

Uh, lookie: a few blogs I follow have gone ecstatic about the revival of some old manga. Is Genshiken even a Japanese word?

Pause and rewind. Dr Tamaki wrote Psychology of the Armored Cutie in the year 2000. He didn’t care to delve into the women’s flip side of the effect; he even dismissed the possibility that there were any significant number of Japanese manga fans who might not be quite “straight”. Write what you know. Tamaki, a Japanese Lacan-influenced psychologist [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamaki_Sait%C5%8D] dabbled in otakology only as a sideline to his work with social isolates. He had no interest in developing a unified otaku schmex-und-desire field theory. Besides, bricolage-ing Lacanian and Freudian pop cultural analysis at a very Japanese phenom was a wry joke in itself. Had not Lacan declared that the Japanese were fundamentally un-anylyze-able?

Want to know what was weirder? His simple monograph on otaku stirred up a half decade debate-feud among Japanese guy otaku “experts”. Watch a whole bunch of  Japanese pop-cult theory guys manspalain that while –urrrr some otaku might, urrrrr, hmmmm, dojinshi, kleenex boxes, figurines, whatever– that was all beside the point, or the result of wimmins shoujo-ish poison infecting heroic manly sci-fi anime and manga, or just more of the same militaristic nationalism mind control, or something about databases…

They should have asked the women, since Japanese women had been quietly playing with this stuff since the 1970’s. Or, the boys had to go the long way around because the girls were being very very secret secret society about it all. I did mention the “second generation’ of the Genshiken, right?

So: stare into the pit too long and the pit does not stare back. Once in a while however, it glances provocatively over it’s shoulder and winks.

If you get geeked on this kind of theory-behind-the-genres thing, you can go all Da Vinci Code fast. Or you end up with the beginnings of a post-graduate research project. If young, with a passing grasp of Japanese, you may want to seek an advanced degree in some cultural studies-ish field related to Japan. Fair warning: most of the Japanese faculty positions open to outlander experts to reflect Japanese cultural ephemera back to Japanese undergraduates are already filled on a long-term, renewable every five years contract basis.

Yet theory holds its own form of moe. I remain a sucker for it. And because I try not to essentialise too much, I fixate on those odd bits of Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture that travel well into outlander (that’s you and moi) regions. Grey channel patterns of distribution help a lot. If a whole bunch of folks go through the trouble to translate, etc., etc., etc… there must be something there. Oh! Moar pr0n

Now that Genshiken Nidaime has concluded I have less concentrated raw material to play with. I have to wander further afield, even if Kio-sensei continues to have fun with the old gang in the quarterly Spotted Flower. If you have not yet, you really should. That means the full manga run, not just the anime(s). As for Spotted Flower; the story takes place on a probability line where the original crew have all grown up as bored and horny 30-somethings. Either this is the Kio’s Gate result from playing with obscure IBM computers or the author is taking every single lewd doujinshi pairing and mulling over whether he could do better. Kio Shimoku is proprietary about his creations; competitive too.

Which invariably leads to, ahem, minority sexuality and gender expression in Japanese stuff.  Set aside the made-by-and-for properties. They face sterner scrutiny than I, an outsider could ever offer. What gets fascinating is when “queer” characters get dropped into stories for nominally straight audiences. On one hand, real-life folks in somewhat similar circumstances gush to see representation that looks even a tiny bit like their realities. For the rest of us, reactions vary from hard-reactionary “get that xyz stuff out of my zyx” to -hmmmmmmm- and even “yes please, can I have another?”

It’s that old “the other” thing again, with a fresh coat of paint. Different classes, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures and (dare I use an imprecise term) “races” have all suffered this kind of interest before. Why not throw some queer into the pot as well? And am I not redoubling the offence by projecting my interests on the Japanese expression of this effect? Yes and no; Japan and co. are all grown up high modernists too; they are doing it back to us, we see them doing it at us as we are doing it at them and both of our gazes lock in mutual fascination. Could this be love? (2)

Search this blog for Adrian Piper

Meanwhile, queer characters are no longer used (as much) as scary villain sauce or even tragic object lessons (you can have your “pure, not-approved by society” love but the fates will be cruel in the end). What the sociology types call “established models of gender roles, desire, romance, family formation and child-rearing” are under heavy structural and economic pressure. They are falling apart all over the world and a few teens (or others) who really really don’t fit some highly idealised models are not the ones causing the collapse. Repeat: Gay marriage does not “threaten” marriage. Gay folks holding hands and sneaking a smooch in public does not destroy hand-holding, smooching or the public. No money, no steady jobs and /or benefits/ health care and crazed authoritarian politics are probably closer to what has gone sour, causing the Japanese high-end beach-front Pizza restaurant to close its tacky wedding chapel and reno it into a bus tour friendly mega-dining hall.

We all knew that reactionary religio-politico types; Japanese or North American or other were all just spewing bullshit to line their pockets by leading group-hate cheers. Shame on those who go along with it.

Curiously, after decades, even centuries of being nasty toward the gay, what do we now suddenly want from it? We imagine “they” must be experts at getting around all that rigid asshat proscriptive stuff and figuring the important stuff out for themselves, right?. So they must have secret insights! Also, they do the “to yourself be true” thing, which I sometimes call “the doctrine of authenticity” (and which gets all of us one way or another) and that is heroic in a way that removes no skin from my nose and is heartwarming to cheer on. Gawd, this is transactional and selfish as all get-out, just as it always has been. We are like that, even if we’re working on it. And if “they” are less than interested in sharing tips, we’ll just go and invent crude shadows of “the gay” to try out our nifty ideas in a story or two..

The last violence we impose upon the queer of our straight imaginations
is the burden of our hopes
.”

Sorry, but long, long ago too many of us (guys) were scared spit-less by Alice Sheldon’s (writing as James Tiptree Jr) “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?” [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Houston,_Houston,_Do_You_Read%3F]  This, incidentally also explains gamer-gait and similar spasms. So, harm reduction…

Whether it is teen (and on) young women reading about two young good-looking guys trying to figure out their first make-out session, because guy characters can do things that might be too smutty or objectified for the readership if one (or both) of them were girls, or otokonoko otaku guys reading about stand-in straight boy getting hot and bothered over the crossdresser or trans continuum character (who incidentally does “girl” better that the run-of the mill cis version, in numerous subtle but important ways – (jeesh dude, what happens if you fall IRL for a cis girl who doesn’t look/present like a BFG in bikini armor, OL/ hawt teacher or moe blob?) whatever “model breaking” ends up relentlessly circling back to our majority cis heteronormative concerns – if only because they are so many of us. That, bucks and printing presses.

Whot De…??? They made the boy figure skater a full precure ??? This is a show for Japanese girl children! It was inevitable after they made the android girl from the future one earlier. Check out the heavy-duty sakuga in the battle scenes with the guest precures…

All this means something.

Scribble, scribble…

 

(1) 10 years ago I got half-way through puzzling out English subs from machine translated Chinese subtitles for Tachiguishi Retsuden (Tachigui: The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters) before I gave up. Only the folks at Sumimassen Scans could even hope to do this one justice. Brain Hurts! And yet I am convinced it was a big influence on Kumeta’s decision to Showa-out Zetsubo Sensei. Someone, please…

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

— Intro, Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture. Edited by Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent. London and New York: Routledge, 2010. 

(Don’t get too excited; the tome is all about turn-of-the-century Japanese literature, except for the last entry on the rise of the pantsu fetish in 70’s Japanese “pinku” soft-core porn films. The research therein must also be taken with a grain of salt as it started out as a conference joke research paper, originally titled “Die Zizek Die!” )

12 days 2018 #1: Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is strong

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru / Run with the wind  —  to ep. 11
Mild spoilers ensue

For my first post for 12days(of)Anime (etc) I’m doing a quick revisit to the 2018-19 anime; the latest version of Run with the Wind as it nears its midpoint. You did know that it previously was a novel, a manga and a live action movie, neh? This iteration might well be one of the best (barring the novel of course). The anti-organised sports (and associated tropes) mood continues, as slowly the Chikusei-sou dwellers make peace with their reasons for running and with each other. One by one they win their 16:30 official times.

I had a chance to re-watch the 2009 live-action movie with my sweetie (still no English subtitles to be found), though she declined to do any real-time translating. Her verdict: A typical gambatte sports grinder with pretty boys, To be fair, a good third of the live-action flick is the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden itself. Then there is the big meet before when the teams compete for one of the remaining 10 spots in the Ekiden (10 are already “seeded” from last year’s best). The movie version of the Prince is nowhere as pathetic as his anime incarnation and less time is spent helping him with his form. After some in-depth help in the anime, Prince-san breaks 30:00

She did however correct one big misunderstanding that I have been harping on..

That’s Kansei University, not Kansai. Missed that. Closest thing I can find to approximate Kansei is “Technical” or “Engineering”. So no plot magic from the aged ex-coach needed. They are in story-verse Setagaya, which is in Kanto and presumably were at one point (and still eligible to be) a member of the Kanto Association.

Still waiting for Kurahara’s high school to be cleared up.

Another difference between the anime and the movie: The ex-coach is younger, a portly late 50’s – early 60’s with a van that follows the runners and a PA system to yell encouragement. I like the older version in the anime better.

Other differences: exhausted Haiji does not end up in the hospital. Shindo-san gets a brief cameo as her girlfriend dumps him. Musa has too many African masks in his room. We are getting a few more reminders of Haiji’s knee injury and the Ace runner previously shown acting with sportsmanship drops an oblique reference to “new, strong runners” in competition for a spot in the Ekiden. Haiji tells Kurahara the “strong” is the greatest compliment a distance runner can give; not fast.

So, yeah: #Kazeanime. I’m calling this as one of the best , if not… of the season. I should sign up at their fan site. (I wonder if the production cttee promo-types???)

12 days 2018, post 0

It is almost December and soon will be time again for the yearly 12 days of Anime (/manga/ visual novels/ contemporary Japanese otaku junk/ etc.) blogging challenge. Am I up to it?  When will it start? December 6? December 10?

Gotta try.

I was lukewarm about this fall-winter season but bit by bit, some solid properties snuck up on me. I have already posted on Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru and  Irozuku Sekai no Ashita Kara which are shaping up to be my two faves for this season. Space Fish and Himote House remain curious enough that I keep watching. Himote‘s last episode came up with a blase excuse to run through heaping piles of yuri tropes – that was fun.

Skull-faced Bookseller Honda-san needs something. Trouble is that it is exactly “what’s on the tin”. Only items of note are the huge number of outlanders who wander into the bookshop and their tastes in libidinised reading material. Ok… rinse, repeat.

Gegege no Kitarou was looking promising but I fell behind. That show requires stamina! Must catch up on it.

For some reason, I was/remain lukewarm on Index III, Gridman, SAO: Alice, Goblins, Slime, whatever, meh, it’s just me. Wondering how lolicon can Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san go; too put off to watch much more.

That leaves the Zombie in the room. ZombieLand Saga. Goddammit. I am really having trouble with my essay-post on this one. Just as I am about to call in an air strike on “haha idol exploitation is funny, but they are all dead so LOL“, the writers sucker-punch me right in the guts. RESPECT LILY. And for all my suspicions, the writers handled it well enough. It could have gone bad fast and might still get worse but for now, it was simple and heartfelt. The Chicken/ Mudfest episode was good too. The rain concert lightning strike was Ok, even if expected.

Honestly though, aside from linking greater exploitative trends in Japanese work culture and systemic sexism to historical militarist and mercantilist impulses — while finessing around a certain nuclear hot-button topic, I don’t feel the rush of any significant theory moe in any of these properties. Kaze surprised me a teeny tiny bit. If it breaks from the rushed atmosphere of the 2009 live action movie (please, please, SOMEONE dig up some EN subs for it) and continues putting on existentialist airs while contrasting authoritarian-coach-bullshit sports culture to older, richer currents of personal heroic defiance in Japanese stories, it will just make me all warm and stupidly fannish about it.

On a side note; that protagonist/ antagonist friction dance must be some big team cliche thing. I could swear the zombie girls were doing it too, almost riffing on the Kaze script, last few episodes.

Maybe it’s time to kinda-sorta run through some spoilers/ a “script” translation for Spotted Flower 27.5? TLDR: Nekkid Shower Reveal plus moar alt-Sue trying to start things with alt-Ogiue. Mebe your Italian is better than my Google Xlate efforts, so you don’t need?
Surprise us Kio-sensei and queer Endou-san the editor girl for next issue.

Winter is almost here. Wonder if I have enough time to order in some plastic food phone straps in time for Christmas?
https://fakefoodjapan.com/products/lotus_root_tempura_large_keychain

The Colors May Return

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara, (lit. “From the Color-Changing World’s Tomorrow”)
/Iroduku: The World in Colors. Studio P.A.Works, Fall 2018, 13 episodes
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iroduku:_The_World_in_Colors
https://myanimelist.net/anime/37497/Irozuku_Sekai_no_Ashita_kara

The Nagasaki of Irozuku in the year 2078 is much like the Nagasaki of today, except that the cell phones are way better. The small amount of magic left in the world is about the same and troubled anime teen girls still either withdraw from their emotional
lives or … 


Guess I’ll have to wait for a sequel to find out how a 2078 small-amount-of-magic-remains Japanese Yankee girl would act out. Hoverbike? I insist on to-the-ankles pleated uniform skirts; they are way kewl and their appeal is severely underrated.

17 year old Hitomi Tsukishiro clearly needs an intervention and her great mage grandma has just the thing for the job. I’m sure she is confident in her treatment plan’s success because she remembers helping to jolt her granddaughter back to life some 60 years hence – which is why she then started work on the absorb-60-years-of-moonlight Star-sand clock thingy needed to spirit Hitomi back to when she also was a teenage girl.

Besides setting up a neato temporal loop that can avoid paradoxing, PA Works gets to draw out the back streets of Nagasaki in soft, gentle lines and then slowly play with the Hue knob to mute and then pump the settings with gorgeous colors. They have in effect turned the city into a Iyashikei and reverse Isekai tale location at the same time. (1)

 

Bonus! It is also good that witch clans keep to the old ways of welcoming and making a place for distant relatives – even future distant relatives and that a spare room was available at great-grandmother’s (and great-great-grandmother’s) magic shop.

Hitomi and her presently 17-year old obaacha Kohaku even have the requisite Isekai magic powers but they are both limited and when not, somewhat difficult to control. We are closer to the world-mood of Kiki’s Delivery Service and Flying Witch than any magical girl world; gentle pace, sympathetic people and small wonders.

bus, bus, magic bus…

Add that there isn’t too much service (again with the too short school uniform skirts, jeesh! – although in this case Hitomi’s might also serve to mark her as immature relative to her new peer group) and we are not going to get too much foregrounded high-school crush stuff because someone has to get back to 2078 and should not flirt with their grandpa.

Which only leaves the problem of the magic boy.

Or the boy and his magic digital drawing tablet. Or the magic fish.

The fish is an excellent touch. Its later permutations hint at some disappointment or shock or even trauma that Aoi Yuito went through that is making it hard for him to keep drawing. Without his problem, the entire tale would descend to ‘magic boy cures all what ills girl’. If the story can somehow make his problems somewhat paralel to whatever monochromed Hitomi, then she can heal herself by helping someone else heal. And she is making progress; her color has abrubtly returned by the end of episode six, although she has no idea how or why. This is not a viable solution.

“Oh, I fell on my bum in my dream of his drawing and my colors came back; whew! Glad that’s done. Now how do I get back to my time?”

I suspect the next 6 episodes will need more magic drawing mutual psychotherapy to work out all the kinks, while incidentally setting Hitomi on the path to her future magic-using speciality. Something like Paprika, only without the scary, dangerous chaos.

Meanwhile Irozuku is just plain beautiful to watch. At a time when folks (incl. moi meme) might be overwhelmed with IRL fight-flight bullshit goings on, something like Irozuku with its quiet moments and beautiful colors remind us to take a deep breath and look around. The leaves are turning…

The world remains beautiful.

 

  1. For more details on Irozuku’s locations, please visit: Weekly Review of Transit, Place and Culture in Anime 289 by MICHAEL, Like a Fish in Water (blog), Oct 17, 2018
    http://likeafishinwater.com/2018/10/17/weekly-review-of-transit-place-and-culture-in-anime-289/

Wind

Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru [Run With the Wind]
Anime. Production I.G, Fall 2018, 23 Episodes. (1)
https://www.ntv.co.jp/english/pc/2018/08/run-with-the-wind.html

The concept behind Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru is that while a stereotypical manga/anime coach and team structure is usually an evil fascist hellscape, a self-governing runner’s collective can redeem the sport.
All power to the Soviets!

I thought it would take a lot to get me to watch a shonen, oops seinen sports anime but Run With the Wind (Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru) has gently tricked me into enjoying it, much in the manner that it’s protraganist Haiji has suckered the rest of the Chikusei-sou dorm/ lodging house into practice runs. To do so, it has jettisoned – if not subtly framed in opposition – most of the competitive tropes characteristic of sports grinders; tropes which to me highlight the exploitation, hypocrisy and monstrous bad faith of commodified competitive sports: In other words, all that sportsy stuff that sports-heads just love. Alexa; play We are the Champions

“I just want to know what running is all about.”

Run WIth the Wind instead approaches the core idea of “what for?” with an insouciant “for a while”. If true compulsion were to rear its ugly head, it might carry a whiff of The Wages of Fear, re-tooled for long distance relay running. Or perhaps not. The “why” of running is asked in Run With the Wind as a deeply personal, existential question (and otaku t-shirt). Indeed, why do anything? The unlikely athletic misfits of the Chikusei-sou are nowhere near the dire situation of say; recovering Scottish heroin addicts, in the matter of other classic loser-dog redemption team movies and there will be no hidden superpowers that shatter class barriers, as in the Chinese 2001 soccer comedy Shaolin Soccer.

The Kansei University Track and Field Team might initially come together to keep a low-cost roof over their heads (along with 2 meals a day, all for a bit over $300/month !!!) but none of them -really- have to run.

This makes the story beautiful.

As well, by way of side consideration for us guys who get antsy about such things; while a pile of -guys- hanging out and doing the team sport thang will undoubtedly look like irresistible yummy yummy ship candy to a certain demographic of woman viewers (among others), at least the writers have left out most of the coy wink wink nudge nudge subtextual fujo-baiting that has recently become a box-office imperative. I venture that by doing so, the writers and production staff have gained more in mood that those so inclined can treasure (and use) than crude attempts to pander and tease would have done.

This could be a side effect of the anime as artifact. Run WIth the Wind is based upon the 2006 novel Feel the Wind by Shiwon Miura, who also wrote The Great Passage. It has previously been adapted into a 50 chapter manga, a live action movie (2) and a stage play (!?)

Run WIth the Wind bears other neato cultural traces as well. Though situated somewhere in a dimension warped fictional space that alludes to the Osaka region but looks like Tokyo’s Setagaya ward, the Chikusei-sou dorm/ lodging house owes a debt of inspiration to the infamous Yoshida-ryo dormitory at Kyoto University (3)

Kyoto’s anarcho-syndicalist Yoshida-ryo is co-ed. The Chikusei-sou is exclusively male (and devoid of any high-spirited student political airs). As well, aside from the greengrocer’s high-school age daughter who has drafted herself into the role of a Japanese school team ‘manager” (gopher and mascot) Run, (so far) is devoid of women: girlfriends, women teachers, school nurses, big or little sisters and moms are all MIA. Similarly, the Tokyo-Hakone Ekiden (4) is a guy’s race. While there are women’s Ekidens held yearly across Japan, there is no women’s Tokyo-Hakone run.

As well, the race is only open to teams from the 20 universities which belong to the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto. For January 2, 2019, 21 teams will run but in the real world but they will still all be from university teams from the Kanto region. Presumably some storytelling magic will be slipped in to open participation to a long-lapsed and now revived Kansai-in-Tokyo University team for the anime race. Or the English subtitles are a mess – which would also explain how Kakeru Kurahara used to be on the Sendai Josei Highschool track team.

Wow! Sport trivia; which feels to this sport-abjurer as wildly beside the point yet introduces the characters’ mixed feelings about the race and running as diversion and placeholder for all the other big, nagging and ultimately unsolvable questions in their university lives. Why indeed?

The key to the larger story is not Kakeru Kurahara, the 10th man – because he is a sports story cliché, even if his arrival sets the tale in motion. The hinge point characters are the King and the Prince. The Prince, as completely out-of-shape and frail otaku at first looks as if he has as much chance of running 20km as I, or countless other out of shape viewers, have. Why Haiji is not figuring out a proper stride for him while the Prince is still a complete noob is one big question. Another is why Haiji hasn’t started him on the walk 4, run 4 method? The butterflies were a nice touch.

With ‘King’ we draw closer to nut of the story. University will end. Jobs and the world of work; regimented, conforming and relentless for the next 40-50 years (barring burnout or karoshi) loom large on the horizon. Yonder before us lie deserts… We who are about to… King is freaked. Reality is a bitch and she isn’t impressed one bit by his recruit suit.

Meanwhile his roomies are one by one pledging to an inane, out in left-field, whatever, how far can we get, this is crazy but in a good way, we should just, because why the fuck not exploit of infiltrating a famous (and famously grueling) long-distance run. Oh snap, why not streak the Ekiden while they are at it?

Is Haiji a running-obsessed time traveller, esper and alien who will work magic training tricks on the ragtag team? He handles all their cooking; is he slipping steroids into their hot-pot? The anime is set for 23 episodes – though five episodes in it feels as if it might need twice that number. Is it possible that the 23 episode run is timed to end near the running of the IRL Ekiden? Smooth scheduling trick!

Run from, run to, run with

“Running is all about strength, not speed–the strength that comes from being you and forming a bond with someone else.”

No surprise that the fast bonds of friendship forged through grueling training and the race will be one of the big big themes woven into the tale. Guys. Friendship. Large neon sign over the Chikusei-sou. It would be impossible, given the set-up to be otherwise. But long-distance running is fundamentally an alone-in-your-own-head-while-your-body-falls-apart-painfully endeavor. Mind over matter. Solitary. Sure you have to make it to your checkpoint and get that sash to the next team member (and do so within 20 minutes of the fastest runner’s hand-off or they will be sent off with a substitute sash and your extra time to the checkpoint will be added to the team – If you drop out of the race, even for an injury, your team is out!) but those 18-23km sections are going to test whether the competitive urge to match or surpass nearby runners will be enough to distract you from the pain and that ever-present WHY?

Figure out the answer later. For now, keep running. No regrets.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) Original Creator: Shion Miura
Director: Kazuya Nomura
Series Composition: Kohei Kiyasu
Character Designer: Takahiro Chiba
Key Animator: Hideki Takahashi, Takashi Mukouda
Sound Director: Hiromi Kikuta
Music: Yuki Hayashi
https://myanimelist.net/anime/37965/Kaze_ga_Tsuyoku_Fuiteiruhttps://anidb.net/perl-bin/animedb.pl?show=anime&aid=14109

(2) Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru (2018) is the latest adaptation of the novel by Shion Miura. The book has also been adapted as a manga by Sorata Unno which began in Weekly Young Jump in 2007, moved to Monthly Young Jump in 2008, and concluded in 2009. The anime adaptation was announced by the launch of an official website on May 31, 2018. The series will premiere on NTV and BS-NTV in October 2018.Feel the Wind (2009) More on the 2009 live-action Kaze ga tsuyoku fuiteiru (2009) at IMDb: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1517476/
http://losmovies.cx/free-movie/tt126951/watch-online-feel-the-wind

(3) The movie version Chikusei-sou has more of an inner-city shop next to a residence feel. The anime’s dorm’s “vibe” is missing. See the following on the Yoshida-ryo dormitory at Kyoto University:
http://travel.cnn.com/tokyo/sleep/yoshidaryo-japans-most-famously-decrepit-dormitory-179885/
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2018/09/29/issues/kyoto-dorm-time-forgot-japanese-students-dig/
https://throwoutyourbooks.wordpress.com/2018/02/16/kyoto-university-students-oppose-campus-signboards-closure-yoshida-dormitory/

(4) The Hakone Ekiden (a ten-person relay race of near-half-marathons)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hakone_Ekiden
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ekiden
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/why-japans-incredible-long-distance-runners-will-never-win-the-london-marathon-10182050.html
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-running-blog/2014/jan/08/hakone-ekiden-greatest-race-on-earth
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2008/12/28/more-sports/track-field/facts-about-the-hakone-ekiden/

New 2018-19 qualifying rules:
https://germanroadraces.de/?post_eng=end-of-an-era-hakone-ekiden-qualifier-to-switch-from-20-km-to-half-marathon-brett-larner-japan-running-news

Uncanny Gully: character animation in Himote House

HIMOTE HOUSE, animated series, 12 min/per episode.
Studio Bouncy, October 2018 – ongoing

https://www.crunchyroll.com/himote-house-a-share-house-of-super-psychic-girls/

“In aesthetics, the uncanny valley is a hypothesized relationship between the degree of an object’s resemblance to a human being and the emotional response to such an object. The concept of the uncanny valley suggests humanoid objects which appear almost, but not exactly, like real human beings elicit uncanny, or strangely familiar, feelings of eeriness and revulsion in observers. Valley denotes a dip in the human observer’s affinity for the replica, a relation that otherwise increases with the replica’s human likeness.”
— https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

A diversion first to Hugtto! Precure. Whatever else you can you care to say about it, you must admit that the first time you saw the ending sequences you were a bit thrown. The CG animated, somewhat flat versions of the characters doing virtual Idol style dances were jarring – much in the manner of net video Miku Miku Dance animations but more so. Closer examination shows a somewhat different style than the usual open source stuff found on Nico Nico but the idea remains the same. Or worse.

It looks as if whoever did these Precure ED sequences got a contract to create Himote House’s 12-minute Cute Girls Doing Whatever episodes. Or lent out the software packages. Lets get all the story stuff out-of-the-way first, with a quick wrap up of the show:

The three Himote (lit: unpopular, especially with the opposite sex) sisters have taken in roommates in their family home while their world-travelling anthropologist parents are away. Two highschool friends have moved in to make a five woman share-house, ages 19 through mid-twenties. After discussing household chores, laundry and underwear, one of the sisters casually mentions that they have useless super powers. The already-there lodger has one too and when the new lodger does a constipated grunting try, it turns out that she has a useless super power as well. The household cat, which resembles a walking maneki-neko can talk. For some reason, the English streaming service has chosen to highlight the super-power hook rather than the ‘himote” hook. The next episode is devoted to demonstrating how useless these super-powers are and showing us that early-20’s Japanese women who will not act like bar hostesses or deer stunned by headlights face dating challenges.

Informed discussion on the show notes that some of the key creative talent and the voice actors (save one) are veterans of two earlier 1.6- 1.8D CG animes: gdgd fairies and Tesagure! Bukatsumono. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gdgd_Fairies
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tesagure!_Bukatsu-mono

Also noted was that there had been a notion to use voice actor improv sessions to develop the dialogue that would then be animated. Though the idea was shelved in favor of conventionally scripted dialogue, the show retains a strong improv feel.

It also, perhaps because of the flat character design, is mercifully short on fanservice (they go on about pantsu but we get no reveal) or improbably curved, cleavage displaying young Japanese women. Each character’s signature clothing “style” might be individualistic but none of them, except perhaps oldest daughter Tokiyo is weird and none are too revealing. I have read some shade at this show, mostly from guy-sounding sources. I wonder how women viewers gauge it.

Presumably, the next 10 episodes will go on more or less the same as the first two and broadcast time will be innocuously filled with content at a reasonable price point. Himote House is not objectionable and given even a modest reception, could well go on to a few more cours/ seasons.

The animation will take some getting used to.

gdgd fairies was animated using Microsoft Windows 3.11’s PAINT, or at least looked as if it was. The scenes were even cruder than South Park. Tesagure! Bukatsumono used (a presumably tweaked version of) Miku Miku Dance. Although Tesagure! suffered from claustrophobic room settings and look-down camera angles, the actual character designs rendered out faces and bodies in a way that seemed to naturally match the “look” of the rest of the animation. This is hard to put into words but the animated characters “fit” the overall quality, resolution and detail of their backgrounds.

With Himote, you can posit Tesagure! Bukatsumono on one side of a trough and PAWorks or KyoAni up a gentle rise on the other side. Near the edge on this side is last year’s Kado; The Wrong Answer with the space between filled by a horde of work-a-day anime. Down in the gully, Himote is a few inches up one side, staring across the bottom at a high school video circle’s attempt at a CG My Little Pony parody doujin, the kind where the dancing ponies all look like they were computer simulations of extruded modelling clay. Something about Himote’s chara animation just LOOKS WRONG.

Neither too bad – and therefore passable as a hip ironic artifact, nor close enough to 2D drawn animation to invite comparison – just wonky enough to be unnerving. And just when your subconscious gets used to the “style”, the producers have the habit of dropping conventionally drawn static 2D panels into the flow, as if to knock the viewer back into a perpetual feeling of unease.

I would not put it past the producers to play some more with this and start distorting bodies with too big heads, variable heights, skewed perspectives, etc. They all have unexplainable super powers, so temporarily turning them into bobble-heads or worse shouldn’t be a problem. Just a pomo nod towards body-image/ body-horror issues that can be girl-talked over for 6 minutes. Why should androgyne Gems have all the fun? If the animation is going to be jarring, best to fold that characteristic into the narrative and push it to extremes for effect. Flip your liabilities and deploy them as unique selling points!

Could Himote House be some kind of subversive Japanese women’s narrative? I don’t have the credentials to make the call but so far the dialogue has been relentlessly mundane in its girl-talk-ish-ness. Sure they might start talking about bras and pantsu, but only in the context of how to properly launder them (in mesh bags) and not get them mixed up. Not much guy-voyeurism juice there. (Or has this kind of girl-talk already been commodified as product to  niche guy-otaku audiences? ) They spend 5 minutes opening a jar of rice seasoning. They go to a goukon and grumble about the pickings after, all without indulging in any of the usual trope-talk about societal pressure to find a guy and get married. The first two episodes come damn close to being fully Bechdel–Wallace test compliant.

As well, there have been no hints of yuri-trolling yet. Just five gals living in a house while they work in the big city. Dialogue is more likely to center around whether bath-towels get washed after one use than about “romance”. They haven’t even thrown a good weekend piss-up yet, so I doubt that they will be doing any product placement for speciality beers or fruity sochus – as with another recent women’s share-house anime.

Maybe one of them is at University or a NEET? Does it matter much? There is a Zen-like be-here-now-ness to Himote’s conversations.A ‘radio show’ adjunct to the show is rumoured to expand on the meandering dialogue and reportedly often slips into originally planned improv. Could the anime be considered as an economically animated adjunct to the radio show? Normally the cost of animation would preclude so much content-less content but technology has once again reduced costs and expanded accessibility, so why not? Himote House is analogous to a monthly 2 hour fan podcast on not much of anything. Leave it on in the background, replay if you care that you missed something. Considering that Japanese daytime TV either has women being lectured at by guy experts or has a posse of women go out to expensive restaurants and hot springs, sample the wares and then pronounce “Sugoi” and “Sy-co” to the camera (rinse, repeat) Himote’s dialogue might well be revolutionary in its mundane realism.

Just because you can maybe you should. Why gate-keep?

The Fish is a Harsh Mistress

Sora to Umi no Aida [Space Fish: Between the Sky and Sea]
https://www.crunchyroll.com/between-the-sky-and-sea/episode-1-gonna-fish-in-space-777584

Sell your stupidity rather than your knowledge, for you always will have an ample supply.
— Werner Twertzog‏ @WernerTwertzog

I’m going to do a review of The fall 2018 anime Sora to Umi no Aida also known as Cute Girls Fishing in Space because this one is so bad that no one else is going to bother reviewing it so I will get traffic to my blog.

However since it would be a waste of energy to actually type this out I will instead try to dictate the review using Google Docs feature mentioned by @scalzi on Twitter. GDocs now has the same voice typing functions as Android phones, so I’m going to give it a try.

Hey this is not bad at all. I have a head cold.

I’ll figure out later whether or not I’ll go back and correct this or just leave it as it is. (Nope, have to correct, big time. Still easier than typing the whole thing.)

The premise of Sora to Umi no Aida is that all the fish in the oceans on Earth died off but instead of a global apocalypse due to starvation and civil wars it was Ho Hum Oh Well until Japan, nostalgic for fish made giant Dyson spheres full of water and fish and stuck them in some kind of orbit.

Now all we need are cute girls in form-fitting space suits, some competition between them and the guy fisherman, giant fish in tanks in space and some completely incomprehensible smartphone app fishing deities that somehow can be used in a game tie-in to promote coastal fishing in Japan and somebody’s Chamber of Commerce.

I have no doubt that somehow Japanese taxpayers money is getting wasted on this -bucket of fish guts- innovative storyline. Not my problem; I don’t live in Japan. As long as they don’t try to tie it in to a dodgy idol group whose scumbag promoters overwork their underage girls to suicide, I will be able to watch this without too much stain on what is left of my soul.

I love how the title animation starts with a multi-section panel of the girls in question with their mouths open like they just got hit upside. Or like fish out of water. Surprisingly enough the fan service Is not too pronounced or it could be worse. As well, the girl characters are not simpering idiots even if the main character is a classic good-hearted air-head. The earthside settings are at some Japanese coastal city [the city of Onomichi in Hokkaido Nope, South of Hiroshima, on the setao Inland Sea] whose scenery gets a lot of cameo shots (later: https://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-feature/2018/10/16-1/anime-vs-real-life-onomichi-is-the-town-between-the-sky-and-sea ) and these are fairly well done. The storyline two episodes in is setting up a more or less routine do-your-best-trial episode, in which our heroes will have to learn to work together in order to capture 3 giant robot tuna, so that they can use the Fisherman’s Union training pool to learn how to pilot their mini subs. The fact that there is an ocean harbor next to the facilities goes unnoticed.

Perhaps there is a problem using the nearby ocean harbor because of the weekly rocket launches up into space, in order to go get space fish so that it can be served at local restaurants…

I watched one episode of an anime about Japanese trains turning into giant robots so I should be able to take this — why should boys have all the fun? it could be a lot worse. The writers are taking the ridiculous premise seriously enough, then they double down on the guardian deity (thing Siege seat concrete it c o n c e i t And what’s with all the random capitalization? okay D&D deity) conceit. I think they want to sell to us the idea that these are historical Japanese guardian deities of fishermen but instead of having Shinto rituals at a shrine, they have smartphone apps that tie into the control circuits of the mini subs and somehow help with the intricate maneuvers needed to harpoon and stun giant space fish.

Did I mention that the fish in space are really freaking big?

I don’t know how they get these things back to Japan. Perhaps they freeze them In giant chunks of ice and then drop them out of orbit. Giant chunks of ice with humongous fish in them impacting the harbor at odd hours of the night. This also means that future Japan did not have to change its Constitution because dropping gigantic ice chunks with fish in them from high orbit is simply a food delivery system and not a weapon of mass destruction. I seem to remember a Robert A Heinlein story about something like this — minus the fish of course.

What can I say? This is two episodes in and I am getting over a vicious head-cold. Maybe it was the Vicks Nyquil. For my next trick I should drop by Anime Feminist and argue that this one has hidden themes of empowerment and not too much fanservice. I haven’t been told off in a comment section recently. Actually the storyline does have something in the neighborhood of purported women’s empowerment, If only you could take it seriously. After all girls fishing squad is being put together by the passionately competent career woman, who will turn out to have some connection the fishing tradition and is trying open the profession to women through this pilot project. She will not fail!

The story might be nonsense but this part is being handled almost respectfully. This could be a side effect of needing the plot point to be taken seriously for the rest of the story to work. It is hard to tell if this is respect or haste. For example; if you’re going to put the women pilots in super-sentai color-coded (1) form-fitting space suits you could at least hang a lampshade on the weird design bits like they did in Hisone and Masotan with the crazed fashionista uniform designer.

In other news, Tsukumogami Kashimasu and Irozuku Sekai  no Ashita kara were/are pleasant to watch.

Also Google Docs voice typing is not a bad way to toss a post together really fast. WIN!

 

  1. Later: Some good info on Sentai outfit color coding tropes, as used in SSSS: Gridman:
    https://formeinfullbloom.wordpress.com/2018/11/10/we-are-who-our-backpacks-say-we-are-or-not-the-ssss-gridman-trio-and-color-coded-archetypes/#more-12531%20)

Gender and performativity among the josou maidos

It’s complicated… [1]

Fukakai na Boku no Subete o‘ [My Totally Incomprehensible Everything][2]
KONAYAMA Kata, Comic MeDu, 2018 ongoing.
[http://www.comic-medu.com/wk/fukaboku]

‘Kimi Dake no Ponytail‘ KONAYAMA Kata
18+ doujin, 3 chapters, prequel to Fukaboku

“High school student Tetsu Iwaoka notices that his (crossdressing) classmate Mogumu is always alone at school. Wanting to give Mogumo a chance to make some friends, Tetsu invites Mogumu to work at his family’s maid cafe. While Mogumo is initially enthusiastic, there is one problem: this is an otokonoko (localised as girly-boy) cafe, the maidos ritually tell this to customers as they are seated but Mogumo is adamant about being neither a boy nor a girl.”
apres: https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=150104

Fukaboku is a curious entry into the ranks of gender-bending manga, as it bounces back and forth between fetishisation and didacticism. You thought you were going to get a crossdressing maid cafe ensemble comedy – perhaps with a side helping of otokonoko schmexy. Hah! A few pages into chapter 1 and we are hip-deep into a clumsy primer on the range of reasons why a (deemed-male-at-birth)/ guy body might find themselves in a maid outfit, or affecting any other manner of female/ fem presentation. [3]

Whether or not it gets an A for effort, a C for clumsy execution, an F for fetishisation or racks up grudgingly awarded bonus points from readers with more skin in the game is beyond my abilities to guess. I am here to chew bubblegum and do kitchen sink gender studies on a harmless gender-bender manga. Behold a very tentative, sideways attempt to, if not educate, at least acknowledge a wider view of gendered presentation in Japanese society [there be sooooo many reasons for the skirts] – while seeing if we can still wring some nudge nudge wink wink from all of it. Along the way, this manga might eventually touch on the territory glimpsed at in Bokura no Hentai, hopefully with far less dire.

Mogumo’s classmates know and accommodate their(sing.) situation but they are still isolated. Tetsu butts in because the family business was originally set up for his “girl inside” brother. Pronoun use is a tad below western respectful standards but at least the scanlators have localised otokonoko as “girly-boy”. Were this a few years ago, we well know what term they would have used for the characters. Also working at the cafe is a classic “likes guys” guy who enjoys crossdressing to tickle his boyfriend’s fancy; a cross-play crossdresser and a person who finds comfort in being an otokonoko/ girly-boy as a stopgap identity in lieu of (the difficulty/ impossibility of ???) “becoming a woman”.

“My two cents towards adding to a “best practice” code of conduct for straight writers –dreaming in queer– would be that ya can’t go wrong if you keep the tone of the settings, or at least of the actions of your idea-of-queer character “aspirational”. That appears to have worked well a few times. You can also hide a fair amount of sloppy behind it.”
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/08/15/spotted-flower-26-527-keep-your-eyes-on-me-now-were-on-the-edge-of-hell/

The ritual asking of “Did you know I’m a girly-boy, Is that ok with you?” to each customer eliminates one of the oldest “blood libels” against crossdressed presentation; no deception, so no trapping. As well, the character Mei finds a measure of reassurance in claiming the otokonoko identity for themselves. Mogumo however is adamant that they will not use it because it forces them to self-identify as a boy. Some comments across discussion forums have pointed out how the story bogs down in the negotiation of gendered pronouns and identity names but of course this is the whole point of the story. Even Mogumo, because they have been isolated from a queer social can screw up on polite terminology.

To further complicate matters, Fukaboku has a prequel two-chapter smut doujin mini-series (Kimi Dake no Ponytail– a third chapter was later added as a bridge to the cafe) that tells the story of how Suzu, the “likes guys” staffer hooked up and got very intimate with their boyfriend. Not Safe For Work. Also includes a number of “abolish gender!” pronouncements that set the tone for this later work. The takeaway seems to be that rigid ideas of gender and sexuality should not get in the way of a horny teen romance. It also might be time to add one more caution to the “how to write an aspirational genderqueer bonk scene” checklist. Suzu goes on far too much with the “do you accept me even though I’m not a “real” girl?” song and dance. As if to make up for this, we get a further reason for a crass young guy to seek out ok-if-wearing-a-skirt intimacy:

Your girly-boy squeeze might be as stoked on ridiculous naughty underwear as you are.

Yeah, sure, ok… Now try the left one, it got bells on it. It is only a matter of time before the “ain’t I sexy ’nuff without that junk?” effect kicks in. Suemitsu Dicca never really worked the potential appeal of naughty knickers in such detail, even as she deployed them as symbolic markers. On the other hand, Dicca hook-ups displayed far more self-confident desire from the interested parties. They got alone and went at it fast.

Also; tsk tsk Konayama-sensei; No glove, no love and don’t forget the tub of lotion. Consider throwing in a pitch for an HPV vax shot and blood tests later. [4] Mandatory public health chiding is in effect – with the caution that it should be equally in effect for het bonk stories. Stepping back, can we also use the presence and/or absence of such concerns as an audience and genre marker? If the work is pitched as yaoi, a certain amount of impossible physiognomy and fantastic detail-blurring is traditional. If this is josou/ otokonoko fetish-ry, should one would expect more attention to logistical details? As well Suzu’s boyfriend often verges on the edge of smug entitlement, if not outright piggie-ness. Then he turns around and declares true love. Huh? WTF?

How confusing. This is what comes from a genre which began as ero-games and then saw yaoi mangakas re-tread their wares as niche kink material for pervy straight boys. It would make a fun parlor game to try to guess or argue the target audience for this one. Josou fanboys or rotten girls? Source publication is no help, scanlation aggregator categories are after the fact. The doujinshi cover(s) list it as ‘Otokonoko” in the bottom corner(s).

In any case, Ponytail was only two 18+ doujins. While there are hints of some developing interest in Tetsu by Mogumo in Fukaboku, there is also a childhood friend who shows a very proprietory concern towards Mogumo as well. Step right up and place yar bets. If it leans towards yoai/BL then the woman-in-the-story as antagonist effect should kick in, unless she is a cheerleading fangirl. If a pervy fanboy property, the urge to pile on some quasi-yuri might win out. Or no further romance than Suzu’s off-stage relationship need rear its head.

As a rookie series, running on a small online comic site, Fukaboku is already punching above its weight thanks to its expository/ educational style. It seems to also have won at least a grudging pass from a smattering of outlander social media personas interested in non-binary and queer representation. Getting picked up as a project by -that- scangroup can also be taken as a form of imprimatur. For all their fanning out on gender-bending manga, they seldom waste time on obnoxious crap.

They will however waste their time on stories that fetishize gender non-conformity and herein is the reservation I have with Fukaboku. Japan has its own way of handling LGBTQIA+ concerns – mostly by insisting that they are in the realm of the personal and the private and should stay that way and well out of sight. That Mogumo has already been depicted as being able to go to high school in girl’s clothing without (so far) being overtly bullied and that Suzu, while in male garb can affectionately sneak some skinship with their boyfriend after school (though they still worry about being too “out”) might be as aspirational as this manga can think of getting away with when filling in background details. Otherwise, as per Japanese custom the only safe, accepting space available to minority sexualities and gender expressions lies on the edges of the floating world, within the realms of “play”, “the private” and “the personal”.

The rub lies not in that they can be, but that while being they must ‘perform” their selves in that space. Not only otokonoko but as otokonoko-yaku [5]. This is how Japanese society traditionally overcomes its fear of anything new and potentially disruptive to its social codes.

There is one further, somewhat distant reading – if Fukaboku and Ponytail are taken together, as a naive queer text.

“Our society does so much to place trans women in this zone of fetish material, but unlovable. She’s good for when you want to experiment and nothing more. You could never really be happy with a trans woman! She’s a girl but she has a dick. That makes nobody happy… these ideas are so pervasive, that when something overcomes them, I just find myself in tears. ” [6]

A straight-gaze reader will naturally situate stories like these two as one type of fetishization or another. The extra time spent on foreplay and the final declaration of true love in Ponytail may be bits of romantic tinsel draped over fetish pr0n to make fangirl readers squee but such measures also aspirational-ly argue for the real possibility of a happy queer teen romance. [7] Why shouldn’t queer teens get happy high school romances? Anything to keep teens from joining the Bōsōzoku [8] Finally, why shouldn’t non-binary schmexy romcoms exist, as their own thing, or must they be smothered/ hidden under a stack of straight gaze genres?

Will all the repressed straight boys and girls riot in envy if they find out that someone in Japan can enjoy a simple, uncomplicated romance with intimacy?

 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] Hat tip for the title conceit to Michael Bishop

[2] As no English title has yet appeared for this manga, I take the localization of a song title and add the totally incomprehensible of Fukakai.

[3] It’s gonna be a mite clumsy for here on in as I dance with academic terms while trying to keep things simple. I might step on a few toes. Sumimassen.

[4] FCCJ speaker on HPV vaccination controversy in Japan. ONE anti-vax doctor screws everything up. There is a special place in hell for anti-vaxxers. Also; guys, don’t tell me that your soft tissues are immune from danger. Sure sure, guy strength protects against everything…
http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high.html

[5] Per Takarazuka, etc practice, the yaku suffix indicating “performing the role of”

[6] Lup and Straight Trans Women: Pt 2 by HATOMADA IS THE ONLY TRUTH (Asandyrabbit) (JUNE 20, 2018 )
https://genshikendropout.wordpress.com/2018/06/20/lup-and-straight-trans-women-pt-2/

[7] Is it a Western thing, or a het thing, or just me, but it feels as if only lesbian smut in Japan dwells on prolonged smooching/ spit-swapping. Never see much of it in het or whoever ecchi manga. Therefore: All male/ deemed male at birth bodies in Japan do not know how to floss and all their partners have long since given up on fixing their sewer-breath. Japan’s birth-rate collapses. QED. This is sad. Alexa, order dental floss, peroxide rinse, breath mints and play…

[8] …As there is a shortage of pool halls in Japan. Tuned-loud motorcycle touring clubs still exist in Japan; much to the annoyance of anyone who lives near a main street and wants to enjoy a quiet weekend evening. Since Japanese policing can be as arbitrary and random as it wants to be, I propose that all such riders should be fined into penury UNLESS they wear traditional long coats with over-complicated Kanji outfits -and- pose for pictures with tourists. Same with nationalist sound-truck idiots. Why must gender and sexuality minorities have to do all the performativity in Japan?