Outlander Magical Girls

Briggs N. Stratton: Welcome blog readers new and returning. This time on Hearts of Furious Fancies; simulated banter about a tradition in Japanese Magical Girl tropes presented in an attempt to divert ourselves from freaking out over the big powerful country to the south turning into a Heinlein by way of Atwood -described christo-fascist theocracy.(1) Grab a drink and get comfy, here we go.

Mudakun: OH… (wracks brain for a suitable expletive) SNAP! Not this again.

B&S: Yup… Time again to justify this blog’s existence even if your fave “emergency blogging hologram” has to lead off.

Muda: This is NOT a good time.

B&S: To quote one of the fave sci-fi writers of your youth “You owe for the flesh”. Also, Ms. Smith, Piss Factory; “Time to pay off.”

Muda: I hate this. Also, your intro sucks. Go ahead, get it over with and explain yourself and then we’ll see if I can scrape up any enthusiasm to expand on that Tweetor thread I did a few weeks back.

B&S: Hi gentle readers! I am a literary conceit; something that sounds better than “imaginary friend”. Buddy boy came up with me because he got sick of his usual drone-on essay style of writing and he wanted to try a fakee-dialogue format. At least he didn’t name me something lame like Phaedrus. I am an imaginary interlocutor, a straw man, a foil, a contrived alternate point of view and/or a 3.5HP 20″ cut 4-stroke lawn mower. Or not. Muda’s fingers type out my lines but who controls Muda’s fingers as he does so? Whooooooooo Hooooooooo…

Muda: Can we just end this now, hit post and leave this as-is?

B&S: NOPE. We just read a suicide note on Tweetor.

Muda: Christ that sucks. Didn’t follow them, just stumbled on it ’cause someone we follow follows a follower who is frantic. Not like we can jump into that person’s thread and do anything. Feel completely useless. I hope they live. Wish I knew more Buddhism stuff. FUCK!

B&S: Been a rough last few months.

Muda: Everywhere. Social media convos on nice harmless stuff veer off into dire shit-fights. Blocking is easier than engaging. I am trying to stick to cat pictures, obscure manga and anime, possum every hour and outdoor low-impact recreational diversions like non-white-water kayaking. Also budget wine-making how-to posts.

creek water rippling, trees in bkgrnd animated gif

B&S: Lots of great Japan tourism day trip blog posts popping up. Better than “Encouragement of The Climb” and “Laid-Back Camping“.

Muda: I’m not getting back to Japan any time soon. Also, Covid.

B&S: You never followed up on Doc Tamaki’s theories (“Infected Time” Dr Saito Tamaki https://note.com/tamakisaito/n/n4f33ed806037) about time-binding in fiction re: Ascendance of a Bookworm.

Muda: Folks should seek out the translated light novels, both authorised and fan machine-translated and read both for maximum effect. Bad machine translations first; the story is good enough to suffer them, then the official costs-money versions. This gives you almost twice the immersion in Myne’s world as she processes through its seasons. It really is an amazing feat of world-building. Sure it gets magic-school-ish eventually and Myne becomes a freaking Tank — if I get game tropes right. No spoilers! It is worth the trip.

TLDR; Tamaki-sensei suggests that a story with a fictional world and a long, somewhat regularised timeline can be a balm for readers suffering from IRL uncertainty and upheaval. Anyway, It was GOOD and it took my mind off the realsies hellscape for a few days, back during the summer.

B&S: Rosemyne Kobo! Want a team jacket. We could order a few in from that Aliexpress seller who whomped up the Akira “Good for Health” jackets for the kayak club. CA$13 ea, custom print job, with shipping! They stock blue ones…

Muda: I’ll drop a link, the affiliate new-member code and the Akira .png in the endnotes (2). The $25 hoodies from the other seller have yet to show up and it’s been over 2 months — though they gave me help with the design .png even if I had to dig out the ancient CS2 Shoop install and try to remember how not to mess things up too much when using “free transform”.

B&S: Why we have not seen anything from the Lenin Polytechnical Institute et al., of late?

Muda: Laptop died, backup laptop old, weak, yadda yadda yadda.

B&S: Spotted Flower update?

Muda: Last I saw was that Alt-Ohno and Alt-Tanaka have a happy marriage and a bit of cosplay can still work magic. The latest “free web extra” on the Le Paradis site featured Alt-Kousaka, The Wife’s ex who, while still a playah “will never betray his principles”. It was characteristically Shimoku-sensei wistful, almost bittersweet.
While the link still works: https://hakusensha.tameshiyo.me/200820KIOSHIMOKU

Issue page: https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol33/

B&S: Them Le Paradis “web extras” undoubtedly turn into the “tankobon extras” when the manga gets collected into volumes. Smart merchandising! I hope that Kio-sensei doesn’t tire of of his louche band of 30-somethings. Dr and sensei Ogiue Maniax had good write-ups on them some months back:
https://ogiuemaniax.com/2020/04/29/seduction-of-the-innocent-spotted-flower-babies/
and:
https://ogiuemaniax.com/2020/03/08/friends-with-consequences-spotted-flower-volume-4/

Muda: I concur regarding Ohno/ Tanaka but would emphasise how their turn your enthusiasms into a viable independent business is something of an otaku version of the dream of quitting the advertising business and opening a soba stand or a surf shop.

B&S: I was a Free Man in Paris, La, la, la…

Muda: One peripheral reason I brought the Genshiken/Spotted-verse up is to finesse a past observation/ bit o’ speculation. From some of the social media knife-fights observed, I outsider and interloper hazard the observation that while… (refers to past delivered-with-assurance conclusions) (deep breath) a supportive larger “queer” social for Hato/ Alt-Hato might be advanced as desired and curiously absent in the G-verse, with a segment of Japanese fandom set up to serve as wonky replacement within the fictional narrative-verse, it would be up to (!)Hato if they felt comfortable enough to value, trust and join any such socials. The Spotted Flower trans-fujoshi genderqueer ero-mangaka is plainly written as not inclined to do so. That choice, of the chara, within the story, as written by, etc… can be read as resonant to larger contemporary IRL concerns. It is not merely a matter of “a closet”, even if it can look like it is. It should be respected.

The supportive (or not) club, the social, the group has always been the ghost character in The Genshiken.

B&S: Any other “new business” and/ or past agenda items before we can get to the super-duper-secret key to understanding Maid Dragons?

Muda: The Owl House is quite good, even if it bears the accursed Mark of the Mouse.

B&S: I hope any future season doesn’t have the stuck up rich girl pull a “whaddoyoumean you’re a girl?” or similar nonsense on our spunky heroine.

Muda: OH Heck! Do I have to do a speed-rewatch to see if Amity ever refers to Luz in the third person with a gendered pronoun? Not that that can’t be fixed in time for season two. Amurrican audiences, they need dramatic whacks over the head with large cartoon mallets. Might as well get some mileage outta it. The writers have been deft leaving almost all of this up in the air, though the torn note and the princess carries are WAY CUTE! Headcanons ensue. Charas are young and Disney. The evil big-bad’s evil-big-bad-power-thing continues apace. Our plucky band of misfits are reunited but have taken hits. Courage, it’s always darkest before the dawn. Time, place and occasion.
19 more episodes, please.

B&S: The lack of subtitles was a new(-old) thing. Also, dodgy re-streaming sites and low-res downsampling.

Muda: Why do all the “we’re gonna own all the IP in the world” corporate assholes think that everyone can sign up, pay and watch their –precious– at 4kres, at fiber internet speeds? Why??? The only idiots who get this right, by accident are youtube and the legions of dodgy restreamer sites. 360p or…

B&S: BUFFERING CIRCLE!

Muda: Anyway this is sorta-kinda edging towards our main subject for this post: A neglected tradition of influence in Magical Girl tropes that pops up to help contextualise Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon.

B&S” Or “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid

Muda: The wiki sez “Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon

B&S: Then we have to factor in possible allusions to Nagoya’s fave baseball team; the Chūnichi Doragonzu and “Choragons

Muda: This leads to the extremely pressing need for Choragons Baseball uniform shirts as Miss K anime swag.

B&S: At least Miss K finally said the words to Tohru:

Muda: Took 97 manga chapters and then by ch 100 she is stuck with an incarnate magic sword and ‘a pesky thing” again.

B&S: The male POV as a temporary inconvenience, redux. A beach episode and nood Choragons.

Muda: I am SOOOOO warped by this tale that I find Tohru’s dragon form cute, if not sorta-kinda attractive in its own way. The mangaka is a perv of high power.

B&S: A fact that has drawn more than its share of ire from readers…

Muda: Back to trope lineages. Everything fell into place when I was doing a re-watch of Haiyore! Nyaruko-san which (cue stock desc:)

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yose5jKIIVY

“centers around Nyaruko, a formless Cthulhu deity of chaos (Nyarlathotep) who can take on the shape of a seemingly ordinary silver-haired girl. Mahiro Yasaka is a normal high school boy who is chased by aliens one night, until Nyaruko saves him.”

B&S: Nyaruko is a (bog-standard) monster-girl high school harem rom-com. It has its moments but gets repetitive fast. Also lewd. Lewd in ways that Miss K never even comes near…

Muda: The Haiyore! Nyaruko/ Nyaruani franchise started as a string of light novels, then appeared on screens as Flash-animated shorts (the Nyaruani versions), then finally won a “conventional” anime, an OVA, a second season and one more OVA. The last of these were taking place around the time Cool-sensei was just beginning to pen his Miss K manga.

B&S: That alone isn’t enough to claim “anxiety of influence”.

Muda: Mahiro-kun inevitably ends up with a house full of eldritch horror turned cute (mostly) girl suitors/ freeloaders. Domesticity ensues. The “please eat my alien food” trope re-occurs as Nyaruko tries to impress Boy with her kitchen skillz. Plenty of Mahiro fending off wayyyyyy-too-insistent romantic pestering by Nyaruko and the other two (Cthuko-chan has resigned herself to polyamory to get at Nyaruko) taken to “lets make babies” levels almost immediately. Yes, Hastur-kun somehow fits into this mess. Even misdirected love-potion candy and “There is a thing called trust” gets done.

Maid Dragon filches liberally from Nyaruko-chan.

By the time the second season rolls around, they are flying into alternate universes on the back of a very chubby dragon that, even if Shanta is a pet-like character, bears a striking resemblance:

All this merely paws at the surface, whets the appetite for what comes next.

B&S: Are we STILL mucking around with the mighty Erica-sensei’s deft dismissal of the Miss K’s Maid Dragon anime ep 1?

Muda: It stung but it was dead on. That’s why it stung. I’ve touched on it previously.

B&S: She expressed annoyance with Miss K and likened her to Bewitched‘s Samantha’s hubby, “Derwood”.

Muda: In short; why would a powerful being put aside their power and agency to be stuck in a less than optimum relationship with a mortal fool? For Luuuuurrrrv? Ugh!

B&S: We could ask the same of many romantic comedies, including a legion of Japanese rom-coms. Hooray for yuri — it is supposed (most of the time) to sneak around this problem, uhh because, patriarchy.

Muda: Why put up with anyone in your face for any extended period of time anyway?

B&S: Fafnir-san would (grudgingly) say “gaming!”

Muda: I stan Faf-san, even if I am not convinced about the gaming.

B&S: Soooooo… Bewitched?

Muda: Didn’t know this until recently but the archetypal Amurrican 60’s rom-sitcom starring Elizabeth Montgomery et al was way BIG IN JAPAN. Bewitched ran for 254 episodes, from fall 1964 to 1972. Dubbed Japanese broadcasts of the series on TBS began in 1966, running on various networks through 1970. Then came reruns.

” [ Bewitched ] was a big hit in Japan and was rebroadcast until the 1980s. In the Kanto region, it was repeatedly broadcast on NTV in the evening and morning. In the process, multiplex TV audio broadcasting was started , and it has been made into a bilingual broadcast with the sub-audio as the original language version . CM parody that reproduces the characteristic narration of Tadashi Nakamura is often produced, and later remade as a Japanese version. The opening narration is not in the original language version, but is an original dubbed in Japanese only.”
— machine translation, Japanese Wikipedia page for Bewitched https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%A5%A5%E3%81%95%E3%81%BE%E3%81%AF%E9%AD%94%E5%A5%B3_(%E3%83%86%E3%83%AC%E3%83%93%E3%83%89%E3%83%A9%E3%83%9E)

see also https://youtu.be/fBETo44Cjjg (OP, color ver, original)

B&S You are not the first to note Samantha’s role in the evolution of the Japanese witchy Magical Girl, starting almost immediately with the 1966 Sally the Witch anime. Watch for broom riding in the OP, it endlessly reappears:

Muda: Of the numerous articles mentioning the role of Bewitched in the evolution of the Mahou Shoujo, this one makes the important distinction:

“Two Prototypes of the Sixties

The first magical heroine in Japanese TV anime debuted in 1966 with the program Mahōtsukai Sarī (Sally the Witch). In this animated series, a little princess from the Magic Kingdom arrives in the world of humans in the guise of a girl named Yumeno Sally and creates a stir with her special powers. In addition to bringing the mahō shōjo to television, Mahōtsukai Sarī was the first Japanese animation series specifically targeting young girls.

According to Sally’s creator, the plot was inspired by the popular American sitcom Bewitched, which was dubbed into Japanese and aired on Japanese television around the same time. In the American show, Samantha—a young, pretty witch with a conventional human husband—delighted viewers by introducing the extraordinary into ordinary middle-class life. Another inspiration may have been the very special British nanny who drops down from the sky and magically disposes of household chores in the movie Mary Poppins (1964), released in Japan in 1965. In any case, it is clear that Japanese anime’s first mahō shōjo was conceived as a sorceress in the Western mold.

Like Bewitched, Sally the Witch was an episodic comedy show, and like Samantha, Sally adhered to the Western image—rooted in Christian tradition—of the witch or sorceress who uses spells to perform magic. But as a visitor from another world, Sally also stood as a potent metaphor for Japan’s westernization and modernization in the rapid-growth era. Bringing novelty and transformation to the world of humans (Japan) from her remote and magical realm (the West), she gradually assimilated with her new home as she interacted with her human friends.

Another pioneering mahō shōjo anime of the 1960s was Himitsu no Akko-chan (The Secret of Akkochan; 1969­–70), about an ordinary girl who is granted magical powers in reward for a good deed. The heroine of the story, Kagami Atsuko, or Akko-chan, shows such respect and care for a broken mirror that the “mirror spirit” rewards her with the gift of a magical compact that allows her to transform into anything or anyone she chooses. With the appearance of Akko-chan, the world of anime had established its two basic mahō shōjo prototypes: the Sally type, a conventional witch who brings novelty and transformation to the world of human beings; and the Akko type, an ordinary girl who suddenly finds herself in privileged possession of magical powers.”
— Sugawa Akiko, “Children of Sailor Moon: The Evolution of Magical Girls in Japanese Anime Culture” on Nippon.com, Feb 26, 2015, https://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a03904/

B&S: I’m guessing that you are gonna emphasise the “As a visitor from another world” part. neh?

Muda: I have been going on about it for Maid Dragon:

“The Choragons are Outlanders, the Choragons are US”.

I only found this Nippon.com essay today, but yeah, obvious. Point I want to hammer on is that it’s not just witches/ magical girls/ Mahou Shoujo. The effect spreads to all manner of over-powered alien/ outlander girlfriends.

B&S: C’mon, trying to assimilate Lum into this collective is a stretch.

Muda: But for one small “tell”:

Bewitched was notorious for its casual use of “Darling”, by and at everyone. Wait for it…

B&S: Darling in the meringue pie?

Muda: Lum is a direct offshoot from the overpowered magic alien girlfriend branch of the Mahou Shoujo tradition. As is Nyaruko and Tohru. Resistance is futile, assimilating them looks like work.

B&S: And therefore Miss Kobayashi herself IS Bewitched’s Darrin (Derwood) Stephens. QED.

Muda: As is Nyaruko-chan’s Mahiro Yasaka

Yup, the entire routine:

B&S: Yikes! She was right in soooo many ways !!!

… as your lawyer, I suggest you avoid over-advocating Maid Dragons, manga, spin-offs, first or even potential second anime seasons, in certain directions. No matter how much you are geeked about Tohru, Miss K and their somewhat para-queer-ish fam. Have we not been taught that we must respect others’ tastes if we want ours to be respected?

Muda: Yup, gottit. I just found it wild that one… Awww… fuggettit. Anyway… By the time Nyaruko’s Bewitched tribute was sprung (2013) , other recent Japanese Bewitched remakes were still fresh in memory:

“TBS, the flagship station of Japan News Network, produced a remake called Okusama wa majo (奥さまは魔女, “(My) Wife is a Witch”), also known as Bewitched in Tokyo. Eleven episodes were broadcast on JNN stations Fridays at 10 pm, from January 16 to March 26, 2004, with a special on December 21, 2004. Okusama wa majo was also the Japanese title for the original American series.”
— per; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bewitched

As well there was the 2005 anime Okusama wa Mahou Shoujo, which really pushed the Bewitched Witch = Magical Girl equation, though it doesn’t quite fit the greater tradition
— she is more of a native deity who creates/ maintains her town than an outsider.

Samantha casts a giant shadow.

B&S: Can we snag Oh! My Goddess, (manga 1988 – 2014, 48 Vols, var anime 1993 – 2013) into the convo?

Muda: The Goddess-verse is a bit too internally structured to draw much in the way of useful trope carry-over. It has its own stand-alone cosmology. I never really got into Belldandy and co., so I hesitate to spin up anything around her stuff, though I note that she was massively popular in early guy doujinshi cultures.

B&S: One teeny widdle problem with positing a strong Haiyore! Nyaruko-san influence on Miss Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon is that Nyaruko also inherited the studio aniparo tradition. Shout-outs and trope-quotes fall out continuously, as for example in the 2004-2006 Nurse-Witch Komugi [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nurse_Witch_Komugi]
EVERYTHING is a shout-out, trope, burlesque-ization, hat-tip and quote.

Lookie, she rides a hypodermic instead of a broom…

Muda: Komugi-chan is clearly the OTHER Magical Girl variant; local Japanese highschool girl given powers by one of those damn mascot critters. She might be a klutz but she doesn’t have to be brought up to speed on “unique-to-Japan” read-the-air (room) -isms. No Outlander Assimilation Discourse, just pop-cult tributes.

B&S: So what happens now to the Outlander Magical Girl trope? Outlanders, even outlanders with jobs, visas and permanent residence cards are going to have a hard time getting into Japan for the next while. Also, they will be suspected of bringing the plague in with them. Cruise ships full of feverish furreign magical girls! Ready to corrupt innocent Japanese High School harem rom-com main character boys…

Muda: …With ultra-nationalist LDP proportional representation list nominated lady Diet members doing henshin and seeking to bar their way. Obviously a plot by the Queer Socialist International.  Expel the Foreign Witches!

B&S: Eyuckkkk!

Muda: …seeking to contaminate and infect Japanese anime studios! Black Ships!
Nurse Witch Mio-san holding them off! The Red Menace, on broomsticks… but she’s ready!

“Die Commie Witch!”

B&S: Please… stop.

Muda: …

Muda: -gotcha-

 

.

Endnotes:

(1) Yup, gonna insist on RAH when the subject comes up: Atwood-sensei, way, way-way back when she was mostly known for “feminist Canadiana” was scathing in her dismissal of “genre fiction” including sci-fi, all while she secretly was a voracious reader of such — because she worried that if she gorged on “real literature” she ran the risk of subconsciously picking up bits and getting nailed for “plagiarism”. Uh huh. Piss on your influences is a gross move. And that time she showed up for a signing doing Cirocco Jones cosplay… Then again, Handmaid’s Tale is a brutal warning, while the Heinlein thing was a boys own adventure novelette and it sure looks like that bell needs to be rung HARD. By women. So, props. I found Cats Eye charming.

(2) Sign up as a new user on Aliexpress, DL the app, go to the “account” section and enter my affiliate code [INSNGUZM] and we both get some discounts.
The seller who did the jacket in the pic’s listing (price and availability and shipping costs subject to change at a moment’s notice — I get no kickback on this one): https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000369074412.html
Here’s the transparent .png for the jacket back, have fun:

And… Here’s the listing for the seller of the hoodies I’m still waiting on. They are helpful with getting your artwork ready and will send you a rough preview (that you can snag and muck with). I just don’t yet know how long the shipping takes or how the quality is, though the feedback comment are mostly positive. I get no kickbacks, know ‘nuthin ‘cept what I just wrote. They’ll want a bit extra if you order a front pocket and large back printed design: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/33057081927.html

(3) Works and posts of note:
Sugawa Akiko, “Children of Sailor Moon: The Evolution of Magical Girls in Japanese Anime Culture”, Nippon com, Feb 26, 2015
https://www.nippon.com/en/in-depth/a03904/

Kara Dennison, “How Witches Cast a Spell on Magical Girl Anime From Sally to Little Witch Academia, these anime spellcasters made the genre what it is today”
Crunchyroll.com, October 23, 2019 12:00pm CDT (23/10/19)
https://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-feature/2019/10/23/how-witches-cast-a-spell-on-magical-girl-anime

Hannah Collins, “How Sabrina The Teenage Witch Inspired an Anime Institution
It’s entirely possible that without Archie’s Sabrina the Teenage Witch, there would be no Sailor Moon.” CBR.com, Oct 23, 2018
https://www.cbr.com/sabrina-teenage-witch-inspired-anime/

N. Rabino, “Analysis and Qualitative Effects of Large Breasts on Aerodynamic Performance and Wake of a “Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid” Character”
Researchgate, January 2018
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322530755_Analysis_and_Qualitative_Effects_of_Large_Breasts_on_Aerodynamic_Performance_and_Wake_of_a_Miss_Kobayashi’s_Dragon_Maid_Character

Astro Nerd Boy, “Haiyore-Nyaruko-san W-01”
https://anime.astronerdboy.com/2013/04/haiyore-nyaruko-san-w-01.html

also, as ref’d in ANB’s article, the site with ALL the episode references:
https://nyaruko.fandom.com/wiki/Episode_13:_Attack_on_Evil_Deity/References

Usotsuki Winnegan

…and now for something useful.

The polls results from the previous post are in. As of this time of writing, I have received the expected 3 votes and will therefore do a blog post on whatever I want.

What I want to blog about right now is nothing to do with the discourse or my clumsy attempts at kitchen sink gender studies on obscure anime and manga. Instead, please enjoy this:

PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN TRAILER PARK WINE MAKING POST,

…complete with considered tips, shortcuts and pointers on where to find equipment online and in back alleys.

I won’t even try to monetise the equipment links (much). This project is a lazy n cheap challenge. Since it has worked(!) blogging about it will be a good change of pace, even if it has none of the Japan-resonance of the “farm sake” post from a few years back.

The process of producing 5 US gallons/ 19L of cheap, potable red-ish wine should take about 1 month from start to drinking too much and realising how little joy you derive from shitposting on Twitter. There are scores of Youtube videos that more or less follow/ inform this recipe/ process, I only strive to confirm their suggestions, add pointers and warnings and cut to the bucket scenes.

The most important part of the project is securing rudimentary equipment and supplies, well in advance and as inexpensively as possible – for free and/or from what dollar stores and grocery stores are still open, during these times of lockdown restrictions and retail closures.

The other reason for this post is that I tried my hand at lockdown sourdough bread-making and ended up with a fence-post.

In the past, I have had scant luck with homebrewing; a good batch of beer now and again, a batch of farm sake (I’m out of koji), etc., interspaced with unpleasant, sometimes unhealthy failures. Yes, 19L of Chinese rice wine is half the cost in materials of the cheapest red wine hack, but if it messes up, you will end up with 5 (US) gallons of weapons-grade vomitoxin. The sediment is like cement — don’t try to flush it down the toilet.

Meanwhile the red wine recipe keeps turning out well!

Bucket Kaidashi Kikō

Here’s the supply list. The ‘why’ and alternatives/ upgrades will follow as I wend through the process.

Buckets! You need a few 5 or 6 (US) gallon plastic food grade buckets. For ONE 19L/ 5 (US) gallon batch, you will need 3, preferably 4 clean buckets. A lid that fits at least one is handy but not mandatory. I look for food-grade pails behind restaurants and delis. Read the label, avoid buckets that contained cleaners, etc. You can also buy these new for $5-10 at home centers or even your fave wine/ beer-making supply store — if it is not closed for the lockdown. Free is better, neh?

One of the buckets may be replaced by a 5 gallon/ 19L etc., plastic water cooler jug, or 2 disposable 4 gallon/ 15L PET plastic bottled water jugs.

Later, if you get hardcore, you can hunt down glass carboys (big clumsy bottles) but for now, these will do fine. Resist the urge to pick up any “large wine making bottles” on craigslist/ Kijiji. A 14 gallon “demijohn” weighs over 100 lbs when full.

Similarly, if you are going to go through the hassle of making wine, invest a month or more of waiting, making batches smaller than 4 or 5 (US) gallons feels like… I donno; baking two cupcakes.

Cleaning & sanitizing: Liquid bleach and a small tub of dollar-store oxyclean(er) powder.


Later you can hunt down metabisulfite powder/ tablets and even the legendary and costly Star-san… Later.

First Disclaimer: beer/ wine brewing hobbyists who have chanced upon this have already gone into rage mode. I’ve seen videos where homebrewers measure things out in lab beakers and sanitize everything with over-proof grain alcohol.
Yo! If I had over-proof grain alcohol… Yes, plastic buckets and jugs/ carboys can absorb stuff, Bleach can get into plastic pores, Star-san is best, better to boil everything, wear PPE, buy glass containers, stainless steel fittings and turn that corner of your basement or kitchen into a clean room.

Or not…

This is why am I geeked on cheap red plonk. It seems to be a lot more forgiving than other fermentables. It could be the acidity of the grape stock, it could just have been dumb luck on my part but so far so good. Don’t let me stop you from watching scores of Youtube videos and obsessively over-cleaning/ sanitizing everything; all I am happy to report is that the process has been far more forgiving, for me, so far. It has also worked for a friend who has followed my process, so I have seen replicable results. Hooray!

A long handled bottle brush – dollar store
A plastic sink tub – dollar store

A siphon hose: I’ve had good luck with a $2 fuel pump/ siphon. Try dollar and discount auto-parts stores. Its cousin, the aquarium drain hose-siphon-pump looks promising. Something with a 3/8″/ 9.5mm hose diameter is about right. As long as you can more or less see through it when you use it and clean it.

 

Make a stirring/ degassing wand: buy a package of long stainless steel BBQ skewer(s) from the dollar store and affix 4 nylon zip ties to the loop end of one of them, to use with an electric drill. Also required, one electric drill.

Cling wrap/ film/ “Saran” wrap: One roll, dollar store brand sufficient.

A turkey baster. – dollar store.

Twine, heavy rubber bands, tape, marker, rags, sponge, misc kitchen utensils.

A fermentation “airlock”. You can try to scare up a few proper fermentation airlocks, as well as the corks that go with them and fit the wide mouth of your “carboy”/ water cooler bottle. You fill these with just enough water so that carbon dioxide produced during fermentation can bubble out but air cannot be sucked back in. The airlocks themselves are usually cheap. The big silicone stoppers — yikes!

Or you can cut a few inches off a pool noodle and/or monkey something up with long party balloons. More on this below. The old old-school substitute airlock; a condom has been depreciated.

Wine yeast. You absolutely must get your hands on proper, if inexpensive alcohol-tolerant wine yeast. It should not cost you more than $1-2 a pack. You only need one pack per batch (yeast multiplies). Check for any active online presence of local wine/ beer making shops and if they are all closed, with none offering web/phone orders and curbside pickup, consider ordering a 10 pack from Amazon.

For your first few batches, the default North American choice should either be the Lalvin EC-1118 or the slightly more interesting K1-V1116. The latter will also give you a bit more complexity. Both have enough alcohol, sugar and temperature tolerance to survive less than perfect conditions and even rescue/ restart a botched/ stuck fermentation. If you use bread yeast, you wine will smell like bread and will stall, still full of sugar at %6-7 ABV (alcohol by volume). The two yeasts mentioned above can theoretically tolerate up to %18 ABV, though we will be aiming for wine in the %11- %13 range.

Yeast nutrient: If making an Amazon, etc. order or if you found a supply store that is still doing business during the lockdown you could spring for some yeast nutrient powder. You need a spoonful per batch, so it goes a long way. There are cheap alternatives, so this is optional.

Bentonite: A form of food-grade clay powder. Helps clump the yeast at the bottom of the container. Not absolutely necessary but helpful. Supply store or mail order. Optional.

Shellfish gel clearing agent. Not really needed, $3-4 for a pouch at a supply store or on Amazon, your call, optional, details below.

Metabisulphite powder/ Campden tablets. You will need a spoonful/ crushed couple of tablets per batch, near the end. Supply store or mail order. Optional.

Glass wine bottles, corker, washer and corks. Do you really want to do this? I would suggest bottling your first batch in whatever plastic pop, sports drink, water and /or juice bottles you have lying around. Corked wine bottles and corking machines can wait.

Grapeness:

Raw, picked grapes. NO. You do not want to do this. NO.

Budget “makes 25 bottles” red wine kit. These are reassuring, if you can get one at a good price. $40 is good, over $60 is beginning to defeat the purpose of the exercise. Go buy your wine retail or sign up at a still-operating we-brew operation for their “wedding special”, let them do all the work and get 25 bottles of merlot for appx $120 — which is still cheaper than the local retail alternative (due to the taxes) around here. Your mileage will vary. Also a good time to Google the local regulations on homebrewing in your neck of the woods.

Home brewing is illegal in Japan. Also no-name wine is insanely cheap. Don’t bother with any of this if you are in Japan.

The advantage of the kits, even the economy ones is that they come with tiny packs of yeast, nutrient, bentonite, metabisulphite, and clearing agent, as well as a big bladder of grape juice concentrate. Also an instruction sheet checklist. The advantage of the we-brew service is that they do all the grunt work and filter the heck out of your wine before they bottle it, so that it is pretty.

If buying a kit on Amazon read the fine print, enlarge the box pictures and read the comments. There are 1 gallon kits being misrepresented in the descriptions as 5 gallon kits. “Ooops we somehow left the old description in. Please send it back…”

Or… Try a better way:

8-10 x 1.87L / 64oz/ 1/2 US gal jugs of grocery store “%100” Grape Juice. I shit you not. Get whatever store brand is cheapest; under $3/ per. You will need to add one 2.2kg (In the US, a 4lb) bag of white sugar but that’s another $1-$2. You can be daring and do one and a half bags (6+lbs) So figure, with careful shopping appx CA$26 -$28 for the juice, sugar and yeast. You can also sub out the last few gallons of the mix with a cheaper apple-grape blend, just stick to “%100” juice. If you can find “white” grape juice on sale for less than regular, use it. I have not found frozen concentrate to be anywhere near as inexpensive as the big plastic bottles of store brand grape juice.

Will it work? In a side-by side comparison, a batch made with grocery grape was stronger and had more complexity that the wine from an economy Merlot kit. The kit option at $60, including initial equipment and supplies yields wine at appx $2.50 per 750ml bottle. The grocery store juice version is a further one-third to one-half cheaper with further economies available from serial batch production.

While at the grocery store, also buy a box of raisins.

You are now ready to commit winery.

Warning/ Disclaimers:

1) The FIRST time you drink your plonk, your digestive system might have to acclimate itself to whatever yeast residue is left in the bottle, unless you really, really went to town with the pre-bottling metabisulphite treatment. You may experience a mild laxative effect (to put it diplomatically) This only happens once, thenceforth you are acclimatised and immune.

2) If this works out and especially if you follow my tips on serial batch production, you will in a few months end up with 10, 15, 20 gallons of serviceable plonk nouveau. You will have more than enough wine to go with dinner but also, an unreasonably large supply of wine to sip after a long day of going out kayaking, doing chores around the house and baking your head (and body) under the hot sun.

At this point I STRONGLY ADVISE laying in multiple cases of budget sports drinks. Do not use your plonk reserves to quench your summer thirst — even if you dilute it with fizzy stuff to make “coolers”. Alcohol is highly addictive and even in low doses can cause emotional displays, mood swings, melancholy, heartburn and social fail – especially when one is starved for human engagement during these long months of lockdown.

The lockdown, what one friend calls social distortion (he probably meant to say social distancing but the sobriquet stuck) might be a perfect opportunity to take up the wine-making hobby but it is also a terrifyingly powerful force multiplier for all manner of emotional and behavioral afflictions.

TLDR: Careful with that cask, Mr. Amontillado. The eventuality of moderation is a best drinking experience. Please wish compete a short survey when our representatives have done to you?

You think I am overdoing this warning? Another friend who has been following my pandemic wine-making project just inherited a complete assortment of equipment and supplies from someone who gave it all up after getting out of rehab. The combo of readily available booze and pandemic lockdown anxiety and isolation are an entirely new and dangerous mix. This is not “can’t hold yar liquor” These are dangerous times. Maybe I should stop this post here, lest I grease someone’s rails to hell…

Neh… One can always make the next batch weaker. It’s summer, cash is tight…

Let’s do this!

Clean your best and biggest bucket; the one with the lid, plus one other. Scrub it down well in the laundry tub or bathtub or shower stall with very dilute dish detergent, rinse, rinse again, then again. Fill to 1/4 full, add a tablespoon or two of oxy-clean powder and a dash of bleach. Sponge the entire inside and outside of the bucket repeatedly with this mix, then rinse and rinse again. Pour off the cleaner mix into bucket #2, clean it next. This also is a good time to fill the buckets to 19 L or 20L or 5 gallons or whatever from a measured pitcher and make level marks on the outside of your fave buckets.

“Oxy-clean” powder is a “percarbonate”. Way kewl and incidentally one of the few safe at-home ways to get mildew spots out of antique fabrics, like kimonos. Dab, blot, repeat. It releases free oxygen from a peroxide when mixed with water and the sodium carbonate is an old-school laundry soap/ soap booster. Their ready availability and low cost have made things a lot easier for home-brewers:

“Percarbonates are a relatively new group of cleaning chemicals. Percarbonates are a combination of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, (and other secret ingredients, which is basically what separates them from each other) and they effectively remove dirt and deposits from all types of beer and wine making equipment. Percarbonates work with active oxygen and a mild alkali to help lift the grime. The hydrogen peroxide does provide some degree of sanitization, but it is better to rely on them only as cleaners. One of the best properties of the percarbonate family is that they are environmentally and septic system friendly.”
— Simplifying Cleaning and Sanitizing for Home Winemakers
https://www.baderbrewing.com/content/simplifying-cleaning-and-sanitizing-home-winemakers

Welcome to the Tao of homebrewing; %90 of it is “doing dishes” on a bulky and inconvenient scale. Fortunately, for simple plonk you do not have to go to extremes. Wash your “dishes” then wipe repeatedly with the Oxy-bleach mix. Rinse well. Later, consider dropping $25- $35 for a bottle of Star-san; it sterilizes everything and food-safely self-degrades so you don’t even have to rinse. A few millimeters makes gallons of working solution. Everyone loves Star-san. Maybe one day I’ll splurge for some.

Into a glass of warm, not hot water, empty the yeast pack. let it sit while you are prepping. You can give it a stir in 10 minutes. Not hot; hot will kill the yeast.

Water considerations: I use tap water. Around here the tap water is fairly benign; heavily filtered and treated water from the Great Lakes, lightly chlorinated and ozonated to 11 at the filtration plant. If your municipal water is hard, weird, full of iron or otherwise troublesome you need to either get out the Brita filter pitcher or spend a few bucks more for 2 gallons of bottled water. If the last case, get one of those big single-use 15L/ 4 US gallon jugs — it will come in handy later. Also, if you spot any of these out during recycling day, grab ’em. Don’t mess with the tops for now, we’ll deal with those soon enough.

Grape Juice time! Into the big clean bucket goes your eight, nine (tight for a 5 gallon batch) or ten (for a 6 gallon batch) big bottles of grape juice. As previously mentioned, you can bulk out the last 2-3 gallons with discount apple-grape mix, if you cleaned out the grocery store shelves and only scored 5 or 6 big juice bottles.It is not hard to find 1L of “%100” apple-grape juice mix for under a dollar.

If you managed to get any, add 1-2 tablespoons of bentonite. Stir while adding and pouring; a kitchen spatula works for me.

Add 1 tablespoon of yeast nutrient powder. If you could not find any, you can use the old-school substitute; boiled mashed raisins. Boil 1/4 cup of dried raisins in a cup of water. Mush them up well or puree with a stick blender then toss the mix into the pail.

If you bought a budget wine-making kit, the process is similar, but you have dumped in a huge bladder-bag of concentrated grape juice along with the packets of bentonite and nutrient. Depending on the wine “type” they may have also provided a small bag of toasted wood chips, for an “oak” taste. I have yet to try this, but winemaking supply stores sell small bags of oak-ish chips for a few bucks. One of these days I will either try a bag or swipe a handful of Starbucks stir-sticks and lightly oven-toast them, before I chuck them into my bucket. Or not.

Continue adding the grape juice. Collect the empty bottles. Fill each with a few ounces of hot tap-water, shake well to get the residue, drain into the second bucket. Now eyeball how much room is left in the first bucket, from the juice level to your fill line.

Add less than your guesstimate of this amount of HOT water (I have used either boiled or hot tap water) to the second bucket. Pour in the entire 2.2kg/ 4 lb bag (or more if ambitious) of white sugar. Stir well with the spatula — avoid scalding yourself if you used boiling water. The sugar will dissolve very easily. Tip the sugar mix into the juice bucket.

Stir lightly.

Pour in the glass of water with the dissolved yeast.

Add more water to bring the mix to your fill line. We were going for 19L/ 5 US gallons but you can try for a few litres more if you have a 6 gallon bucket. Just don’t fill your bucket right to the rim. Leave an inch of headspace for foam.

Cover the bucket with plastic cling wrap, overlapping it and securing the edges over the rim with thick rubber bands strung together or some combination of twine and rubber bands. Loosely put on the bucket lid if you have it.

Depending on the yeast and the temperature of where you are going to hide your bucket for the next few weeks, the mix should start to ferment and bubble vigorously within a day or less. Cool basements/ garages in winter and spring take longer.

Here’s where the choice of yeast is important:

Note the recommendations and limits for the Lalvin k1-v1116 and ec-1118 strains. Nice wide temperature range, high tolerance for weirdness. Lalvin yeasts are very common in North America. The Red Star varieties are second most common and have corresponding analogues:

Per Wine Yeast Selection Charts at
http://www.techniquesinhomewinemaking.com/home%20winemaking%20yeast%20strains.html

Here are the official write-ups on both strains:

Lalvin K1-V1116
https://www.dannyswineandbeer.com/collections/wine-yeasts/products/lalvin-k1-1116-yeast

Lalvin EC-1118
https://www.dannyswineandbeer.com/collections/wine-yeasts/products/lalvin-ec-1118-yeast

If you cannot find any locally, Amazon is your best bet. eBay might be an option but you should pretty much rule out any very long-distance orders unless you are way off the beaten track. Too long a delivery wait, too high a cost.

Within a few days the bucket should be bubbling away vigorously. Fermentation gives off carbon dioxide, which is heavier than air and therefore forms a protective gas blanket over the surface of the brew. Purists would insist on a tight-fitting lid, silicone cork and brewer’s airlock but this is a bucket of sugary grape juice, not a pressurised light water nuclear reactor. You merely need to keep most of the CO2 in, letting the excess safely bleed out while keeping molds, vinegar yeasts and tiny, hungry insects out.

After 4 to 7 days, get out the long, stainless steel BBQ skewer and tighten 4 nylon zip ties to the loop end. Lookie at the long ends of the ties hanging free. You just saved a bundle on a “wine whip”. Bend the loop end as needed to prevent them slipping off. Rinse clean. The primary use will be the later “degassing” but since the batch could use a good stir, we can take the opportunity to put it together and test it out. Tighten it into the electric drill chuck, loosen the rubber bands on the bucket rim, peel back the cling wrap and give the brew a good mixing. Or you can give it a stir by hand with your favorite spatula, broomstick or tire iron.

Seal everything back up.

A week more or when the bubbling appears to have calmed down, clean and sanitise (per previous) a second bucket or the water cooler jug(s)”. Today’s task will be to siphon off the brew into a second container without disturbing too much of whatever yeast gunk has sunk to the bottom of the bucket. Carefully hoist the bucket up on a chair, crate or counter, position the new bucket or jug below it and siphon away. Having someone to help is a plus or you can try some nifty aquarium tools, clamps, coathangers or whatever else you can gimmick up to keep the siphon hose from flying loose and squirting wine all over the floor. Siphon hoses are known to be possessed by minor demons — you have been warned.

Start the siphon, holding the supply end a few inches below the surface of the mix. This will take a while, don’t cramp out. Siphon down to 1″/ 12mm from the bottom of the pail. Leave the rest.

We now pause for monetisation:

The only way I can get ANY kickback from steering you towards online commerce is if you are a new sign-up on Aliexpress. We both get some cash-value coupons. Aliexpress item affiliate links expire too soon and any items that would offer me the chance to shill for them are overpriced compared to other sellers selling the same goods. I will post pictures and typical descriptions. It is recommended you run deep searches to find price and shipping cost options that work for you on each item.

Aliexpress newbies, please sign up using my referral codes: https://a.aliexpress.com/_d7FtAkU  or INSNGUZM from the app in the “redeem invite code” section.

If you make your purchase via their smartphone app, even if you use the browser version to search, the cost will be a a percentage point or two cheaper. The app also features annoying promotions, seller discounts, games, daily time wasters and more coupons. There are two types of Aliexpress coupon: the “select” version is all but useless. There are also Aliexpress app “coins” that are useless, except for when the site is running one of their periodic site-wide events — then there might be a chance to exchange “coins” for general coupons. All this may sound ridiculous but one can knock %20- %30 off the cost of an order by going overboard on discounts and coupons.

You can inexpensively build up a good stock of equipment if willing to plan ahead and deal with shipping delays that can stretch out for a month or two. If you start to run serial batches, getting extra equipment cheap really helps the budget. Price estimates are listed in Canadian dollars and include shipping.

However:

Aliexpress can still be a tiny bit shadier than other ecommerce sites. Watch out for listings that suggest multiples/ lots but the buried text description states: “Included: one thing”.

Sellers will occasionally attempt to wiggle out of sales, ask for extra shipping fees and they will want YOU to do the cancelling because if they do so, they earn strikes against their stores. You reply, you lose. Most of the time when you ignore their messages, they ship per your purchase. 

Saving an item to your watch list must alert a seller because the number of times a saved item has jumped from “free shipping” to an extra shipping charge has become tedious. Use the “wish list” function instead.

The dispute process is far less customer-weighted than eBay’s and photo/ video proof is indispensable when the product arrives broken or completely different from the description. Shady sellers will try side-settlements and beg for you to cancel disputes and let them re-ship a lost or damaged item. Once you are out of the protection plan you are SOL. Fortunately, we are buying simple items, not clothing (size and material hell), so things are slightly more straightforward. It is extremely rare that the dispute process demand that you ship an item back — never try: it will vanish into the ether and you will never receive your refund. Aliexpress handles the payments and any refunds — they have never messed up my credit card.

Even Amazon has been known to harbor shady sellers. Once I ordered a laptop battery and was sent a woman’s blouse. Much time had to be spent on support chat but in the end I got my refund, without having to ship a baggy polyester Hawaii style print back to China. Guess what a relative got on their next birthday.

Here are some bits of equipment you can find on Aliexpress:

Fuel pump siphon. If you cannot find one locally, they run around CA$2.00

Aquarium drain hose: These run a buck more but look far better for winemaking. Still waiting for mine to show up.

Aquarium hose clamp: OMG! Something to keep that siphon hose in place! Plenty available for around $1.00 each.

Bottle washer nozzle: These are fun if you have a basement laundry tub or a kitchen sink that you can unscrew the aerator from — and whose internals will not leak all over the place when under back-pressure. You push on the bottle, which opens a valve to spray the insides of the bottle. CA$6- $10

Fermentation airlocks: You local wine/ beer -making supply store probably has a bin of these for under $2 ea but since you are up too late ordering gear, you can pick up a few more for appx CA$1 ea.

Water cooler bottle stoppers: Note how these have the pop-in centers. These can be drilled out to fit the shaft of a fermentation airlock. Easy to clean too, you should be able to order in a lot of 10 for under $5.00, while a proper silicone stopper, with a hole to fit your airlock shaft can run $8-$10 each at your local supply store.

Hydrometer: Fun but optional and somewhat difficult to order. The kits that come with 2 or 3 units and a thermometer come in a case and have a slightly higher chance of surviving shipment. They are calibrated to give estimates of alcohol strength and are useless when you are trying to follow a precise recipe on a hobby winemaking site.

Here’s the deal. Water by itself has a “specific gravity” of 1.00. Under this you have alcohol and very little sugar left in the mix. Over, your mix is still full of unfermented sugar. Unfortunately, most of the sellers who sell the “specific gravity” or “3-scale version” for under $5, can’t pack their goods to save their lives. They think the flimsy plastic case that it comes with, plus bubble-wrap and scrap cardboard will be sufficient.

Nope. So this one is an optional purchase. I’m waiting on one of the kits, which might survive the great passage.

Bottling cane/ filler wand: These things are REALLY handy. Note the spring-loaded valve tip. You jam the open end into your 3/8″ ID siphon hose. Once you get your siphon primed, insert the wand into an empty bottle, press down and the valve opens to fill. Release and move to the next bottle. Under CA$4. or try this homemade version: https://www.instructables.com/id/Bottle-Filler-Wand/

Siphon rod: The most elegant pro-hobbyist siphon trick. Note the piston inside the tube which you slide up and down to pump-start the siphon. $12-$20

Hand-type corker: This will probably be the first corker you purchase. Under $20. A real pain to use but can do the job — after you have destroyed many corks and a few bottles to learn its quirks. I hate these things with a passion.

Bulk corks: The local supply store sells clean, new corks for appx 20 cents ea. You can sometimes find cheaper on Aliexpress but usually the shipping cost kills the deal. Good hunting.

Aquarium heater. This is for cold-weather wine-making, cold basements and garages. The official solution is a wrap-around heating pad but if these things can sit submerged with the fishies for years, they can handle some grape juice. Built-in adjustable thermostat, 25W or 50W units can be found for under $10.

 

The second raid:

You have transferred your wine and left behind an inch or more of sediment/ wine sludge in the first bucket. If using a second bucket, seal it as before. If using a carboy (or two) things will get interesting. Theoretically, this is where a well-fitting 50mm silicone stopper with a hole in the center for the brewer’s fermentation lock is supposed to come into play. The airlocks themselves are $1-$2 at brew supply stores or online. The big stoppers cost considerably more and are harder to find.

The cheapest substitute is a long party balloon. Stretch over the carboy mouth and make a small hole in the other end. The balloon should remain mostly flat but allow gas to escape while preventing air and bugs from getting in.

Stopper substitutes:
Cut off a 2-3″ section of foam pool noodle and jam it into the carboy mouth. Bulk up the shaft of the brewer’s airlock with cling wrap to fit the compressed hole in the middle.

On water jug caps:

The caps on big and small “water-cooler” jugs are meant to be single-use. You tip the bottle over into the water cooler cradle, a sharp pipe-end pierces the center cut-out and water is supplied without fuss or mess. When you find a disposable 15L PET water cooler bottle it will usually still have its cap. This cap is gold, or at least worth a buck or more at someplace that has a purified water refill station.

If you look closely though, you can see that these caps (often) have peel-away sides. Once removed, the cap can still make a sufficient press-seal on the water bottle spout. Trim away some of the center cut-out and start playing with a drill and a wine-cork to make an insert stopper that will fit your airlock.

Now you have a reusable, easy to clean stopper and airlock solution. You can also order in 10 packs of better designed reusable caps form Aliexpress for under $5. These have their own center-plugs that can be modified to fit the airlock shaft.

For secondary or second-round fermentation, most hardcore wine hobbyists seem set on jugs/ carboys. Unlike the first round, minimizing air surface contact at the top of the mix is given as the reason, but what of the CO2 layer? Huh? Wine in big jugs looks like wine-making.

Now what?

If you had a hygrometer – a floaty calibrated glass thingy that costs too much and is guaranteed to get smashed in the mail if ordered from afar, you could gage the amount of sugar left in the brew and devine some notion of the alcohol strength, now that you are some 2 weeks into the project.

Or you could pull some wine with the turkey baster and taste it. Too sweet? It needs more time. Remember, this is very nouveau wine, so it will be yeasty and will have weird taste notes. These will resolve in the next few weeks. For now your only concerns are: how sweet, how strong?

Too sweet, no more bubbling at all the next few days? Your fermentation is “stuck”. Add 1/2 a pack more of yeast (dissolved per instructions) and cross your fingers. This has never happened for me but that is the recommended fix. Of course you use one of the above tolerant yeasts for this.

Meanwhile… you have an inch or two of wine and sludge sitting in the bottom of bucket #1. While you were busy, I hope you re-covered it to keep the fruit flies out.

Rinse well and flush down the toilet. Clean the bucket.

OR

Start a second batch by pouring in another round of ingredients, minus the yeast — you have plenty , yeast multiplies. Stir well, contemplate your EMPIRE OF WINE. Go wild and do half grape, half apple (apple is the cheaper juice) For now, avoid trying to do a %100 apple juice cider; ale yeasts are better for cider and I have found that second-batching for cider can lead to odd aftertastes. Half-n-half makes a nice light summer wine. You can also ease off on the sugar for a summer wine. With all that dormant yeast on the bottom of the pail, fermentation should take off fast. Wow, lookie at it froth!

If you are doing this in winter or in a cold climate, schedule half as much again for the times. Double if your fermentation pails/ jugs are in a chilly winter basement/ garage. Consider a blanket heater or even a submersible stainless steel aquarium heater to keep the mix at 20- 24C. Fermentation will probably stop dead under 50F/ 10C, so finding some heating solution in a cold situation is mandatory.

A week or two more passes:

Bubbling has almost stopped, though you can bang the sides of the container and see carbonation released. The turkey baster taste-test gives a dry-ish taste and a noticeable alcoholic warmth. Time once again to “rack” your mix, transferring it to a new bucket to leave behind another inch or so of sediment. This time you will siphon to a pail because you will also be…

De-gassing your wine

Degassing is one of those odd little tricks that newbie wine-makers often skip or skimp on. You do not want to do it in a jug/ carboy — it will foam over big time. You have been warned. I laugh at you when you remember my warning as you mop up your mess.
To degass in a bucket, you could sit for 20 minutes, stirring with a long wooden spoon, but the electric drill BBQ skewer “wine whip” is far more effective. Get the drill and zip-tied skewer ready, give the mix a good motorised stir, let the foam settle and repeat a few more times every 3 minutes. You want to release as much CO2 as you can, this will significantly improve the finished taste. When you are satisfied that you have a flat brew, you can leave it in the bucket to settle or transfer it again into a newly cleaned jug/ carboy.

What of the sludge from racking #2? Why not pitch it into the second batch? Live dangerously, start yet another batch? Or flush it; your choice.

You are into the home stretch. Let it settle a day before bottling. You can also choose to kill the fermentation by adding a spoonful of metabisulphite/ a couple of crushed Campden tablets. Note that some folks are sensitive to/ avoid on principle sulphite additives in their diets. The sulphite step is optional. I have used it and skipped it. A kit will also give you a small pack of sorbate preservative to use at this time. I never saw the point of this but if you are doing the kit, you might as well use it.

ALSO; a few hours after adding the metabisulphite you can, if you splurged for the shellfish goo clearing agent, gently pour it in. The goo forms a film that slowly sinks through the wine, clumping residue along with it, until it hits bottom and stays there. Extra rackings at 24 hour intervals are a passable substitute for clearing agents but the wine risks exposure to stray yeasts/ molds if you kill the ferment, though this is less likely if you can taste a strong alcohol ‘warmth’ in your brew.

It might be good idea to also put the jug/pail up on a chair, ready for bottling before leaving the wine to settle for the last 24-48 hours. Less chance of disturbing the container after it has settled.

Time sensitivity:

One nice thing about red wine is that, unless your brewing area is miserably hot, you can drag the process out somewhat, if you have other things to do. It took three weeks of secondary ferment to get around to racking and degassing? No biggie. Settling for a week because you didn’t want to bottle today either? Fine… Acidity and growing alcohol content gives you leeway to fit the process to your whims. The only thing that can screw you up is a long stretch of miserable hot summer weather and even then, during the first 2-3 weeks it helps. Just guard against insects. Keep the exteriors of the fermentation pails/ jugs clean, airlocks, stoppers and lids tight, resist the urge to sample too often.

Bottling:

Get out your last 2 buckets. Fill one halfway with water, add a splash of bleach. Ready your bottles; 64oz/ 1.87L juice bottles, plastic sports drink and pop bottles, even wine bottles (if you have a corker).

Lightly rinse each bottle from a tap, submerge and fill the bottle in the bleach water pail, cap and shake, drain back into the pail, rinse from the tap with warm water, place empty, inverted, caps removed, in second pail. Repeat until you have 19L/ 5 gallons of bottle capacity. Large bottles are handy in the fridge. PET plastic pop bottles can take pressure, which is helpful if you skipped the metabisulphite, some residual sugar remains in the wine and a tiny bit of fermentation continues after bottling.

Siphon the wine into the bottles. Use the dollar store sink tub to catch spills. A filling wand is handy here but you can always pinch the hose and/ or raise the receiving bottle to limit the flow while you change out bottles. It is essential to keep the supply end of the siphon away from the bottom where the sediment has collected. As the bottom of the bucket/ jug contains the shellfish goo and yeast sludge, you will sacrifice the last inch of it. The bottle right before the lee-end is yours to refrigerate, and then “baptise” your digestive system with. The effect should be noticeable but brief. As well, the yeast is rich in B complex vitamins. Some folks pay money for pills that unclog their pipes, imagine that! Enjoy some extra cheesy pizza with a glass of your new plonk. Warn friends about the sediment if you gift them with a bottle.

Congratulations! You have committed winemaking.

If you skipped killing your ferment with metabisulphite, cooling your wine in the fridge before drinking, especially in the case of lee-end bottles will “cold-crash” it, helping to settle out the remaining sediment and further clearing the wine. Pour gently, consider transferring to a second bottle after a day in the fridge, once again sacrificing the lees on the bottom of the first bottle. As with many work-a-day red wines, letting the wine “breathe” before drinking helps gas off residual esters that taste/ smell a bit weird. Even a month of aging removes these and improves the taste of considerably.

Store the other bottles in a cool dark place. A week later, release pressure on any screw top bottles just in case. You may wish to store them all, stacked in one of the 5 gallon pails if you fear continued fermentation and the dreaded “bottle bomb”. Sports drink bottles will bulge at the bottom, pop bottles can handle a fair bit of pressure.

If this has worked for you, you may aspire to glass wine bottles sealed with a corker for future batches. Finding a used corker is a good bet – lots of folks fall out of winemaking – however, once word gets around to the few friends your are still in contact with, you might find that someone knows someone, whose grandpa used to… and equipment can be borrowed. The big floor standing “portuguese” corkers are wonderful — I found one very cheap at a thrift store and it sat in my basement for years before this lockdown project finally vindicated the purchase, but there are still active local online sales sites, craigslist, kijiji, etc during lockdown, even if thrift stores are closed. The smaller two-handled corkers work, but are a real bear. Re-used corks get boiled first. A wetted cork goes in easier.

Salvaged wine bottles need to be thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed out and cleaned again. Betcha missed a ciggie butt in one of them. A pressure valve bottle washer that screws to a laundry tub tap is fun, but I wouldn’t pay more that $10 for one.

It is far easier to consider aging your wine if it is properly corked in a glass bottle, but bottling in glass with corks doubles the work. Store newly corked bottles on their side for at least the first two weeks.

Finally, you might aspire to filter your wine before bottling it. Unfortunately, using a gravity setup will take forever and expose your wine to contamination. Filter systems for wine invariably are pump-based and cost a few hundred dollars. There are interesting kludges about in blogs and forums but are beyond the scope of a noob project.

A year from now, when a Covid-19 vaccine is finally widely available, you might look back on your brief foray into winemaking fondly as you pick up a couple of interesting vintages at your local wine store. Or you might up your game, slowly upgrade your equipment, technique and recipes and shake your head remembering the noob red you started with. This has worked for me. Many roads, many journeys. I only hope that any I have counselled are pleasant, moderately enjoyed and have provided a few hours of fun diversion during trying times.

Also; don’t drink and shitpost on Twitter.

I raise my glass to you.

Mudakun, June 2020

Marooned in real time

There’s a point in any aspiring intellectual’s life when they must ask themselves: what can I contribute to the field of Fujoshi-Bataille studies?
— some tweetor:

Time again to write something to justify this blog’s existence. Fortunately a shiny new thang from Dr. Tamaki Saito popped up while I was (am) stewing in pandemic lockdown, alternatively plowing through the 100+ eps of Kyou Kara Maou and spoiler-ing my future enjoyment of Ascension of a Bookworm with fan machine translations of the Light Novels…

Which has left me somewhat disorganised: attempts so far to do any in-depth critical appreciation have turned into mewling, spitting balls (and/or twitter threads) of digression, which means I once again must call for help from my occasional guest-host and emergency blogging interlocutor, Briggs N. Stratton:

Briggsy: Kaicho? You need help again from your imaginary friend? How… (pause) cute.”

Muda: “Urrm, you ok?”

B&S: “Muda-kaicho sounds embarrassed. What could have brought this on?”

Muda: “Dude, you’re a lawnmower. Knock it off with the ojou-sama.”

B&S: “Of course, please don’t feel uncomfortable. Should I make some tea?”

Muda: “Too shoujo! How defuk did you get ahold of…”

B&S: “Cut grass, sit around, cut grass, sit, get rained on, cut grass. You think I don’t have any other interests… Any needs?”

Muda: “You are a writing trick, a fiction. You are supposed to be a literal minded, no-nonsense foil when I go off on a tangent and then an excuse to get back on topic. Instead of hammering on and on and on about my latest hobby-horse, I set up a dialogue with you. I do the boke, you do the tsukkomi. The readers hopefully keep reading without falling asleep while I nerd out on some obscure Japanese manga/ anime theory wank…”

B&S: “But that means you still need me, even if I am imaginary… Kaicho?”

Muda: “Pandemic… Death counts… Lockdown… Isolation… Doomscrolling… Across the border Orange Nero and the GOP are trying to stage a coup by dogwhistling racists and nazi cops as a long hot summer of discontent looms. I try to catch a few moments distraction from the slow-motion train wreck, attempt a blog post on the first half-interesting notion on Japanese pop fictions I’ve had in six months and what do I get?

A coy imaginary lawn mower wants to be my stand.

B&S: “We were made to stan you, Kaicho.”

Muda: Stand, not stan. My karma weighs a ton. Shimoku-sensei says that emergent trans-girls get nekkid idealised versions of their girl-to-be selves floating above them to chide them. I get a lawnmower on Notepad. Then again I should count my blessings as a pale, straight cis oyagi; floaty ghosty lawn mowers make me nervous.

B&S: “Oh, oh! I know that one, you want two of us? I won’t be too jealous if Tecumseh-chan joins in. We can have a…

Muda: “Stop NOW!

B&S: “Cute…

Muda: “Change of plans. Shoujo isekai is too dangerous. We’re doing a 100th episode appreciation of Black Clover. “Never giving up is my power!” No Tamaki-sensei pandemic lockdown isolation counselling takes required. The advisor to the wizard-king; he’s named Marx. That must mean something!

B&S: “Bo-rinnng! Bo-rinnng! Also, too many peeps hate Asta’s dub voice.

Muda: “I don’t watch.. Oh… I see where you are going. Good call, not doing that one.”

B&S: “Kaicho is grateful.”

Muda: “Please, stop…

B&S: “On Tamaki Saito-sensei, you really want to write about his tweet where he compares the pandemic lockdown to the throwaway “permanent corporate war” thing in “Ghost in The Shell – Toy Story“? I’m all ears…

Didn’t you send a grouchy email response back to your sweetie when she noted it and forwarded you the link? Smooth move, lover-boy.”

Muda “Yeep…

B&S: “Oh yes, grouse at she-who-up-with-you-puts when she shows interest in your weird little hobby. She’s 6,000 miles away from you, the airlines are shut down, No more Skype calls for you. You messed up. Guess you’re stuck with me. C’mon, lets mow, you’ll feel better.”

Muda: “31. C. out. side. now. Fuck. off. (deep breath)

… The new Tamaki-sensei take caught my eye after I slogged through bad machine-translated tweeter threads and clicked on a short article he posted to an essay site. Background first; Dr Tamaki’s main project has always been the study and treatment of Japanese extreme social isolates; hikikomori. His pop culture musings, Beautiful Fighting Girl, etc., were side interests. While he’s still teaching and doing clinical practice, recently media types have been calling him up for expert advice on how to cope with social isolation during the pandemic.”

B&S: “Lawnmowers and huge lawns being less of a thing in urban Japan…”

Muda: “urrr.. I guess, I saw ONE lawnmower in Japan — in a pile of junk behind a key-cutting store… Uh! No digressions.”

B&S: “let me guess, more endless speculation on your “asymmetry” hobby-horse, along with some rotten-gaze BL?”

Muda: “Bzzzt, wrong! Well, half wrong, or two-thirds wrong depending on how much of a certain 2004 anime series was written as parody as opposed to…. uh, a parody of parodies?”

B&S: “Is meta-parody a thing?”

Muda: “It could be, or the writers have a contract signed for 70 more episodes and start throwing pasta at the wall. But that’s incidental to this brilliant Tamaki-sensei POV inspired theory wank if we compare one sprawling girl-gaze, uh,… not-shonen uh.. crap taxonomy failure .. restarting, isekai to a newer example.”

B&S: “This I have to see. Are you thinking of doing a compare-contrast between Kyou Kara Maou and Black Clover?”

Muda: “Honzuki no Gekokujou.”

B&S: “Big pot of tea, dollar store biscuits. I think the dollar store has re-opened…”

Muda: “Stay! I need you. Krissakes!”

B&S: “What brought this…”

Muda: “I watched a shitload of youtube anime cinematography videos and they are all really well cut, the arguments, the thesis of each of them was well-thought out and the clips painstakingly chosen and thy have (mandatory) Ozu clips and anime clips and

… then there is the voice, invariably some guy’s voice, doing the lecture.

Please god and what few friends I have left, plus she-who… why and how did I develop the habit, let alone the perverse urge and facility to ever do the lecture?”

B&S: “…A fuck-ton of univesity? Did I just say that? I’m blushing.”

Muda: “Oh Gawds, do I repent me of  the lecture.

B&S:”Fascinating… Kaicho. You may have stumbled upon another entire new subdivision of asymmetry. Guys doing podcasts sound as if they are talking with their buds, while youtube anime video essays have the much too desperate jackhammer didacticism; the old “impress the smart girl in the university film class” vibe.”

Muda: “in her orisons, be all my sins remembered”. (Gawd she was hawt!) At least, pacing, fer krist sake, pacing! The horror vacui relentless essay reading. Arghhhhhhh! Shame! self-consciousness. And these video essays have great insights and well-reasoned arguments and I’ve learned all kinds of interesting neat things and…”

B&S:” …yet…”

Muda: “…all I really want to do is: Wow! Lookie, this is neat! I don’t have any revealed truth, I just notice stuff. Wow, lookie, neat.”

B&S: “If you went all forceful and didactic again, you could try to convince your readers that if they like this or that anime, they must join antifa.”

Muda: “Porco Rosso refutes Evangelion, Q. E. fucking D.”

B&S: “I think it would be best if you start with a manageable topic; pick either KKM or Bookworm and do a seperate post on each.”

Muda: “And you would recommend?”

B&S: “Start with KKM. 2004 was a different time.”

Muda: “Because of KKM’s Tazio clone, we have to drop in a timeline of the recognition of same-sex marriage. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_same-sex_marriage]

B&S: “But because of the BL, especially in its parody form, we should also do a timeline of the origins of Comiket, especially since we got out hands on the 2019 Galbraith article.”

Muda: “TLDR: Early Comiket was a shoujo Year-24-Group appreciation glomp but why do the histories foreground 3 to 5 guy shoujo enthusiasts? Where were all the proto-fujo?”

B&S: “In the spirit of Sylvie-sensei, your fave art-school teacher’s admonition: This is not a blog post, this is a rummage sale!”

Muda: ” The original was “Installation”, a modern sculpture variant – think store display selling angst – but yeah, that happens around here. And if we go off and do a three-parter, folks are gonna to chuff in the comments about how they started reading the post to get a review of either KKM, Bookworm or Black Clover (or Dr Tamaki’s insights on pandemic lockdown mental health tips) and instead had to put up with a whack-load of digressive, self-indulgent manufactured banter.

B&S: “Aren’t you happy you do not monetise this blog? No one can ask for a refund on their Patreon pledges. (at time of posting – I would do it if I could work out the logistics).

Muda: “Shout-out to the one twitter reader who used my ref code to sign up with Aliexpress, a few months back. Hope it was worth it for you. I used my coupon to knock down the cost of 100 corks for the pandemic lockdown wine-making project.”

B&S: “You could scrap the entire theory post and just detail your adventures in making drinkable, affordable “trailer park” red wine. Considering your long history of brewing up vomitoxin in the course of attempting to make beer, mead, sake, Chinese rice wine, etc… this recipe has so far been fairly foolproof.

Muda: “I wanted to redo and repost my time- travelling- BL- hater- who- fails- to- stop- Comiket Tweetor fic thread, rather than doing a straight-up “new look at the founding of Comiket” post, using the Galbraith essay. Doing it as fic was a fun diversion. It had so many typos that I saved it and wiped it from my feed but it deserves a second chance.”

B&S: “Kaicho! Please name your fic characters better. “J.Snideley Yaoihata” is atrocious. Call him something believably evil, like “Stefan Mueller”.

Muda: “He’s not THAT evil.”

B&S: “No, he was (/is) a fuckup asocial hater who was about to scrub an 8-year+ time-travel mission the instant he was confronted by an adult mid-20’s fujoshi mangaka. %90+ of all performative male misbehavior rule. He should have learned 3-chord grunge guitar instead.

Muda: “some of us HAVE tried.. (sigh!)

B&S: ” Kaicho. I regret to inform you that this post is even more of a disorganised mess than those Tweetor threads you archived and deleted. Please choose ONE THING for a post and stick to it.

Muda: “Too late now. I must run a reader poll. What should I blog about?

1) Ascendance of a Bookworm x Dr Tamaki’s fictional temporality in time of plague.

2) KKM; The parodic urge in BL x 2000’s queer representation by an old straight cis guy.

3) Pandemic trailer park red wine with Aliexpress newbie promo codes

4) How I tried to stop Comiket with my time machine and ended up with a hot fujoshi girlfriend who ships me and my english cram-school work buds; a theory-footnoted scifi -fic.

.
B&S: “You’ll get max three (3) responses and do what you want anyway.”

Muda: “Procrastination — your best value in blogging. At least I don’t post paragraph after paragraph about my writing goals and how I hope to expand my Patreon/ Kofi support and affiliate link revenue over the next x months… Perhaps I should?”

B&S: ” I vote for the winemaking post. Your attempt at bread-machine sourdough created a fence post instead of a loaf of bread. The others are fairly self-evident; anyone who cared to could sketch out the elements on their own. Why not do something completely useless, like rhapsodising over Nurse Witch Komugi-chan Magikarte Z (2004).

There must be some obscure Genshiken-related background garbage in that franchise. Consider her nemesis, the Virus-Maid. By 2004 we already have examples of painfully exaggerated anime tiddies. You should do an entire 4-part series on anime tiddie inflation

5) “Her back must hurt” Anime chara bust sizes 1995 =>2010.

Muda: “Whoa! Scrap that one from the poll. That’s a doctoral thesis, not a blog post. You start with the Eva girls as baseline, or perhaps one of Rumiko Takahashi-sensei’s heroines and then work up to “possible but excessive” to “WTF?”… unless one was simply looking for a roundabout way to highlight how the Nurse Witch Komugi-chan OVA’s were nothing more than 90’s otaku shoutouts strung together with cleavage jokes.”

B&S: “And yet you watched every single one of them…”

Muda: ” I didn’t say that they were completely execrable. If anything, they displayed a certain naive charm, as if the producers believed they had discovered burlesque. In comparison, the 2016 remake was unsettling; Dentsu redoing the franchise for a PTA meeting.”

B&S: “They eliminated almost all the breast gags. Anyways, if you did that one, it would probably come down to spillover from low-budget 1970’s Nikkatsu porn movies, just like the pantsu stuff, (per J.E.Abel). Also, you’ll have to be careful to switch from male-gaze to breast-appreciator-gaze if you want to bring up that neato yuri manga you stumbled upon.”

Muda: “That one at first appears to be trash but I sense within it a radical deconstruction of the infamous BL “It’s only you” trope?”

B&S: “the “I’m not a lesbian, I am just a moderately endowed young woman fascinated by my acquaintance’s ample charms, to the point of being irresistibly drawn to fondling them” manga? It still is little more than ero-trash.”

Muda: “Ya gotta admit it makes for a new take on Story A. The single minded physicality of her obsession is refreshing; she really, really likes boobies. Why can’t gals like boobies? Why must girl-love desire be presented as some diffuse, gestalt effect? The way the story is going, her obsession is slowly slowly leading the bifauxnen sports girl into realising that -holy shit!- she might like her friend (duh!) that way.”

B&S: “The compare boob sizes in while at the hot spring is a revered fanservice… urrr…  chestnut.

Muda: “Yes! But this time they decided to work it! The manga in question is “Sekai de Ichiban Oppai ga Suki!” Can an anime be far off?”

B&S: “It took long enough but this post finally made it to the important question.”

Muda: “Thanks and congratulations are surely in order. Time to drink heavily.”

B&S: “Cue podcast ending music.”

 

Easter — spring 2020 update

Greetings! Briggs N. Stratton, Emergency Blogging Hologram here and I’m guest-hosting this post because someone has been neglecting their responsibilities.”

Mudakun: “Leemmee alone, go away!”

B&S: “See what I mean? five months since the last post, only a few review threads on Twitter; even those have a meh! under-tone…”

Mudakun: “Terminate Emergency Blogging Hologram NOW!”

B&S: “Not happening Buddy Boy. Time to post something, anything.

Mudakun: “Don’t wanna, go away. Fyck off, get lost.

B&S: “Na-nee?

Muda: “For reason numero one, this is gonna be a self-indulgent as wot read for anyone who bothers…

Continue reading

Upwind from Yoshiwara

Kabukichou Sherlock [Case File nº221: Kabukicho[2] (歌舞伎町シャーロック Kabukichō Syarokku)]
Anime, Studio I.G., Fall 2019 –
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_File_n%C2%BA221:_Kabukicho

Of course I will greedily watch all of the ongoing Kabukichou Sherlock anime that is streaming this fall season. That doesn’t mean that I have to gush about it or conversely drag it’s obvious exploitation. On second thought, dragging it could be useful but I insist that any such dragging get the context firmly set down first. Too easy to just hit it with a blanket dismissal, even if disambiguation runs a strong risk of at first smelling like apologia.

Apologia: Beware the cultural essentialist trick that all too many western-rightist-otaku pull when they go off to defend the glaring objectification and misogyny that pops up all too often in some Japanese vernacular narratives. Underage-appearing waifuus, jiggle-some cartoon mammalian excess, bikini armor clad Beautiful Fighting Girls who will magically call you master, exploitation, sexualized violence, the entire ugly mess. Little wonder that for decades, Japanese consumers of these properties were dismissed as rabid fans of low-resolution pornography. Note as well Dr Tamaki and the hornet’s nest he poked when he declared that libidinised content might well be a healthy adaptive strategy for life in a mass culture’s over-saturated media scape.

At no point did he issue a blanket pardon for IRL exploitation, violence and misogyny or the shadow of these in anime and manga, under the guise of “cultural practice”. Those who try this trick probably have other “cultural practices” of their own hiding in the wings that they are looking to rehabilitate.

LGBTQ vs QUEER themes: This gets extra complicated if one is of a certain age and/or steeped in the UK tradition of the word “queer”. Less loaded as a pejorative in North America, it was easier to reclaim via queer theory  and scrub the term of it’s epithet status. Gott Straffe England, they left us a similar mess with fag and UK boarding-school etymologies involving underclassmen lackies, bundles of kindling and cigarettes. UK upper-class boarding schools… That gottem Brexit, so maybe they’ll smarten up.

For the purposes of Kabukichou Sherlock (Kabulock?) it is more useful to start from the original, neutral “not-normal” meaning of queer, and thence veer towards non-conforming personal expression, as this tracks closer to the Japanese hentai (again; original neutral not normal, strange). This later will be useful in contextualising the fantastic Kabukichou setting,

IRL minority sexuality and gender expression Japanese folks are closer to LGBTQ (IA or + or IA+) usage. Boring, respectable sociology. For example, academic fieldwork suggests most Japanese guys who like other guys don’t have a lot of time for extremes of gender and sexuality non-conformity. Like the protrags in high-school harem romcoms, they seem to want average, no hassle, don’t make a fuss, “normal” lives, some of which to be enjoyed with other average, no hassle, don’t make a fuss, “normal” guys who happen to like them. Very bourgie, very human, very normal.

What’s wrong with that?

Meanwhile Japanese vernacular fictions keep trying to set them up with (or turn them into) Kabulock‘s Mrs. Hudson. Mrs. Hudson the Okama (venerable/ well used old rice-pot) crossdressing gay/ female impersonator-performer/ proto-non-binary character is a staple of Japanese manga/anime/game demi-monde settings (Tokyo Godfathers, Darker than Black, etc.) inherited from lurid pulp true-crime-sex-perversion magazine stories that enjoyed wide popularity from the 1930’s through the 1960’s. The term itself is loaded with crude, nasty double meanings; suggesting someplace a guy (or dick-haver) would be ill-advised to visit, due to past over-use and rice residue.

Some activists in Japan have strongly argued that the okama stereotype is overdue for re-claiming/ rehabilitation. After all, the spaces that these venerable queer icons ran, like the lurid pulps that often featured them and their clubs as characters and settings, served as “autonomous zones”/ quasi-safe spaces where important discussions and cross-class/ sexualities/ interests interactions took place, far from the prying eyes of censors and militarist politicians.

Lost amidst all of this discursive clutter is how much of this queer is queer, that is queer- derived and produced and how much of it are well-worn shadows-of-queer pulled off the shelves and paraded about by and for a straight audience hungry for a unique tourism experience™.

Sex, lies and deductive reasoning: Sherlock Holmes is reason over passion; cold-blooded clear-eyed observation and deductive reasoning! There be nooooooooo un-manly melodrama in any of the original stories… Much, errrr… nevermind. Fer pity sake. If not for the deduction drag, all the Conan-Doyle tales are lurid pulp pot-boilers with wagon-loads of gothic romance, slum crawling adventurism, secret society plots, inheritance swindles, misogyny, classist bootlicking and casual, colonial racism. Little wonder when Tarō Hirai took up his pen as Edogawa Ranpo [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edogawa_Ranpo ALSO: http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/edogawa_ranpo] and set out to create a modern(ist?) Japanese Detective Fiction with his Kogoro Akechi character, he borrowed not only from Conan-Doyle but Edgar Allen Poe as well.

“Although many of his first stories were primarily about sleuthing and the processes used in solving seemingly insolvable crimes, during the 1930s, he began to turn increasingly to stories that involved a combination of sensibilities often called “ero guro nansensu”, from the three words “eroticism, grotesquerie, and the nonsensical”. The presence of these sensibilities helped him sell his stories to the public, which was increasingly eager to read his work. One finds in these stories a frequent tendency to incorporate elements of what the Japanese at that time called “abnormal sexuality” (変態性欲 hentai seiyoku). For instance, a major portion of the plot of the novel The Demon of the Lonely Isle (孤島の鬼 Kotō no oni), serialized from January 1929 to February 1930 in the journal Morning Sun (朝日 Asahi), involves a homosexual doctor and his infatuation for another main character.”
— Ibid Wiki Edogawa Rampo

As I noted in a previous TLDR essay on Rampo, the floating world/ water trade settings and the role of sexploitation pulp fiction magazines in Japanese sexuality studies [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/your-own-private-game-of-laplace/], if you have a Japanese master detective, you gotta have the seedy, sex-trade district and a background of over-the-top “Black Lizard” queer. If you gonna do a Japanese Sherlock Holmes, you do not drop him and Watson into a koban next to a shopping district on the outskirts of Saitama Prefecture. You gotta Rampo-ize the setting and the gang and that means the forbidden back alleys of an exaggerated skeevy urban red-light district. Kabulock‘s East Shinjuku even has police checkpoints keeping the weirdlings contained, so that their poverty and messy lives don’t seep out and cause social unrest.

The entire Kabukichou setting and cast may be nothing more than a quick and dirty kludge to give the Western Sherlock Holmes experience™ a Rampo look-and-feel.

And at this point, the Isekai gets ugly.

Fox-eared demi-human slave girls rescued for the fighting girl harem of the “civilized” MC re-incarnated/ magically summoned into the very European Medieval-looking fantasy Dungeon-Quest game inspired “other world” are one thing — Curious how the ritual dragging of these stinkers routinely elides the glaring simulated Olde Euro-Medieval-ness of their settings (expect barbarians to do barbarism…). It is a whole other other-world/demimonde when the high-ranked “courtesan” is resurrected in a barred mansion in Saga Prefecture to work in an indentured-servitude-of-the-dead girl idol group.

Caution is advised when romanticising the sex-trade and sex-trade districts.

Fucking Hell! She was most probably originally sold to a brothel as a child, by her starving parents some 200 years ago. After she died, her nameless corpse would have been dumped behind the main temple in the Yoshiwara district, left for the monks to burn, with a few perfunctory prayers on the mud flats at low tide. Indentured debt-bond sex slavery was theoretically abolished by the post war constitution of 1945, with prostitution (and therefore contractual arrangements surrounding it) completely outlawed in Japan in 1958. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yoshiwara]

more horror here:

” In her audio guide, which visitors can access on Soundcloud, the artist reveals that most of the women in the entertainment districts were sold into prostitution by their families as teenagers and were bound to restrictive indentured contracts for up to a decade in order to pay back the money their parents received up-front from the brothel owners.

Conditions were horrendous, and prostitutes endured unthinkable cruelty. The women were frequently beaten by brothel owners, malnourished, and often suffered from debilitating sexually-transmitted diseases. There are even records of women being housed in cages or boxes when they weren’t seeing customers.”
— [ https://news.artnet.com/art-world/alternate-art-guide-art-institute-of-chicago-1446262]
See also; “The Other Audio Tour -The Truth Behind The Floating World” by Michelle Hartney https://soundcloud.com/user-471450445/

Quaint cultural practices warning remains in effect.

Not that we do anything so barbaric over here in the enlightened West, neh? I mean, our days of slavery, abuse, the sale of young women, state-condoned female servitude are long since passed, right?

Cough -Epstein- cough. Holy shit, a billionaire who most likely made his billions through pimping, trafficking in girls under the cover of “the fashion industry”, blackmail and insider stock manipulation.

In this light, a tiny bit of tourism in back alley bars where you can hire a motley assortment of private detectives from mama-san Hudson might well end up being the most enlightened, revolutionary, transgressive and -safe- locale in the entire demimonde. We have yet to encounter any Jake Adelstein levels of coerced heterosexual pimping, nine-fingered yakuza thugs and trafficked women from poorer countries locked in rooms above rub-and-tug parlors threatened with graphic murder when they seek to escape to an underfunded NGO, only to be quickly deported back to their home countries to deal with the loan sharks who fronted them a plane ticket for their “nanny job” in Tokyo…

Hard to make a Sherlock tribute from something like that.

When ep4 deals with a murder in a rock band, it is between members of an indie band, not between members of a recruited from farm towns and paid less than minimum wage and contracted into hock by shady talento agencies exploitation band. Sherlock, Watson and young Moria(r)ty bumble around in an upscale public bath. The Great Detective does nekkid rakugo and then faints in the steam room.

If queer representation in Kabulock is to be dragged for any reason, it should be dragged for its Disneyland-ifaction of “the queer” and queer spaces. The “mainstream media” in Japan has long ago adopted a strategy for dealing with the potentially disruptive, potentially dangerous outsider: “the other”; be they the poor, the queer, foreign or otherwise non-conforming to the monolithic ideal of the peasant-merchant turned post-industrial wage serf and HIS nuclear family. Isolate and contain them and then habituate the public to them by trotting them out as harmless, monetizable “entertainment”.

At least, that’s how it is supposed to work…

Must hysterically preserve the fiction of a uniform, monolithic, well-ordered and benevolently directed (by your favorite political party and its backers) society.

Similarly, when a right-wing politician goes on right-wing funded Youtube “talk” shows and condemns contaminating western activist ideas of homosexuality, she is careful to draw a distinction between the dangerous foreign ideas – undoubtedly advanced by an international communist conspiracy (I shit you not, she says this!) and “natural” historic instances of Japanese same-sex attraction, that even she once experienced at an all-girl’s school but of course, grew out of…

The regard of the acolyte for his master, the wandering 12th century monk = Authentic Japanese culture.
The warlord’s retainer warming the master’s sandals on his body =
Authentic Japanese culture.
The famous novelist’s Boy Militarist death cult = Oh those crazy authors, they always overdo it, still Authentic Japanese culture.
The faded female impersonator who runs a bar in the red-light district =
a committee of cultural experts are assessing these.
My Brother’s Husband = Filthy outsider commie subversion. Could even be a Korean and/or Chinese plot. Kill it with fire!

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One can indulge in ero-guro story plottings and as your hobby, compile bibliographies of historical incidences of the love between men with your good friend (finally ensuring that Jun’ichi Iwata‘s massive compiled research was published after his passing) as long as you marry and raise and support a family.

Be a productive member of society

 

To go further with this, the reader would have to wade through chapter 6; [Pleasures of the Perverse. Male-male sexuality in Twentieth Century Popular Discourse] of Gregory M. Pflugfelder’s “Cartographies of Desire: Male-Male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600–1950“. Google Books will, as usual, chop huge sections out of what is freely available.

See also: Brad Borevitz, “The discourse on “love between men” in interwar japan: Iwata’s history of homosexuality” https://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

TLDR: Slumming is your best tourism value.

Along with sensationalism and burlesque, we have erasure. The girl detective duo, Mary and Lucy at first look like a tight couple — then the writers go out of their way to disambiguate them into a sister act. Tall, athletic and striking Lucy (be still my heart…) is turned into a possessive, over-protective siscon. At least they remain formidable opponents in Mrs. Hudson’s winner-take-all case solving contests, although Mary’s methods cast doubt on her core “detection” abilities. Girls cheat.

This essay-post is going on far too much over what is shaping up to be a one-off concept, a time-slot filler – satisfying enough as it airs but unlikely to end up on anyone’s ‘best of the decade” or even “of the year” lists. If out for a serious Holmes-jones it might have been better to venture an in-depth deconstruction of Tantei Opera Milky Holmes — which at least has enjoyed a decade-long run as a franchise.
[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tantei_Opera_Milky_Holmes ]

And sexier (if still burlesqued) criminal masterminds…

Face it: Kabukichou‘s Sherlock Holmes – the man himself as character – is a grouchy bore. His frustrated rakugo urges are nowhere near the levels of eccentric, manic narcissism that we have come to expect from the great detective. The writers should have had HIM crossdress, wander East Shinjuku and draw ero-guro BL doujins in his spare time. And Watson is a brick.

The last charge to level against Kabulock is the most subtle, but to my mind, the most damming; The Dalgleish Reversal:

The mysteries written by UK author P.D.James [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Dalgliesh] were adapted into a string of BBC live-action dramas. Alternatively moody and fast-paced, they soon paled for me when I realised that it ALWAYS WAS THE GAY ARTIST WHO DID IT, because, uh… some gay trauma-ish whatever motive plus natural gay duplicity, blah blah blah. P.D.James is a real nasty bit of work for this – they should consider themselves fortunate that most of that shit was done pre-Twitter.

Edogawa Rampo was prone to this kind of cheap exploitation bullshit as well — which was par for the course for the magazines he wrote for. The ‘unsolvable” murder mystery is always easily understood once it is revealed that the victim was a pervert who would squeeze himself into a huge, overstuffed chair so that he could thrill to people sitting on him. He was murdered for related pervert motives. The dude in the other story murdered because of hidden, unresolved homo-lust. Taken to extremes, the habit of explaining the motives of incomprehensible crimes with ever-more-elaborately contrived fetishes and paraphilias quickly turns into “A wizard Did It!” (It’s effing magic) Even with the pervy frisson, the stories become absurd.

Kabulock inverts this: when one drops a murder mystery into a Tokyo red-light district and populates the cast of hunters and suspects with freaks, is it polite writing mechanics not to have any of the “freak” characters end up as the perpetrators – no matter how much the toupeed Inspector Lestrade would wish them so?

Or is something else at work here?

Kabulock‘s murders and/or crimes must inevitably turn out to have been committed by the most mundane, straight suspects, for the most mundane reasons. The settings are “queer”; the crimes, as exemplary of the dynamics of power within the greater society, remain “straight”.

 

LATER:
An accessible, useful research paper was recommended on Twitter:
Queer desire in Japanese TV series” — Jasmin Rückert
Open access; published online: 21 Oct 2019 in advance of publication in the Vienna Journal of East Asian Studies
DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/vjeas-2019-0001
https://content.sciendo.com/configurable/contentpage/journals$002fvjeas$002fahead-of-print$002farticle-10.2478-vjeas-2019-0001.xml
While it only mentions anime and manga genres in passing, it examines a number of noteworthy Japanese live-action television dramas from 1992-2016 and discusses treatment of characters, common themes and issues surrounding “visibility”.

I suspect that more then a few of the plot elements from these popular television dramas have “migrated” to anime and manga narratives.

 

Given; my little guy band, male friendship is magic

“melody awakens the mind, the rites perfect through performance, thus music completes experience.” — Lun Yu , Book VIII, Chapter 8

“Death awaits us all, what is one dalliance with perversion?”
— Max von Sydow to Werner Herzog per Twitter

Spoiler warning: Given [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Given_(manga)] anime spoilers to Ep7, manga spoilers to ch 28.

Tabby Praxis

Fetishization as an accusation of bad-faith practice seems to be a new thang in the discourse surrounding mass cultural vernacular narratives. As a practice, (praxis?) the actual mechanisms of fetishisation appear on closer examination to be slippery, diffuse and worse. inexorably bound to the process of simplified storytelling that makes up all that yummy, fast, cheap and ephemeral product that we fans gorge on and geek out over. Marge, You’re soaking in it. Worse, a useful definition and genealogy of the term is difficult to come up with. At least with appropriation of voice you kinda get the idea. Exactly what’s on the label. Fetishization is a whole lot harder to pin down.

Problematic, even…

If it is sexual, why not use the clinical term paraphilia? Or is schmexy-fetishism some kind of paraphilia-light/ not-quite paraphilia? Is it a fetish when you want your beloved to wear a bunny costume but hope to end up in the sack with them, bunny costume more or less removed; whereas with paraphilia, you want to rub the damn costume all over your nekkid body while sweetums is left to do the NYT crossword in the living room?

This is confusing.

A bout of Twitter discourse recently sent me down a bunny-costume-hole chasing current, useful examples. Then when the back and forth grew wearisome, I was tempted to do a stink-eye, declaring “SILLY COMRADES, I MEANT COMMODITY FETISHISATION!” because the internet, and Natalie Wynn’s Tabby


“Cat girls of the world, unite… Violence!” (1)

Be careful of what you poke with a stick. It had been decades since I had to fidget through any introductory Marxism reading lists but I thought a quick refresher at Wikipedia’s “commodity fetishism” page [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commodity_fetishism] was worth a detour. Holy frick, the gang’s all here, hanging out back in the kitchen; Jameson, JimBo, Debord, Benjamin, Adorno, Lukács… TABBY!

Best I can puzzle out is that “fetishism”, as practice and shade, is kinda like those sci-fi stories where magic is blurred with science-y props and rituals; quantifiable, reproduce-able and easily invoked with a sufficient supply of brass mechanical difference engines.

“Marx said that fetishism is “the religion of sensuous appetites”, and that the fantasy of the appetites tricks the fetish worshipper into believing that an inanimate object will yield its natural character to gratify the desires of the worshipper. Therefore, the crude appetite of the fetish worshipper smashes the fetish when it ceases to be of service.”
— Ibid wiki per Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, On religion (orig 1842).

Karl and Fred could have given us a little more on this. They elide the mechanistic operational appeal of the magic. Drop the magic pebble into the bucket and the water turns into chocolate pudding (watch your teeth, there’s still a pebble in the pudding) Bad example — the rock had nothing initially chocolate-y or pudding-ish about it. Laws of similarity and contagion violated. Back to beans and beanstalks.

Worse, when you try to tar vernacular narratives and their derivative crap with the fetishisation brush, you run into a bunch of pre-existing, structural conditions that complicate the exercise (or charge).

A myth of originality

Plots, settings, characters – even chara designs get recycled. Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture is a very efficient recycler, whether because of a handicraft view of creative production, the doujinshi/ ani-paro tradition and/or a vigorous culture of interchange between producers and consumers/ fans. Outsiders decry this as “same-face”; pop-culture pundits whomped up elaborate end-of-history-end-of-grand-narratives visions of a “database”, while still others attempted to impose a quasi-linguistic taxonomy approach, (gotta catch em all!) taking street urchin “cliches” and giving them a good scrub, a clean track suit and lodging them in an ongoing repository of “tropes”. Cataloging is fun but the payoff comes with the permission and availability promoted by well-stocked shelves full of variously exaggerated forms. Amateur enthusiasts and underpaid hacks alike can grab armloads of pret-a-porter and keep cranking out product. So, yeah.. we might all look the same…

As well, there’s the schmexy.

We need the schmexy.

Fetishisation sounds like it must have something to do with naughty knickers but if you toss out any trace of the “yummy bits” you end up with Scooby Doo Mysteries. When Dr. Saito Tamaki (renown Japanese clinical psychologist – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamaki_Sait%C5%8D ) took a break from his work on Japanese (mostly guy) social isolates to throw some post-Lacanian theory at male manga/ anime fans and their libido(s), he opened up a giant can of beautiful/ magical fighting girl fantasies. These he pronounced as all good and healthy. Then he noticed all the porny aniparo doujinshi (fanzines) at Comiket. You would think he would ignore these, bhut noooo. All good too! Most excellent survival strategy(!) for young, alienated, isolated guys in a society that was increasingly globalised, unintelligible and overloaded with never ending shit-floods of visual narratives.

Fan-boy gets that strange feeling looking at the powered-up cartoon cutie, wonders if his wiring is off, finds all manner of variants, becomes a connoisseur of the effect and gets to spread the faith and bond with fellow enthusiasts. Hack the spew with cartoon pr0n!!! Your life is no longer endless grey concrete drudgery and kombini take-out meals — your rich fantasy lives have been re-cathected (cf Mary Shelley per Freud ) Then the FATE franchise was born and everyone lived happily ever after.

Lacanian as all fuck!

Lacanian as all…

Anyway, otaku have no problem whatsoever distinguishing fantasy from reality; their sexualities don’t get warped by all them weird cartoons and the majority of them are functioning heterosexual guys who will go on to marry and reproduce. Don’t freak out.

Feeling better? No urge to go hide in your room for 5 years? Good! Get back to work…

Later critics would argue that women fans had their version of this as well but it worked somewhat differently… (2)

Fuck you Muddy-boi, where is my Given review?

Can it! You want the free grub, you gotta sit for the sermon… Ok, whatever!

GIVEN:

Given is a manga and a current season anime about a bunch of guys who get together to practice and hopefully start a band. The story puts their band interaction, taking place in a rented practice space at the center of their personal lives. Home, school, jobs are all places where the band members do time before they can once again get together and jam. The band-verse is the hub of their manosphere — everything radiates out from it. A male homosocial, to use the fancy-shmancy academic term. While contemporary “queer theory” grabbed that term and ran off yelling Squeeeeeeeeee! into the night (in many ways anticipating a variation on the slash/ fujoshi conceit that all guys, male socials and male power structures are and will be up to the same-old-same-old mischief, all the time) it is worth remembering that the concept was born out of sociology/ anthropology and was initially appropriated for use in literary criticism.

However BL guy homosocials are not like the ones that Sedgwick’s Between Men dissects. Buncha guys in BL is a magic.

This fun tradition of the BL genre has been shorthanded as “the fetishisation of male friendship”. The initial appeal of this notion appears to spring from two IRL conditions: 1) Japan does same-sex socials a lot and 2) the genre fandom, the audience for stories riffing off this conceit are notorious for the occult gender exclusivity of their socials. The girls only-club gets to have fun ascribing exaggerated characteristics to hypothetical boy-only clubs. Win!

If I run with my simple metonymic rule for build-a-bear fetishisations;
“Simplify a complex condition, exaggerate one remaining aspect, then ascribe that aspect machine-like magical powers within the story”

… then the simple act of putting some guys together in a band will have magical consequences within the story because while the guy social is a dumb-simple plot machine, it has one inescapable effect:

Guys within get love-stuck and properly paired (one, true-ly) off.

A somewhat similar effect can be ascribed to isolated forest cabins that offer shelter in the midst of snowstorms, when one of our two heroes is sick or wounded and will die unless his rival-companion lavishes care upon him.

“…reminds me of a German guy I knew in Tokyo to whom I lent some Eroica slash stories. Helmut returned them to me in agitation. ‘Don’t these writers realize men can be friends and not want to have sex?!’ Naturally, I said, but the point of the slash exercise is that the guys do have sex. He didn’t see it.”
— Mary Jeanne Johnson/ Aestheticism forum (ca 2000)

I should dial it down a bit; Given — especially the anime version — remains well-behaved, sympathetic and sets up its main characters in a way that maintains a good balance between leaving things unsaid/yet to be revealed and naturally developing the initial dynamics between the four main characters. At the start of the story, only one of the four is acknowledged gay and he’s had a bad time of it. Satō Mafuyu had a fight with his first ever boyfriend and then walked in on the aftermath of Yuki’s suicide. Now with Yuki’s guitar, given to him by the deceased’s mother he walks around in a grieving daze. Uenoyama Ritsuka finds Sato-kun nodding off in his secret high school napping spot and grudgingly re-strings the expensive Gibson hollow body, growing even more annoyed when he realises that its owner has no idea at all about guitars or how to play.

Sato Mafuyu then goes stray-puppy-to-11 and begins to stalk and pester Uenoyama, begging for guitar lessons. Uenoyama-kun is restless and easily annoyed but fundamentally good-natured. He also has a bad case of dogged determination; when young he had pushed himself not just to learn but to master the electric guitar his father gave him. Recently he has felt that his skill has levelled off and guitar is less fun than it used to be. Later we will find that he has little patience for going along with amateurs and has left at least one other band and/ or a school light music club because they were insufficiently “serious”. This won’t stop Sato-kun. Bit by bit, Sato wears him down until Uenoyama agrees to give him a few pointers.

Then Sato sings a melody line and Uenoyama is taken.

Uenoyama is in a band with two other guys, older university students. Nakayama Haruki is basist, band-leader and veteran of a few other bands. Although nominally straight, we soon find that he has somehow developed an undisclosed crush on Kaji Akihiko; drummer, music major, violinist and semi-pro man-whore. Akihiko-san is currently rooming with/ freeloading off his ex-boyfriend, the musical prodigy Murata Ugetsu who destroyed Akihiko’s musical self-confidence and stole his heart. Unfortunately Aki-san has irresponsible parents who travel abroad and neglect to send a regular allowance, so mr blond hunk music student has also found it expedient to cultivate the sponsorship of rich, older, generous girlfriends. The manga does more reveal on this than the anime has currently offered – including genius roomie’s toxic, sadistic nature. Initially, in both the anime and the manga, the two senior band-mates naturally take the role of sempai(s), with one important reservation; both feel that Uenoyama’s “serious” approach to music might be what they need to get a band to “click” and as such defer to Uenoyama’s musical tastes.

It doesn’t take long before Sato is introduced to the sempai, they get to hear him sing la-la-la syllables and encourage him to join as their singer. Uenoyama then has to stalk Sato to convince him to join the band, as Sato lacks confidence.

Sato puts in the effort to learn to play, begins to heal and starts to socialise at school but Uenoyama grows progressively more out-of-sorts. He wonders if he wants the responsibility of teaching Sato. A girl in his class who quite clearly has strong feelings for him takes him aside and blurts out the gossip following Mafuyu Sato: he openly dated a guy in junior high and then the guy committed suicide. “Don’t get involved with him, he is dangerous!” Huh? Involved? Uenoyama has no previous romantic experience, or for that matter unresolved desires — at least any that were not sublimated into obsessive guitar practice. He gets on great with the rest of the guys in his class but is often half-asleep because of band and part-time job (to pay his part of the studio rent) demands on his time and energies. He is not shy or uncomfortable around girls; at home his older sister expertly bosses him around. Why is everything suddenly getting complicated?

One makes allowances for anime and manga stories. We expect details to get brushed over, or rushed past. Still at 7 episodes and/ or 28 chapters in, we only have the vaguest idea of who has what in the way of parents, let alone where they are about or underfoot. Someone besides Mafuyu must be taking care of the dog… Please! Also; the shade of Yuki is an uncomfortable presence in more ways than one. A young lover’s suicide out of the blue, after a teen romantic spat between guys? Somehow his feels callous on the part of the writers.

Then there is the question of sexualities as fixed within the self; as a “born this way” innate characteristic of personal identity. While neither manga or anime has yet to pull the infamous “I’m not gay it’s only you“, it is still a stretch that %100 of the bishie guys in a band end will up paired off with each other. Sure it is possible that they all were so inclined but the happenstance, presented with little concern, foreshadowing or explanation beyond “lightning strikes” is a bit of a stretch. Also what of informal traditions of band exogamy?

Put it down to an aspirational staging rule — turns out all four were predisposed to the idea of loving another guy and the band social provided a safe space where this could happen. Like magic.

As well, the “reasons” for attraction are portrayed as complex, emotional and empathic. At least, Given does not reduce male same-sex desire to “Wow, whatta hunk, nize ass!

One week before their first show and Uenoyama is screwing up at practice, ostensibly over-worried about Sato’s ability to play and whether Sato will be able to finish the song lyrics on time. Kaji-sempai, talking to him after the rehearsal asks if he is completely out-of-sorts because he has developed a crush on Sato. Uenoyama, in one of the few, minor concessions in the story to notions of fixed sexuality and social conformity goes all “Huh?” Sempai replies “what of it? I’ve gone out with guys too… though it was some time ago.”

Sempai sez no biggie. So much for societal disapproval. Moving right along…

At their first live gig Sato sings a powerful song about his feelings of loss for Yuki and Uenoyama, overcome with the emotion of the moment, hugs and then kisses Sato backstage. Soon after they confess to each other and begin dating.

The BL manosphere/ magic guys club forcefield comes with secondary effects. Women characters vanish into the mist. They become negligible threats to the bonds between the guys or cheerleaders on the sidelines. Jealous girl had already apologised for “he’s dangerous” and although not “out” at high school, Uenoyama and Sato start spending more time together, though Uenoyama reverts to “tough coach” mode when it’s music time. If the two are “exploring” anything it happens off-stage.

The action in the manga then shifts to Nakayama Haruki; flashbacks about his growing attraction to Kaji Akihiko, the latter’s troubling relationships and behavior and finally, from Akihiko’s POV; cutting clean from Ugetsu-san, tracking down the wayward parental units, dunning them for proper support, dropping the host gigs, resuming serious attention to his music degree and otherwise trying to clean up his act, “so as to be worthy” of Haruki-san’s affection.

The left one now, it has bells on it and makes pretty sounds.

So far no 1970’s era bishounen-style, “Even after the flames take my body” vows of eternal and undying monogamous love (OTP! OTP! ) but we still have a few chapters to go. They could tone it down a bit and go for contemporary adult romantic realism “I’m gonna work real hard at this, call me on it if I get out of line — I’ll do the same for you because I’m all in as long as you are” — which would raise the exercise in my eyes and even tone down a lot of my snark. Putting up with anyone, in one’s face all the time, for any promised indefinite period is one of the big questions that drives BL and associated dreaming in queer het-gaze exercises in speculative romantic fiction. We’d like to think –even if only in our fictions — that maybe without all them dysfunctional rules, roles and expectations that someone(s) can come up with a new, workable approach to love.

Relationships are complicated. No shit, Sherlock. Takes work. Also needs agreed upon boundaries. What would be a “code of honor” for an equal, mutually affirming arrangement for two anyones to stay together and not crumple each other?

Audience is restless.

Unfortunately, another magic simplification fetishism trap now lies in wait for us. Part of the appeal of the magic BL guy-group effect is that male friendships appear, to observers to be simple and direct; as simple and direct as guy sexual desire. Indeed, the simple, selfish entitled stupidity of guy sexuality is one of the things that women find troublesome, annoying, threatening, even lethally dangerous about the way guys spark. Male:male desire, as imagined by a significant subset of the BL audience is prone to being simplified to these extremes, even if “only in stories, for fun”. Everyone gets to have their porn and porn needs to move fast and get on with the hot stuff but the simplifications can spread and contaminate even more restrained works. The guys in Given are fastidious, cautious and as empathic as they can manage in getting close and finding out if… but when Akihiko and Ugetsu have a hate-fuck the manga audience gets their satisfying glimpses of the rough “default setting”.

Then the stories overcompensate. If stereotypical guy attraction is short on “see the other person as a person, with unique characteristics, hopes, dreams, likes, dislikes and behavior patterns”, we get the temptation to have the guy-puppets in aspirational romantic same-sex fictions make good the shortage when they turn their attentions on each other. Guys only act “really” romantic with other guys(!) because uh, fetishisation and Tumblr

SO WHAT?

Too easy to toss water bottles at a nice, simple anime/manga romance. Ease off and enjoy. Part of the appeal of vernacular love stories is that they do one thing in a satisfying way. Close enough for rock and roll. Enjoy the band. Clap a lot and they’ll do an encore.

They will inevitably leave the stage.

Whining about fetishisation in pulp fiction is wasted effort. Only as technique is it worthy of consideration and study.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) “Tabby; a far-left communist anti-fascist Cat Girl […] is well-meaning but struggles to connect with the common person, coming across as overly intellectual and militant; either lecturing people on dialectical philosophy or threatening to bash their skulls in with her trademark baseball bat.”
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Characters/ContraPoints

(2) Dr Tamaki had a go at expanding his theories to include women fans (2006) but came up short, I suspect because the post-Lacanian framework he uses to take apart individual subjectivities gets confused when the subject in question doesn’t have a wee bit of patriarchy in their shorts. Besides, he was too busy having fun repeating “no… is the sexy bits, they are important” at other guy pop-culture experts who would get all worked up by the idea that guys might wank to comic book babe drawings. Dr. Nagaike burned a massive load of theory powder trying to bring the woman reader into this equation (see her doctoral thesis) but her solution remains prone to reductio-ad-shotacon. For now, everyone has settled on “asymmetry” as the compromise solution. Guys reportedly geek out on individual sexy charas while women are supposed to be more interested in character interaction and interpersonal emotional dynamics. Your mileage may vary.

Worthy of Grace

“HEY YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!”

Two recent Twitter commotions serve as a worthwhile point of departure for digging deeper into themes of queer representation and subtext within heterosexual gaze/ normed narratives. To sneak up on it sideways, I’m going to bring out my old purposefully-dense-straight-guy head-space. Bear with me, I had it out in the shed.

Put some fresh gas in, check the crankcase oil, spray the air filter with starter fluid and… PULL!

Cough Vroom, chug, chug, cough vroom, brrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Whew! Lotta smoke.

Here we go!

Re-issues of parts of the Sailor Moon franchise’s official English dubs recently went on sale and while advance PR had made a big point of promoting that the new release would stop subtexting a famous girl-couple in the series, a lyrics brochure once again referred to Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune as cousins. Not a couple, not as lovers, but with the decades-ago North American market “cover story” as to why those two were so close.

Meanwhile, over in legal anime streaming land, a character who makes a one episode appearance as an eccentric 14 year old child soldier (as are all the kid characters) and/ or an alien and/or a clone and/ or an angel, has a soulful moment with our hero Shinji and tells Shinji that he is “worthy of my grace“.

Time to ask Briggs N. Stratton what he makes of all this.

B+S: “Huh? Why ask me? I’m here to chew bubblegum and mow the lawn — and I am clean out of bubblegum!”

HOFF: “C’mon Briggsey, you owe me for the spark plug.”

B+S: “Fine, fine, sure thing. I don’t know what the big deal is. So they were cousins and now an itsy bitsy brochure says they are cousins again. There wasn’t gay marriage when the show first ran, children’s show, not like anyone who cared wouldn’t see through the excuse, whatever… No one said they couldn’t be cousins and still be girlfriends as long as no one frightened the horses. Kind of hawt-er that way too.

…As for that Kaworu guy, weren’t the translators just being too cute by half, trying to sneak in a hint that Kaworu is not just a gay boy crushing on a teammate but, I dunno… an angel? You know, the eccentric gaijin whose behavior transcends the usual rules for plebes with added mad science Kabbalah conspiracy sparklies.”

HOFF: “Yup, that’s pretty much what I expected you’d say.”

B+S: “Waugh waugh waugh! I don’t see what the fuss is all about. I’m not going to do a right-wing bad-faith whine-fest about “keeping ess-jay-dubb-you pol-ee-tiks out of anime” because that’s a low grade cheat but c’mon. These are ANCIENT franchises. 4:3 aspect ratio video. Everyone had fleas back then, no air conditioning, barely any soap or food refrigeration. Ain’t gonna get the Sermon on the Mount from throw-away cartoon series. Whatcha want? Edward Said deconstructs Johnny Quest in a TED talk?”

HOFF: Save the TED talk; there are a few folks I follow on Twitter who just might be able to pull something like that off.

B+S: I’d rather have Fanon. Better kick-ass. Hey, just because I do landscaping doesn’t mean that I don’t read.

HOFF:”Look, there is stuff surrounding representation that we will hear about, process and think we “get” but will never “feel it in my bones.” Same for you. Shouldn’t we at least make the effort to acknowledge that it is a thing?

B+S: “Just strikes me as random, or a gratuitous versimultitude attempt. Here’s another example: Lily in Zombie Land Saga.

HOFF: “Hey! Be nice, that ep made me tear up.”

B+S “I developed a case of sniffles too but c’mon; the show was spinning its wheels because they never did anything with the shit-toxic work culture in Japan’s talento industry, except let manager-san act like a complete PIG — and show BARS all over the inside of the mansion. Why drop the sold-into-sex-slavery-as-a-girl-child Edo-era courtesan in the ensemble if you weren’t gonna use her? Lily’s story was as close as we got to karoshi but then; “second tear”. Gang-girl’s ep was OK too; otherwise wheels spinning, very little traction. As if because the production house couldn’t do fanservice with corpse-girls, or any significant yuri teasing they just started throwing random attempts at anything into…”

HOFF:

B+S: “What now?”

HOFF:

B+S: “Well exxxxxxxx-cuuuuse ME! Jeesh! You implying that transfolk and them who care about them get SO worked up about representation that they will take any kind of overt manipulative-y… “

HOFF:

B+S: “Uurrrrrrr…”

HOFF: “Come closer, I’ll whisper it to you”

B+S: “Huhhhhh? Whaddaya mean I don’t get to make that call? I wasn’t saying I don’t like Lily! “

HOFF:

B+S: “I LIKE Lily! Lily saved the entire effing show! Shit! I am feeling VERY made out of dried cut grass right now.”

HOFF: “No shade at Lily?”

B+S: “No shade at Lily!”

HOFF: “Who gets to make the call if Lily is important?”

B+S: “Not me… or you… Fine, fine, got it. GOT IT.”

HOFF: “whyyyyyyyy?

B+S: “(grudging tone) Because neither of us have skin in that game. Still don’t understand the anime history kerfuffle though… Guess I can’t have opinions on anything… but optimal cutting height for lawns in spring.”

HOFF: Wittgenstein time. Observe and zip it. Better, Observe, try to process and hold off for a bit before hitting enter.”

B+S: “Feels uncomfortable.”

HOFF: “Whyyyyyyyyyyy?”

B+S: (mumble)

HOFF: “Can’t hear you.”

B+S: “Fuck right off, same reasons why you won’t be anyone’s ally.”

HOFF: “Fuck You!”

B+S: “No; Fuck YOU!”

HOFF: “Well then, I guess all the fascist bas-turds win. Only one any of us disconnected monads can trust is Exalted Leader and his designated talking heads on Faux Nooz.

B+S: “I hate this shit… I’m stuck more or less trusting you”

HOFF: “D’Awwwww. Just to be clear for the folks at home, you’re not an actual 3.5HP four-stroke engine Briggs and Stratton lawn Mower, right?”

B+S: “Say for their sake that I am an aspect of you; some kind of alternate probability disassociative manga/anime fictional discursive device. Linear as fuck though. I Like to keep things simple. Gotta deal with my own shit first. A real man speaks with his well groomed lawn.”

HOFF: “I hope we don’t lose too many readers over this trick.”

B+S: Shoganai! Shit is complex. Needs must, the devil mows… “

HOFF: “It gets even more complex; for instance, WE might see Lily dying young under the pressures of being a child star; karoshi due to exploitative quasi-slavery work culture. A trans person would read the shock-fear of having puberty kick in with no HRT or blockers to stop their body steering them onto a highway that they desperately never never wanted to go anywhere near. Trans-kids have killed themselves when this, plus boneheaded parent units not supporting them came together — which thank effing gawds, Lily’s Dad didn’t overtly screw up. Sins of omission vs. sins of commission. The storytelling drops hurried hints at both readings because that’s what you do with storytelling: try to grab as much real-y-ness as you can, process it into fast takes and plaster it all over your chara’s motivations with the hope that something sticks.

…So yeah, we can go all Bernie Sanders and yell Class War but we be damned if we dismiss other folks having their own deeply personal feelings on their reads.”

B+S: “We’ll never yell Class War like Bernie, He’s been yelling since before we were born… Ok, got it already.

What happened with the Sailor Girls? “

HOFF: “The publisher clued in they goofed, issued a speedy full apology and is promising replacement corrected brochures. The actual video and audio tracks are so far reported as ok.”

B+S: “Good crisis management. That all there is to it? “

HOFF: “For slow on the uptake folks like us, the incident hammers home is how life-changing-ly important that girl couple was to a segment of the fandom that grew up with the anime and identified with those two characters. Subtext in USA & Canada might have been enough way back then – any representation was a balm – but over time the creatives responsible for the franchise had made it clear, or canon as they say in fan-speak, that them two are a couple. Plus, the rest of the show was major empowerment important for girls in general — it made a big impression; so those two having pride of place in it…”

B+S: “…And they didn’t have to fight each other to the death near a Shinto temple on the moon, which I suppose was also a big deal back then…”

HOFF: “You think “Kill off your gays” is gone?”

B+S: ” Point.”

HOFF: “So they are important and sticking them back into the closet via sloppy post-production was a BIG NO-NO.

Let’s try a better example for contrast: Midnight Occult Civil Servants /Mayonaka no Okaruto Kōmuin, a 12 ep anime that recently finished up.

Comes with two genderfluid characters; one a Central American god of chaos and the other, a coworker at the Shinjuku ward office Youkai relations office.

First time we and our newbie recruit/ main chara meet “Theo” (Seo Himetsuka) ya think: “Lab Coat Girl Chara”. Yup but nope. (Does their name mean anything in Japanese?) Gender-fluid/ X-gender science wizard of the office and before our MC discovered his gift for understanding youkai speech (ears of sand), the most adept of the crew at detecting youkai. Does not act femme. Returnee, obvious nod to Shinjuku ward “diversity”. Character visual relief, as the rest of the department are (mostly guy) Kado; The Wrong Answer clones — at times it gets hard to tell them apart. Soon to be followed by Huehuecóyotl / Old old Coyote/ Kohaku/ (Amber eyes), a casually dangerous Central American trickster god. who somehow wandered all the way to Japan and became attached to the MC’s powerful exorcist/ spirit medium ancestor, Abe no Seimei. Like many of the longer-lived youkai, the godling occasionally mistakes Arata for his ancestor.”

B+S: “I remember that one, nice light watch, not much in the way of heavy plotting. Lotsa “Let’s all get along”, punctuated by a nasty turn from a bad-guy ghostbuster from a neighboring ward office.”

HOFF: ” Kohaku is really heavily into the “Favor the newbie with grace” department, especially since the idea that humans age, die and break easily is not very high on their concern list — they often forget/ ignore the Arata/ Seimei distinction. Otherwise Coyote strikes me as a supernaturally levelled-up version of Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu‘s genderfluid hyper-sociable Najimi Osana.

B+S: ” Hmmmm… Najimi did occasionally overboard on the practical jokes… yup, Houston, we have an x-gender chara type trope.”

HOFF: “Thing I missed when the credits rolled on the last ep and I was left thinking; “Ok, Ho… HUM…”

…While those two had been thrown in for ‘Shinjuku variety” variety, so could any chara with a hook. What slipped by was how they played important parts in the story while neither of them were cranked up to burlesque levels. Theo didn’t drag out — in a pinch Theo held their own; especially since they had built all the “proton pack” mad-science-y youkai-effective stuff and had to be on point to pull pins and lob them. Meanwhile, Coyote was often popping in and about, checking up on old haunts and looking for the next matsuri — pretty much what trickster-Coyote lore usually is big on.

They just were part of the ensemble cast without being weirdly fetishized.(1)

B+S:” Good ‘un. Kohaku/ Coyote was so bishie-femme that I expected mashing followed by theatrical levels of petulance after a rejection. Didn’t happen. Clearly that kami had a soft spot for the MC and their memories of his ancestor but the ways of Gods and Shinto Onmyoji are best not turned into idle gossip.

Wow, get this; Abe no Seimei was/ is a real historical figure, as well as a popular as heck folklore legend chara [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abe_no_Seimei ] That puts our MC as the heir to 1000-plus years of exorcists, even if only hs grandfather is mentioned.

“Since 1989, Abe no Seimei has been depicted as a bishōnen.”
— Ibid., wiki/Abe_no_Seimei

HOFF: “Gets more complicated with Neon Genesis Super Giant Robot Depression Psychotic Breakdown though. Apparently, a new boy soldier pilot pops up in one of the later episodes — though he gets more face time in the manga and spin-offs — and makes a big impression on the troubled main character, Shinji. Kaworu is an eccentric outlander, so the “doesn’t care about rules” rule is in force when he puts his hand on Shinji’s hand while they are both sitting nekkid in a sento bath and tells Shinji that: “You are worthy of my grace.”

…Followed by “That means I like you”.”

B+S: “Worthy? Grace? Like? Sounds like something out of a fantasy isekai. Or a 1970’s Pretty Boy shoujo story. “

HOFF: ” The earlier subs had Kaworu saying that “You have my regard for it” A flustered Shinji goes “Regard?” and then Kaworu tells him “It means I love you”. The new “worthy of my grace” version improves on the clumsiness of the “regard” bit but then downgrades the confession to a “like”. Context is ultra-ambiguous due to plot pasta. The entire Evangelion franchise piled on shitloads of fringe christian and Kabbalah mysti-mush-mush and later retreads/ additions to the story add more heavy-handed hints that Kaworu could variously be an alien, an angel, a clone, or even a clone of an angel made by a global conspiracy of Dr Frankenstein world domination mad scientist cultists. If Kaworu is “angelic” — which is also one big gay guy/ BL cliche – Hi Patti, play Horses for us – then odd goth poetic BL mashies are the best a mere mortal boy is gonna get.”

B+S: “Or so thought the latest translator, sticking their head into the woodchipper… You ever watched it?”

HOFF: “Christ in a Gernsbeck M9E knows I’ve tried! I wasn’t able to get past ep6 in full. Skimmed through a couple more eps to 8, maybe 9 and gave up. For this, I watched the “old” version of ep24. FF through 25. There is still something about the “feel” of of entire effort that leaves me cold. Contrast to how Cowboy Bebop immediately grabs you with its story and characters. Evangelion’s emotional overload held no catharsis for me. It felt slipshod, manipulative, cynically dark and potentially harmful,

…Oh fuck, this is the wrong time and place but I need to tear that thing a new one!”

B+S: “Tear away…”

HOFF: “I don’t give a rat’s ass’s flying fuck that it forms some Omega of the Gainax giant robo-verse. Most Gainax shit turns out to be sloppy kludged-out hackery anyway. The entire Shinji’s dad, evil conspiracy Kabbalah mysticism thing can go stuff jade rocks. It was canciferous plot pasta back then and it is still cancer whenever it is trotted out as a “tribute”, as in Franxx‘s Ape council. Everything could happen because… Its a culty conspiracy! Because… the power of scienced-up mumbo jumbo mysticism! Wow! Gravity stopped and we all now shit through our ears! Mama I want to fuck you, Daddy I want to kill you! The world is completely DESTROYED!

And then fanboys screamed that anime was DEAD, because…. Girls. Yup, Shoujo. Yo! You next to that horse you rode into town on? Good!”

B+S: ” Yup, pretty obvious all around, just not really worth the powder to blow it to ifny. Kewl robot fights though… Hey, Didn’t Shinji have to kill his gay admirer at a temple on the moon, too? Needs restorative justice. Evangelion X Clean up your fucking mess; You can(yes can, no slacking) mow lawns.”

HOFF: “But because of its place in the experiences of lotsa folks, the Netflix revival thing and the associated Twitter convos are more a chance for watching real-time fan effects; maybe learn something.

…Here is part of @Frog-Kun/ Kim Morrissy’s take on the problems of localizing/ translating them lines: “

“Some English-speaking fans have criticized the Netflix translation of “downplaying” or “erasing” the homoerotic overtones in Shinji and Kaworu’s relationship, pointing to a history of queer erasure in anime localizations, such as the Cloverway dub of Sailor Moon, which infamously changed Haruka and Michiru’s relationship from lovers to cousins. They argue that by translating Kaworu and Shinji’s lines literally, the translation gives fuel for deniers to argue that no romantic attraction exists between the two characters at all. This perpetuates a culture where gay relationships are seen as “just shipping” or “fan delusions” in media barring works explicitly labelled as “queer” or “LGBT.”

Such arguments bring to mind something that the famous Japanese novelist Natsume Soseki is said to have taught his students: the ideal Japanese translation for “I love you” is “Tsuki ga tottemo aoi naa” (The moon is so blue tonight). “I love you” may be too direct for a Japanese person to say aloud, even if the intent is implicit, an idea corroborated by some of the Nijimen commentors quoted above. This suggests that perhaps English translations of Japanese texts should be more explicit in regards to statements of romantic affection, depending on context.””

“Japanese Fans, Official Translator Weigh in on Netflix Evangelion English Subtitle Debate” by Kim Morrissy. Anime News Network, posted on 2019-06-27 13:45 EDT 
https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2019-06-27/japanese-fans-official-translator-weigh-in-on-netflix-evangelion-english-subtitle-debate/.148305

Also; here’s a very readable essay-length take on the bigger subject, that (wow!) includes Sailor Moon and Eva Shinji-Kaworu:
“Queer Representation in Anime” by Nicholas Bennett. The Artifice (com), July 17, 2018. https://the-artifice.com/anime-queer-representation/

B+S: “By your schema, It doesn’t matter if the author and production crew tossed in a gay boy confession for shock value, as resonance towards some personal life experience, as fujoshi bait or even as a nod towards the legitimacy of same-sex affection. Or all of the above. Or how much they wanted to tart it up and/or subtext it.

It only matters that them viewers who felt moved by Kaworu’s act and Shinji’s shock — and it was a positive shock that someone else might actually think human of him, because Shinji is such a mess by this point that it is a wonder he can crawl to the shitter, let alone climb into his nightmare fucking robot. Also, looks like you have to update that mega four parter post of yours about NO HUGGIES FOR STRAIGHT JAPANESE COUPLES so as to lay the blame at the feet of Great Japanese Author Soseki.

…And yeah, Genshiken Nidaime near the end with Sue on the phone. Big literary reference, even if a mouldy chestnut.”

HOFF: “Ok, we are getting closer to framing things. It is something like one of those Twitter pop ethics things where you have some “activist” being goaded to debate a net-nazi about completely someone else’s right to exist. Only “ethical” move is to lay shit on for the trolling, call out the debate as a vicious ploy and lob a few well-documented milkshakes…

B+S: Bhut fiction! What use is all my privilege if I can’t whomp up a storybook Abraham Lincoln or two, sprinkle in some charas who were minding their own business, shake well and make notes as everyone gets bruised?

KIRK: What did you offer the others if they won?
ROCK: What they wanted most. Power.
KIRK: You offered me the lives of my crew.
ROCK: I perceive you have won their lives.
KIRK: How many others have you done this to? What gives you the right to hand out life and death?
ROCK: The same right that brought you here. The need to know new things.
KIRK: We came in peace.
ROCK: And you may go in peace.

HOFF: “Mr. Spock, add to the report a rec that the Federation use this planet as a high level toxic waste dump. Helm, get us the fuck outta here

B+S: “Rock creature screaming “Debate Me!” into the void. Best stick with milkshakes as a gift from the angels. Warm, white, sticky vanilla milkshakes.”

HOFF: “It doesn’t matter what the original motives of the writers way back then were. Part of me wonders if the creatives weren’t cynically tossing some old fashioned 1990’s homo panic into the psychological breakdown stew pot. You have access to my core memories; remember that time a thousand years ago when sports dude from University called up drunk, six months after we graduated, in utter shock because… “

B+S: “Do we REALLY want to share dusty personal anecdotes here? Why not just say that long-ago times’ homo panic was really serious. The gay person, usually a guy, could easily end up severely beaten on, even dead, the straight guy acted like they had been de-manned and were immediately imperilled by a range of violent phobic fantasies. Shit was really vicious and stupid back then. Unlike, urrr, whatever…

… Anyway, How defuk did we ever get the rep for running an advice column? We was the Uni newspaper darkroom monk. Talked him down well enough. All over some bullshit “do I come across as gay?” Come across as? Does free-climbing make you look gay? Could have handed that idiot a big rusty sword and enlisted him in Commander Vimes’ Night Watch — he’d have had a hawt werewolf girlfriend in two hours. Or a boyfriend if he wanted. He could have had a pan-amorous harem if he wanted…”

HOFF: “Yeah.. the next uni posting was even weirder. Show ANY emotional clue-full-ness, even a 3.5HP variant and half the idiots, including the wimmin-folk at the midwest Amurrican grad seminar thought I was hanging out with communist hippies and screwing everyone from underage girls through old men to farm animals. I thought they were all mad as hatters, including… Her.

B+S: “TMI. Keep this up and we’re going to have to start drinking heavily.”

HOFF: “There goes the alternate probability line where I was a tall, slim, deadly eurotrash-villain crossdressing assassin for hire.(2) Mirablue! Maybe I was seen at one of them Friday midnight Rocky Horror Show screenings with my lady friend. She wore the evening gown though, I was in a surplus tux. Sheeeeeeet! Misspent youth in the American midwest… We didn’t even throw rice…”

B+S: “BZZZZZTTTT! That’s what you get for going to a Rocky Horror Show in prehistoric mid-America.”

HOFF: “Was either that or another dose of Harold and Maude.”

B+S: “DRINK TIME!”

HOFF: “Fuck, right! Neon Genesis Psychosis Field. Just moi, btw… No shade on those who for their own deeply personal reasons, find NGE poignant and deeply moving.”

B+S: “Lawns! Must cut lawns, lawns, lawns…

HOFF: “To bring things back to a useful level of discussion, a majority/ cisgendered-heterosexual gaze can ignore characters and situations that show or suggest minority desire and/ or gender expressions. We can fetishize them or take them for versimultitude and scenery boosts. Our sense of self doesn’t get denied by their absence or assaulted by ridiculous, insulting misrepresentations. Neither are such moments of recognition for us so scarce, so rare that any reflection, no matter how distorted or fleeting means something to our feelings of who we are and how we fit in the world. I can write these words but I won’t ever feel the feels. When I look at my patch of the world my frame of reference looks back at me. I could use the term “privilege” and it is — but this again centers the subjectivity/ viewpoint on me and mine. The complexity of what “the other” feels remains in shadows.

Likewise, a much later Haruka and Michiru as a happily married couple (and I have no idea of how Sailor Moon verse lore treats them) would ultimately be a convenience to me, as it requires only a minor adjustment to my existing lazy cis-het-normed mental categories. Edit Married_Couple.def. Save.

B+S: “That’s some final argument against haters: “looks like work to me.” Sure a bit of “girl weddings are way kewl” didn’t slip in there too?

HOFF: “Could be… Rabbit… While we are at it, GOOD TWITTER THING: Some of the more inventive Twitteratti saw the “You are worthy of my grace, That means I liek you” screen caps decided to go all meme generator on them and drop chunky black bordered yellow subtitles to that effect into every ancient subtexty same-sex clench/ soulful gaze/ grope scene they could pull out of their save folders. It was glorious. (Unfortunately the thread originator got a hater-pile-on ban again, so couldn’t snag a selection for this post.. -sniff- )

So now ist fanon: “worthy of my grace” soon to be up there with the “I love you body and soul for the rest of my life, even after the fire takes my body, my soul will yadda yadda yadda” 1970’s Bishie love vow. Very queer-inscribed. though Hella No Way would I object if my sweetie…

B+S: ” T! M! I! 

HOFF: “whuttt?”

B+S: “Jeesh… My turn:”

Might not my love — although the curving blade
From whose wide mowing none may hope to hide,
Me long ago below the frosts had laid —
Restore you somewhat to your former pride?
Indeed I think this memory, even then,
Must raise you high among the run of men.

HOFF: “D’Awwwww! Mowing! And so the range of available-to-all romantic cheese expands by a few more words. Profit!

…Hey Lookie what I made for Spotted Flower’s HatoMada. I think it is cute:”

B+S: “Fringe appeal, for Genshiken-verse nerds only.”

HOFF: “We should do a podcast next…”

B+S

HOFF: “Whaaaaaaaat?”

B+S

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) I had high hopes for Komi-san wa, Komyushou desu because x-gender Najimi Osana wasn’t cranked to weird levels but then the author took a school-girl same-sex crush and cranked Ren Yamai up to psycho lesbian stalker kidnapper levels. She also saves Komi-san’s hair and licks it. See my earlier post on the series: 
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/01/24/komi-san-and-everybodys-crossdressing-best-friend/

(2) Crossdresser, as one correspondent reported their initial impression of me, to me,  after skimming my blog. Also non-binary. So much for disclaimers. I think their take was all kinds of sweet and a compliment, considering that in earlier years best I could manage was a passable Riff Raff for Halloween parties… Dat Tux…

 

Too Het #4: “Outlanders, Outsiders and Outlaws”

Initially I wanted to slot Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Kobayashi%27s_Dragon_Maid] into the yuri section but recurring complaints about how it plays fast and loose with busty dragons sexually harassing young boys (named Shouta — jeesh!) led me to notice something else. Boobie burlesque routines aside, the manga, the anime and two other spin-off mangas are loaded up with charas who all desperately long for company and affection. Dragons and wage slaves alike, everyone is ronery but some of the charas do ronery wrong:The most serious complaint that can be raised against Dragon Maid is one that is all too common to Japanese ensemble comedies: 

Foreigners, outlanders, gaijin are always too loud, too touchy-feely, clumsy and ignorant of local customs and codes of behavior. They lack discretion. They are inevitably in need of socialization — even if the freedom behind their irresponsible behavior is secretly envied..

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Fourth and last of a 4-part essay series on Japanese vernacular visual narratives conventions surrounding the depiction of intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Series starts here: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/too-het-1-a-tyranny-of-impregnative-mimesis/

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Too Het #3:”There are only girls at this school”

Approaching the yuri genre; Japanese pop visual culture’s stories of women’s same-sex affection and desire with the motive of finding (and perhaps borrowing) visual tropes of physical intimacy – from skinship to sex, adds one further point of view towards an already contested genre. Classifying stories and representational strategies according to imputed audience’s gaze seems to be the simplest way at first to try to winnow out obviously exploitative girl-on-girl-action porn that was custom-built for horny guys’ immediate needs and not much else. From there on, it gets complicated.

hanjuku_joshi_011 girls school web

A wide range of readers, including straight guys can develop a taste for light romantic melodrama which yuri does very well, thus avoiding the need to sneak into bookstores at night to purchase Harlequin romances. Neither should we discount the appeal of watching the main character(s) progress through a shadow-of-lesbian (or even semi-realistic lesbian) bildungsroman, especially when we can cheer the character(s) on from a safe emotional distance. I have speculated on yuri as a site for such an expanded take on the iyashikei effect, even as this emotional distance risks trivialising real lesbian subjectivities.

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Part 3 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

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Too Het #2: ‘Unlimited rulebook! Boku wa kime-gao de sou itta’

“…She said in a poised voice…”

There are a few things that commend the BL (Boys Love) genre to its creators and traditional core audience that madden the outside observer. Why can’t fujoshi just be satisfied with regular heterosexual pr0n? They could amp it up with more romance or schmexy and even change the characters so that they can act freer from societal restrictions; why do they have to use shadow-of-gay-men characters to act out their prefered bodice buster pulp fictions? If the characters are guys, why make them sometimes – but only sometimes – follow a strict formulaic script that ill-fits the bodies and what anyone who cared to ask would find out about IRL (In Real Life) guy:guy sex? Why does one subset of the genre insist that the story is far more emotionally poignant and melodramatically overwrought if neither of the two characters considered themselves “gay” before their fateful encounter? Does the problem with the BL genre lie mostly within the yaoi sub-genre and does yaoi even exist any more?

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 2 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

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