Time enough for rotten doujins

It is important to consider perspectives.

“Saito highlights that BL “characters overcome the taboo of homosexuality, thereby proving that their love is truer and purer than that of heterosexual couples and “real” gay men.” (Saito, 2011: 183) She sees the relationships depicted in BL as having severe implications for “real” heterosexual characters and “real” gay men because of the idyllic romance depicted that typically conquer time, space, heterosexuality, homophobia, and wide range of possible trials. Similarly, Mizoguchi argues that “when yaoi protagonists say ‘I’m not gay, I just love you,’ they are also saying that those gay men who love other men for their male bodies are creeps.” (2008: 134) Both Mizoguchi and Saito argue that the disavowal reifies “real-life” gay men/identity by, in effect, suggesting the yaoi pair’s relationship is pure because it lacks the taint of homosexual desire. However, I question to what extent readers will differentiate between “real-life” gay men and BL manga characters as “different.” This is not to say that readers will expect “real-life” gay men to be like BL characters, but that the expression of homosexual romance is the same. McLelland reports similar findings with over half of female respondents under 35 declaring support for homosexuality as another form of love. (2000: 70) While Mizoguchi and Saito’s observation are not necessarily off-base, but the subtleties of their reading is not necessarily one that fans would notice.”

— “What’s So Queer About Boys Bonking?” A Queer Analysis of Gender Normativity and Homophobia in Japanese Boys’ Love Manga” MA Thesis; Gender Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (University of London) September 17th, 2012 by John Francis pps 25-26
https://johntfrancis.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/ma-gender-studies-535522.pdf

“Hello, I’m a liberal middle-aged white guy in a movie. Although I’m very supportive of LGBTQ and POC friends, often offering concrete aid, I’ll still constantly slip up and say things that show I can never truly understand… godDAMMIT this is just me in real life, FUCK this game, fuck!”
–Redacted well-meaning liberal middle-aged white guy on Twitter

January 2019. A new year begins. Regular readers may notice that my previous “12 days of Anime” series of posts wound down abruptly. I plead the holidays, “local state”‘s bureaucratic engines suddenly target-locking on my concerns and a really nasty flare-up of one of those middle-age-related health things that, even if they are a Real Effing Drag™, are not (yet) chronically debilitating or fatal. Also, I am getting used to my high-spec bionic eyeballs (BL SofPort Advanced Optics Aspheric IO Lenses). Yup, a cataract snuck up on me last year, scared the crap out of me; the doc told me best to do both eyes and now for the first time since I was 5 years old I don’t need to wear glasses. Except when I need to see anything closer than 4 feet. Grrrrr. I can’t cut my toenails without 3.00+ cheaters!

TLDR: I don’t write well when I hurt, focussing on the screen is annoying and I have paperwork shyte-shyte after me. Most of all that has been dealt with. So do I finish up those 12Days posts?

Oh lookie, a shiny shiny new thing!

Finding this nifty 2012 Masters thesis in a link in a 2016 blog post about Fujoshi [ I noticed a ping-back to my blog, so: https://shiraai.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/the-f-word/ ] prompts me to try to tease apart a few more of the strands that entangle the “queer-ness” as well as the “heteronormativity” of BL and the fujoshi project.

“Boys’ Love manga grew in popularity in the United States at the start of the 21st century. While I cannot recall the exact year I first came in contact with the genre, likely sometime around 2005 or 2006, my first BL manga was Shinobu Kokoro – Hidden Heart – by Matsumoto Temari.I remember purchasing the book, unaware of the content, but attracted to the art style. I always favor the BL manga featuring androgynous ukê characters. My involvement as a passive fan of the genre over the years formulated my interest in queer theory and gender studies, because I always identified and found interesting the absence of sexual identity. I am sure that my continual enjoyment of the genre is seeing a romance that defies the expectations of both heterosexuality and homosexuality, an expression I view as queer and similar to my own position and identity. For me, Boys’ Love manga provide(d) a significant impact on how I have crafted my queer identity. In this regard, I am heavily invested in queering BL manga, which is why I want to problematize the issues that interrupt and problematize the enjoyment of BL and its
queerness.”
–ibid p30 Chapter 4: Concluding for a Queer Appreciation of BL Manga

Theory Moe time! I am assuming that the author identifies as male – though I could be wrong and as “queer” in the sense of attempting to surpass the role limitations that a strict “gay guy”, let alone “straight guy” identity would entail. At a short 39 pages, the work is interesting in that it examines some of the value and attractiveness of the genre to a queer reader of stories made by/for a fandom “marked” as originally majority (%90) women, with those women equally “marked’ as majority “straight” or at least operating within a “heterosexual” framework.

Whew! Disclaimers! More: why is old pale-skin straight-boy me (Later, from jail/ I sent a brace of telegrams/ to the right people/ explaining my position. –Thompson 1965) mooching around this stuff? Huh? The value of this work is not only that one gets to peek into the thicket guided by a queer POV but it’s enquiry into modes of post-yaoi-ronso identity category blurring. How does a “queer” guy look at the women-written bonking bishies?

It has two main faults or at least shortcomings for my tastes and towards the ends I plan to bend my argument towards: First, it really, really situates itself in the mid 2000’s. The genre has evolved since. Examples that refer to Japanese “gei” tropes are even older. Furthermore, in exploring a wider “queer” subjectivity it compresses ‘heteronomativity’ into a screeching white-hot ball of GOP voter patriarchial whatever.

Which blurs SOME of the reasons why all those Japanese nominally straight women (and many more) find it all so yummy.

What the paper DOES well is go through arguments, sometimes using Dr Akiko Mizoguchi as a straw-lesbian-BL-enthusiast-and-academic-authority, to highlight aspects of BL (and those that can be transcribed to other queer-for-nominally-straight genres such as Josou/Otokonoko and even Yuri) that are often minimised, if only because they are a bit harder to stuff into a sound bite.

There is an odd parallelism/ congruence in the view of the paper’s author, as a queer reader searching for stories of relationships by actors less-marked by social roles; a view that he considers as “queer” and the views of the within-a-heterosexual-framework “dreaming in yaoi” rotten girls who want a fun p0rny gooey romance featuring (their choice of) good-looking characters (guys) getting all hot and bothered about each other without having to OBEY a thicky stack of disappointing set social scripts that guys and girls are supposed to follow. Hey lookie, lust hits, they go mad. Society has ZERO to say about how it plays out. After lots of angsty schmex, tadah! They be in love. OTP! (One True Pairing) OTP!

The rotten girls want stories outside of “heteronormality” as much as the author of the paper enjoys stories outside of “homonormalities” (and “heteronormalities”), the latter preference getting shorthanded to “queer”. You could draw one of those intersecting circle graphs with “rotten” as one circle and “queer” as the other. But one more thing sneaks through the net: these stories are, beyond 15page doujins full of porny “the good stuff” fundamentally romance stories. Harlequin Nurse novels for those of us who need a dismissive stereotypical analogue. Bodice busters; the dashing privateer and the haughty heiress, etc etc. Only done as all-guys.

And as I have noted previously, the rest of us straight Borg (guy variant) can now and again fall prey to the siren call of hawt and steamy romance tales too; as long as these center on two soon to be nekkid with each other ladies. That gives us cover… and nekkid ladies.

We all know how to fuck but what do any of us know of how to love?

Otherwise we seek refuge in traditional social roles, because they are reassuring and if we iz guys, we are supposed to get more privilege out of the song and dance. This is less than optimum because “I have a job, so you make dinner, my babies and obey me” isn’t working so well any more. Social norms and law aside, the economy will grind any such bullshit into dust soon enough. So, what next? She is also going to also get a part-time job and offer tribute to you? If you really really cannot survive without a submissive partner, you should take up either an extreme sexual fetish or join a cult. If the latter, best start your own cause Holy Leader gets all, while you get to wind up your incel rage into paroxysms that serve him; not you.

A kinky leather wardrobe might be easier than some of the other net-shyte out there.

Here’s a nifty Twitter exchange that demonstrates the point; complete with the sound of a whole bunch of trolls’ whiney little needinesses shattering.

“A real woman is ready to sacrifice her career for the man she truly loves.
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,976. Dec 24, 2018

“The hets aren’t okay. Also, in what universe would someone even *need* to sacrifice a career to love someone unless that someone is a needy asshole who won’t let you have a life?”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu

“All the school in the world can give you a
PHD
MSc
BSc
HND
OND
But only a man can give you a “Mrs” so be humble… 😌😌 ”
— Redacted Twitter troll #23,977

“Actually a woman who marries a woman can still legally use “mrs” to refer to her married state and I bet she won’t have been asked to “be humble” for it by her partner in doing so.”
— Twitter [律「HoliDyke」] aka Andrearitsu

Yuppers, they did it. Them darn gays “killed marriage”. If by marriage the above trolls really, really believe their crap — in which case they will either end up forever ‘ronery or on a sex-offender list. I have seen too many happy straight marriages fall apart because buddy suddenly got all paranoid and controlling. Don’t do that! Only villains do that. Your mate is a free human being with agency and the law insists on equality (mostly, less in some GOP States). You might be able to minge your mate into getting your way for a while but in the end all you will win is a mouthful of ashes. You knew that from the start, didn’t you? Self-sabotage; the ultimate wank.

This soon veers out of the lane over into the old “its the fault of -class of individuals-“, rather than actually using whatever democratic structures of government are available to push back at the capitalist/ mercantilist power structures that want everyone to work without job security or benefits, for peanuts, as well as pushing for the usual basket of social safety net supports; you know the drill. The urge to individualise changing socio-economic conditions that cause extreme societal role friction is strong. Scapegoating remains a popular response; there are plenty of wrong-headed personal reasons to wink, nod and mouth the bullshit. You might even be ready to cut off your own nose so that “those people” don’t get to have one on their faces but in the end it is futile.

Muda muda muda, you fell for it again! Global corporate capitalism continues unimpeded!

…And that’s why Japan, BL (and their other dream-in-queer genres) are so fascinating.

A whole genre of women’s fiction has been DIY’ing allegorical glimpses of alternatives for almost 40 years now.

Mandatory disclaimer: These shadows of real LGBTQIA lives and/or practices mean something completely different to actual readers who live in that life. Or IRL as the otaku-speak goes. Their approach, enthusiasm and/ or disdain for these representations (often a mix of all of the above) are separate, yet in parts, congruent to the concerns of us boring Borg-like “hets”. Again; that is why this paper is so useful. It recognises but slips past, then returns, then drags off in a different direction these issues from a queer POV. Any group develops strong normalities of how that group ideally acts. There is always plenty of under the surface jostling over what is the right thang for any particular time and location. It too gets suffocating.

To appreciate how, and why this is useful to a majority subjectivity requires putting “Heteronomativity’ up on the hoist and taking the air-wrench to it.

Whirrrrr… whirrrr…. Whackackackack… whirrr.

Part of this “Heteronormativity” is of course that there are so darn many of us all over the place. We end up distorting the socio-economic gravity field. Whether old-style haters, well-mannered contemporary citizens or whether our polite behavior masks a rapacious and instrumental curiosity (or all of the above), any time we gaze upon “the other” that is the “queer” (etc) we do so for our own subjective and undoubtedly selfish reasons.

Similarly, we outlanders looking in and doing kitchen sink etc (now expanded to social anthropology) can pretend to understand the contemporary Japanese experience (build a teeny tiny imperfect model based on our concerns) from say; a whole bunch of weird little comics – including self published naughty doujinshi and whatever stats and trends we can shake out of the English language web pages of The Japan Times leavened with the occasional expose by Jake Adelstein (& co.) in Buzzfeed. Oh; Rocket News. (maybe Kotaku too)

Before I further “fetishsize” and “other-ize” the Japanese experience, I should lead off with the inescapable one big thing that makes Japan’s Culture so tasty to “us”. The Japanese are as fascinated and prone to “fetishsizing” and “other-izing” us as we are of them. Our eyes meet from across the room, then our gazes lock. This is like some kind of romcom.

Oh heck! One… More… Time:

“More than fifty years after the war’s end American scholars are still organizing knowledge as if confronted by an implacable enemy and thus driven by the desire either to destroy it or marry it.”
— Intro, Perversion and Modern Japan: Psychoanalysis, Literature, Culture. Edited by Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.

Not that this grants an all-day pass for the above fetishsizing” and “other-izing” but we can at least be aware of the slip and back-and-forth exchange between our respective, hungry subjectivities. Stick to BL-ish stuff: 1970’s proto BL bishonen works. Why so often set in some pre-WWI exotic fantasy Europe? Why, in the 1980’s and 90’s was the rich exotic foreigner seme such a big BL thang? How about exotic, dangerous foreign locales and locals instead? instead? Wikipedia is your friend: Banana Fish (orig and contemporary anime vers.) On a het level, note what was swiped and repurposed to serve in Black Lagoon.

Oh Heck, veering all over the place. Eyes on the road!

How do you strip away the society-sez-you-gotta-act-in-these-roles from the steamy romantic (as well as the smutty) stuff? Kind of like how you get rid of the peaceful obedient, law-abiding well-ordered toxic hierarchical and suffocating Japanese corporate social rules so you can help the really strong hawt merc babe reload her guns as the edgy-dangerous South East Asian Dive Bar™ you and her are having a drink in turns into a free-fire zone. Damn! That’s exotic. That’s adventure!

And now I have conflated a BL classic with a Merc adventure series. Facepalm.

As well, it is not that the majority of Japanese women have turned into asexual and/or lesbian BL-marathonning low-level office drudges, any more than that the majority of Japanese men have either gone gay and/or decided to marry a hologram (She is NOT a hologram! Her name is Hatsune Miku and she is a -minor, Japanese- God. Also a Shinkansen pilot!) as they try to hold onto their office jobs or precarious freeter/ temp gigs.

Except for the office drudge/ precarious employment freeter/temp stuff.

As far as I can make out, the only non-toxic ideal heterosexual romantic make-a-life Japanese fantasy story left, short of lottery wins and saving incredibly rich corporate exec ladies for train drunks is marrying into/starting a family restaurant and/or grocery store. Everybody, including the eventual kids take turns stocking/cooking/serving and standing behind the counter. After the day’s work is over, the happy couple cook dinner together, supervise the kids doing their homework and then retire to their someone-tosses-and-turns-at-night-so-twin-beds where a quiet slide-over and some not too noisily enthusiastic measures of happiness can still be regularly indulged in at night.

Such dreams are probably a lot harder to pull off than imagined. Also, no one wants to leave the big city to marry into a farm family any more. No one.

Extra research: do a quick survey of manga/anime depictions of MC’s families from 1980 through to current. Do the survey with mainstream/ het-normed manga/ anime. Note how first Dad then Mom evaporates. Was it a trick to “destroy the family”? A device to focus attention on the potential for (forced) individual agency by the MC? If it picks up some identification points from the readership; bonus!

Among Japanese women, even BL reading fujoshi, the mythic ideal of financially secure good-wife-wise-mother-hood still holds a powerful appeal. Pity it is so out of reach for so many and/or what if the guy turns into useless needy, controlling man-baby? Shit! What if he gets unemployed and/or starts screwing around, drinking too much and blowing the savings on the ponies? What if the fool goes and gets himself dead? More than half of Japanese single mothers live below the poverty line. Child support is an optional civil contract matter – even if Japanese family courts will always put the kid(s) in care of the mother. Even if she manages to keep things stable and hubby brings home the sarraryman pay cheque, everyone is worked to near-death. Where is the mad romance?

Let’s destroy all the social rules and roles and scripts that get in the way and take two bodies with physical and socio-economic strength/ freedom/ agency and bang them together and get some theoretical yet intense romance, with steamy schmex. Bonus twice of what looks good to the readership without some cartoon bimbo with a huge rack in your face and buzz-killing your fujoshi enjoyment. Hey wait! Them is guys! They have no idea how to do romance. Fallback: they have friendship and guy friendship is supposed to be mythically stronger and more intense than m:f or f:f friendship.

Note that they DO NOT ask on 2chan for dating advice, even if they crave the reassurance of herd approval.

Damn! Lookie at those hunks. They even do more than grab tits, crotch and then hump until someone prematurely ejaculates. They do the nasty BETTER than real guys. They have (gasp) multiple orgasms! (Japan needs to get to know a few reputable online pharmacies from India – yes, these exist; also a great way to load up on anthrax-strength antibiotics fast and cheap too.)

Back to the fun light reading. Buried somewhere under the guys working out who is going to act out some of the catalog of available uke roles (and/ or seme roles) there might even be a dab of aspirational romantic fantasy modelling. And this is far less of a useless fancy than say, what Rock offers his sarraryman readers while he guards Revvy’s back.

This is not exactly a new idea, even in the West. Go dig out Heinlein’s thicky 1973 sci-fi epic Time Enough for Love if you want an ancient American male-gaze version. Of course the two med-techs are both happy that one of them ends up a woman and the other a man, but the sci-fi societal conventions were made clear from the beginning of the tale. In such semi-formal workplace hookups, gender is incidental. Also everyone wears Asbestos Suits (cf Leacock, 1911) If you can make it through to the end, our annoying MC even gets to time travel back to bonk his Mom! (She has no idea of his identity but considers the daliance fun and somewhat sweet). Also circumspect when it comes to RAH’s spanky fetish.

Heinlein can re-het-norm even the queerest in-the-future setup. And he did so half a century ago. Also he preached too much. Still, many of the trolls out there might benefit from reading this one. Within their comfort zone. Not like anyone is forcing them to read Dhalgren or anything.

To tie this up with a bow, what our essayist relentlessly marks as “queering” looks damn close to a straight instrumental gaze that wants to eliminate distractions while positing a fantasy level playing field. The readership can relax without getting their noses re-rubbed in annoying IRL scripted roles and conventions and maybe, perhaps even figure out some approaches or desiderata for that most elusive prize: the egalitarian romantic life pair-bond.

I previously mentioned the Yuri genre, taken from the view of the straight male gaze. Other odder fetish-y genres have grown in prominence since the 2000’s, some of which I find ridiculously funny and yet useful in teasing out what is acceptable to an expanded heterosexual male-gaze subjectivity, what is marked as ‘gay’ or ‘gei’ but still might be within the realms of guy-ness and what is irrevocably tainted by the touch of the fujoshi gaze. As I have previously ventured:

“The “deception” that the straight male subjectivity fears is not present upon the body of the otokonoko but within the emotional complexity of any interaction. ”
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2017/08/07/fearsome-asymmetry/

But the problem goes far deeper than this, lying in the modeling of fictional, idealised (or less) same-sex/ gender-fluid relationships created for the consumption and entertainment of heteronormative subjectivities. As a straight man, I can read and model, even consider multiple, even conflicting fictions/ models of such desires but in the end, I must acknowledge that what finally gives the real desires that these stories are shadows of, the weight of authenticity is precisely that I will never fully understand them. If I could, I would distrust them as mere fictions. This is how all those het-ish tropes sneak into BL; many more examples abound.

The mirror distorts; the reflections therein bear glimpses but not fascination.

Too Complicated. Wait; figured it out. Blame the millennials!

What little more-contemporary BL-ish stuff that I have stumbled across and not freaked out over (just moi, working on it) has meanwhile gone on to sand off some of the rigid seme-uke rusty bits (even as we outsiders simplify an entire catalog of variations on the seme/uke theme) in the genre. You can flip back through this blog for examples. Consider the lonely angst of the younger chara in Rendou Kurosaki’s ON or the ways in which the Utsotsuki Lily BL spinoff gives the (young woman) reader who might care to consider ways and means for getting a guy’s attention while demonstrating that yup, she not only likes but wants mr. slow on the uptake guy THAT WAY — a safe stand-in to work out how to go about it – or at least dream of doing so. Happy romantic and physical pairing achieved! (and c’mon, that bishie boys set-up is so damn heterosexual transposed “I know what you like” girl takes the lead seduction that, oh well, right… Margaret Magazine. For now the readership is just enjoying the show and taking a few notes.)

With the Genshiken spin-off Spotted Flower, we have a slightly more conflicted rendering. Almost as if, IF those two were going to “give it a try” they should have developed some spine(s) and gone at each other while still single and still in University. Bhuttt Noooooo….. (WTF izzhe goin on about? It’s a series and sequel that took up a lot of posts in this blog until the main series ended 2yrs ago; the kinda-sequel still comes out 4x a year.)

Now if I could only find a guy queer-theorist take on isekei (I was reincarnated as a….) stories. I have exactly ONE example of a woman-centric one: Magic Market. Are there fujoshi isekei? Queer approaches to BL isekei? Again; chercher le dissatisfaction done with a genre of escapist fiction. Scan with all available sensors, consolidate and report findings! Oh Fuck! Most isekei start off as net-novels written by guys(?) whose pen names translate out as “Emperor restoring repulser of foreigners“.

Maybe that genre needs a more subtle approach.

Also, read the thesis paper. Good’un!

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12 days 2018 #6: my isekai power is comiket

Mahoutsukai no Insatsujo/ A Witch’s Printing Office
Story: Mochinchi, art: Yasuhiro Miyama, manga, 2 volumes ongoing

“Kamiya Mika is a “magic printer” who can create grimoires and other magical books for witches and wizards to use, despite having no powers of her own. Desperate to find a spell that could send her back to her home world, Mika decides to create a “Magic Market” where magicians can trade and show off their creations.”

I don’t know much about the Isekai (another world) genre beyond the usual “hero ends up in fantasy world with magic power(s)” bit and that they are such a plague upon the land that last year a big Japanese light novel contest banned them. I’m sure there are other examples of a young woman main char who ends up in, etc. but I like the conceit behind A Witch’s Printing Office.

Could have been called: “I was a fujoshi transported to a magic world so I started a comiket for grimoires to get back to my world because I know how to do it.” 

Anyway, I think the idea is kewl as anything, not to mention being a playful reminder of how powerful the IRL Japanese women’s fandom has always been.

Magical powers, indeed.

12 days 2018 #5: gender and agency in Tripeace

Ten years ago I was following Tripeace. It was a manga, liked well enough by its readers, if a mite too random back in 2008-2011 It never really took off in the outlander anglosphere. If you want to check it on Wikipedia you have to go to the French Wikipedia site. Translated, it sold well in France. Was it ever licensed in English?

Maybe it tried to do too much.

Post-apocalyptic crossdressing action adventure comedy. An incidental spoof on Full Metal Panic‘s Mythril. A world destroyed by war over a rare substance that can either power machines or miraculously cure the sick, even bring them back from death’s door. A lad, our main character, who has lost all his memories and in a moment of grief, anger and desperation tries a crossdressing bluff against hunter-killer walking tanks. A very very angry young girl who works for the eponymous Tripeace….

If fans remarked upon anything in the series, it was usually the curious anarcho-philosophical organization of the peace force. Team leaders were those who, among with having super powers or skills, had developed their personal philosophy of “peace-making”, expressed in a quirky tripartite formula: “peace, love and X” Peace, love and violence, peace, love and money, peace love and sleep, peace love and bestiality with sheep, etc…

So maybe I made up the last one.

What stuck me was the more subtle play of gendered modes of action behind the comedy of mistaken identity. Sure you had the usual Shakespear-ish pastoral comedy stuff – suitably updated for the sci-fi war setting but something odder began to pop up the instant that the girl Shiro developed an admiration crush on the self-confident and resourceful “Nanako from the other, mystery division of Tripeace”.

In retrospect, this might have been asshat plotting because Shiro -could- be read as a young lesbian and here she is being fooled… Fortunately Tripeace is very, very thin on romance. Later there will be increasing amounts of fanservice but for most of the story it is all shonen manga style battles, even if Shiro did far more of it than Nana.

Nana of course gets his own admiration-crush on Shiro, even if Shiro doesn’t think much of him, or guys in general; though she respects her ultraviolent squad leader Belial. She is none too pleased that Nana (male) gets mysteriously accepted into Tripeace as a junior, lowest ranked fuck-up and gopher. Belial and his assistant think the Nana-Nanoka thing was a suitable response to their challenge and -shame on them-  think Shiro / Nanoka is not only funny but might eventually “help” her in some way. Or they just have asshat senses of humor.

Shiro is hella strong for her size, dresses shabby-butch (she’s too short for the suits she favors) and hates everything. Later it turns out that she has a load of guilt from her past, plus mom issues; Her mom is a psycho cold-blooded super bomb making uber mad-scientist. Nana has his own genocidal back story as well that gradually dribbles out.

All this would have made a fairly standard fighting adventure sci-fi story without the guy main chara crossdressing.But then we wouldn’t get any of the fun of messing with ideas of who does what how in battle adventures.

Shiro hates heroics. Previously, as a member of Belial’s squad, she respected his ultraviolent approach to peacemaking. Smash anything and everyone doing war but now the approach leaves her feeling hollow.

Nana in male form has been training with Tripeace battle bots so as not to be completely useless in a crunch but as Nanoka, eschews violence, saves wounded foes and takes rediculous risks to mediate between combattants. Which just seems to win her ever more confrontations with overpowered psycho baddies.

Then Shiro has to go off and fight her psycho mad scientist mom.

When Shiro faces her big last boss battle, it of course has to be Nana, his memories – including the ones of his founding and leadership of a nihilistic terrorist organization – intact. -And- He still likes to crossdress. But in the end, both are left exhausted after a classic shonen dusk-to-dawn gag battle. The story ends before we find if any of this nonsense leads anywhere.

Whew! I forgot how random Tripeace was. Also it was full of clumsy, naive gender politics. Whatever.. It was still fun.

12 days 2018 #4: Find and watch Wood Job

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

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

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

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

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

Better trailer:

Japanese guys in fundoshi miraculously avoid splinters!

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

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

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

Fuck yeah, I believe!

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

Meanwhile have some Hibiki caps:

Hibiki is naturally pissed off

Except when she isnt

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

Her childhood best friend wants a safe normal life for her

Because he fears the alternative

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

Because it’s all about being a Japanese author.

More later…

12 days 2018 #2: mirrors of desire

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

Kind of hard to explain…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, that’s it.

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

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

Why does this THING exist?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Search this blog for Adrian Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All this means something.

Scribble, scribble…

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 days 2018, post 0

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

Gotta try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Colors May Return

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

bus, bus, magic bus…

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

Which only leaves the problem of the magic boy.

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

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

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

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

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

The world remains beautiful.

 

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

Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

This makes the story beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run from, run to, run with

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

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

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

 

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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