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!” )

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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 each other. One by one they win their 16:30 official times.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 days 2018, post 0

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

Gotta try.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Colors May Return

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

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


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

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

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

 

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

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

bus, bus, magic bus…

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

Which only leaves the problem of the magic boy.

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

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

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

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

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

The world remains beautiful.

 

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

Wind

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

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

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

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

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

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

This makes the story beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Run from, run to, run with

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

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

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

 

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

Uncanny Gully: character animation in Himote House

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The animation will take some getting used to.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fish is a Harsh Mistress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gender and performativity among the josou maidos

It’s complicated… [1]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Darling in the Nippon Kaigi

“What’s done to the children is done to society.”
— Buddhist proverb

Spoiler warning: much to do with Franxx will be spoiled. As well there will be TLDR; on Japanese politics and revising the Japanese constitution, or not…

After watching the final episode of Darling in the Franxx, I like many viewers (and bloggers) leaned back and shook my head as if to wake and throw off a troubling dream. Sure there were parts, large slabs of it in fact that warranted examination but once you get past the action scene animation or the curious fighting robot/ mecha designs (Tittie bots! Giant fighting robots with girlish tittie bumps – ok, guy-ish robots have done worse but… ) and the cringe-inducing notion of doggie-sex positioned girl-boy pilot pairs…

Oh SNAP. Dealing with Franxx is like dealing with a crazy president. The weird shit just keeps getting thrown at you. You really don’t have a chance to deal with one bit of weird before another bounces off the wall and flies past your left ear. The overall “shape” of the whole remains somewhat consistent: some form of updating/ tribute to epic sci-fi anime franchises of decades gone by, but the bits appear to have been slapped together while the vehicle was already in motion using whatever was in the back seat or could be snagged off the side of the road with poles when they slow down to take a curve.

Ecological dystopia, domed cities, cynical ruling cabal, mad scientist, child soldiers raised in Brave New World creches, ever escalating levels of incomprehensible monsters, giant girly looking robots/ doggie-sex position piloting and

One Demon girl.

your Franxx was strong but you wanted proof…

Code/ name 0-2; Zero-Ni. O-ni; subtle-not. At least she doesn’t wear a tiger stripe bikini to go with her fixation on her “Darling”. Zero-Ni is the heroine of the story, lad notwithstanding. Of course the lad be captivated but this essay is NOT going to do Zero-Ni as Übermensch, so just stipulate and keep moving. Zero-Ni is so strong that she can even power up one of those giant robots (tittie version or boring on-spec version) herself – which as well could lead to strained metaphors which will not be indulged. Zero-Ni has a snarky “pro-from-Dover” attitude, follows orders whenever or not and seems to have enough privilege to get away with minor misbehavior because she is very good at killing the incredibly loud monsters (rendered in English as Klaxosaurs). Driven to kill in fact. Kill obsessed.

Beside her, all the other kids, pistils, stamens, post-gendered squad 9, adult-ish minders and the mad scientist Dr. Franxx pale. Also they get used a lot as plot road-kill. Boyo’s original partner Naomi is soon hustled off stage. As she departs, she gives our hero her belongings to distribute to her ex-comrades as if to say; “I ain’t coming back from this one, they are going to euthanize and dissect me or something, so fuck it.”

Time to bring in the interesting analysis of gender essentialism and disposable queer characters considered in an essay on Anime Feminist: Discourse: Childbirth and Politics in DARLING in the FRANXX by Caitlin Moore (September 7, 2018)
https://www.animefeminist.com/discourse-childbirth-and-politics-in-darling-in-the-franxx/

Moore wisely sticks to her thesis and doesn’t TLDR; out and wander all over the map (hold my beer) but notably links a lot of the attitude as to the proper roles of characters in Franxx to current real-world-Japan trends in politics and society. Specifically:

“A few weeks ago, Japanese lawmaker Mio Sugita stirred up international controversy when, on-camera, she chuckled about queer Japanese youth attempting suicide. She said that, since same-sex couples don’t reproduce, they are “unproductive” and not worth taxpayer money.

Her remarks sparked outrage, and thousands came to protest on the doorstep of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters. Although the LDP has disavowed her comments, other members have said similar things before.
[…]
In June 2018, the LDP’s secretary general, Toshihiro Nakai, said childless couples were “selfish.” Only a month before that, another LDP politician said that newlyweds should focus on having “three or more” children, and that single women are “letting the country down.” Another stated that women, rather than men, should be in charge of caring for children. Meanwhile, women who take maternity leave, especially politicians, face maternity harassment.”
— Moore

It had been hard to miss the recent glaring example of misbehavior by some of the ruling LDP party’s right-wing howling dogs. Imagine my surprise, when I was looking through chapter synopses of a new, open source academic anthology of essays on Japanese feminism and I run into the snippet intro-ing K. Hemman’s ch10 essay:

“In July of 2003, former Japanese prime minister Mori Yoshirō stated that women without children should not receive welfare benefits. “It is truly strange that we have to use tax money to take care of women who don’t even give birth once, who grow old living their lives selfishly and singing the praises of freedom,” Mori explained in a speech addressing Japan’s falling birthrate, which had reached an all-time low of 1.29 children per woman…”

Dangerous Women and Dangerous Stories: Gendered Narration in Kirino Natsuo’s Grotesque and Real World by Kathryn Hemmann; Chapter 10 of Rethinking Japanese Feminisms, Editor(s): Julia C. Bullock, Ayako Kano, James Welker, University of Hawai’i Press. (2018)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv3zp07j.17

Clearly this “unproductive” manzai routine has a long history within the right-wing ranks of the LDP. Re-stating it and recycling it is alternatively a phatic gesture; a dog-whistle and a shout-out tribute to a senior faction player (now heading the 2020 Olympic Cttee — expect disaster) as well as being a calculated and cynically deployed lie. However Mio Sugita is more telling as symptom rather than as cause.

“It must be said that Sugita is not qualified to serve as a member of the Diet — a person who yields power to make laws as a representative of the people and make decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money.

Sugita has made absurd arguments in the past. For example, she criticized moves seeking more day care centers, use of different surnames among married couples and support for LGBT individuals as acts “driven by the Comintern (an international organization of communist parties) to destroy Japanese families.”

LDP legislators are constantly making socially unacceptable remarks under the almost unchallenged long-term reign of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They include unruly statements such as, “Moms are indeed the best people to raise children,” and, “Cancer patients don’t have to work.”

Sugita was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 on the ticket of the Japan Innovation Party. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, but was re-elected as an LDP candidate on the proportional representation list for the Chugoku region in western Japan in the 2017 general election. She now belongs to the Hosoda faction of the ruling party, from which Prime Minister Abe hails. The LDP bears a serious responsibility for leaving Sugita’s words and deeds unchecked.””

Editorial: Bigoted lawmaker Sugita not worthy to represent the people
Mainichi Japan, (July 25, 2018)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180725/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

Why such a recent uptick in LDP wingnuts spouting-off?

Shinzo Abe has just sewn up his internal party election, secured his third term as leader of the LDP and therefore will remain Prime Minister of Japan. Mio-san, like the other rightists undoubtably voted for their patron. His opponent Ishiba Shigeru received 254 votes to Abe’s 553. Shigeru’s platform alluded to past and recent Abe-linked corruption scandals. Right-wingers picked their best friend, a champion of a puffed-up nationalism that serves as a blanket to hide if not legitimise decades of crony profiteering. Perhaps they sensed that Abe-san’s need for their votes gave them an opportunity to slip the leash and do some loud barking?

Mio-san later issued a grudging apology and Abe has remarked that she has is still young and holds promise.

Franxx‘s ruling APE conspiracy is resonant to Japanese viewers if only for its cynicism and ruthless instrumentalism. That its ultimate agenda involves the complete destruction of the earth and the psychic assimilation of the souls of all humanity is a suitably overdone restatement of the gulf between the public pronouncements of Japan’s political elites and their “apres moi le deluge” impulses.

The Anifem essay calls out the gender essentialism of Franxx as mirrored in contemporary Japanese politics and social discourse but slips past the greater, even genocidal instrumentalism that always hides behind extreme manifestations of statist authoritarianism. The Japanese 1945 Constitution is hated by the nationalists – according to the cover story, because it was ‘imposed” by the American occupation. Plenty of scholarship exists that argues that indigenous Japanese progressives; even an American-Japanese proto-feminist had significant roles and input in its drafting:

“We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.”

https://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html 

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Japan

Lookie how the preamble echoes the contemporaneous United Nations declaration and then cuts immediately to a categorical rejection and proscription of the kind of authoritarian absolutism that had marked power and rule in Japan since its earliest recorded histories. To put it in Twitter terms, the 1945 Constitution was written by Social Justice Warriors.

“Beate Sirota Gordon Lecture: “Present at the Creation of Japan’s Post-WWII Constitution” (1/3/2000)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1ikfxYoO34 (36 min in)

Oh heck, who are we fooling. Beate wrote it.

Meanwhile, the LDP had a committee of right-wingers beavering away at a replacement, properly Japanese constitution. The good news: it did not restore female debt-bond sexual slavery. The bad news: pretty well everything else. As always, any organised tendencies that spit at SJWs are at very least after some dodgy fast money and at worst are wannabe slavers and genocides. Final good news; they went so overboard on it that it was dead in the water the second it was released. Abe & co. now say they will attempt amendments via a stealthy incremental approach.

“As many scholars have pointed out, the 2012 draft rejects all three core principles of the current constitution: people’s sovereignty, human rights and the rejection of war (including denunciation of wars by the Japanese Imperial army). Reflecting historical revisionism, this completely revises the current preamble, which is based precisely on those principles. The newly proposed draft preamble reads:

Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture, having the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the people…

The Japanese people, defend our country and homeland with pride and strong spirit,… value harmony, and form a nation where families and the whole society assist one another […]

The Japanese people, in order to pass on our good traditions and our nation-state to our descendants in perpetuity, hereby establish this Constitution.

The 2012 draft thus emphasizes Japanese tradition as represented by the Emperor, the duty to defend the country, and family values. People’s sovereignty is undermined by the fact that the Emperor is designated the head of the state in the preamble and in Article One. Respect for fundamental human rights is constrained by the demands of public order detailed in Articles 12 and 13, and importantly, Japanese citizens are no longer respected as “individuals” but only as “persons”. Needless to say, the principle of renunciation of war in Article 9 is dismissed in favor of establishing a national defense army.

Higuchi Yōichi has criticized the 2012 draft as being worse than the “Five Articles of the Charter Oath” [Gokajō no goseimon], the foundational document of the Meiji regime, published in 1868. The LDP draft, he writes, is “not a return to the Meiji Constitution but rather like one of the proclamations of the Keian era (1648-1652) – the edicts imposed on Japanese peasants and others by the Tokugawa Shogunate].”20 In a conversation with Higuchi, another scholar of constitutional law, Kobayashi Setsu recalls that he once tried to explain to members of the LDP that “the constitution does not exist to constrain the people, but should serve as the supreme law that limits the power of the state,”21 and was taken aback at the politicians lack of understanding of this fundamental point. The 2012 draft is not simply a revision, but the destruction or total negation of principles of the current constitution. In fact, Abe firmly believes that the view of constitutionalism shared by most social science scholars was biased or old fashioned. “”

Prime Minster Abe’s Constitutional Campaign and the Assault on Individual Rights by Okano Yayo, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (March 2018)
https://apjjf.org/2018/5/Okano.html

CRAP! Who would do such a nasty thing?

“At its launch, the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League had 189 members from both chambers. The number continued to increase, and as of November 2015, there were 281 members (mostly LDP), and the members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League were the largest force in both houses with around 40 percent of the 717 Diet members. This rightwing league was behind the launching of the three Abe cabinets. Abe was the League’s key person as party president and prime minister. In the 3rd Abe Cabinet, 16 out of the 20 (80 percent) of the ministers are members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League.

The Nippon Kaigi, with its close ties to the Diet Members League, is now running Japanese politics. One example can be seen in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which from 2002 has distributed, to all elementary and middle-school children, supplemental educational pamphlets called Kokoro no Nōto [Notes for the Heart] (four levels: 1st and 2nd graders, 3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders, and middle-school use). The materials promote official moral values, starting with love of country, and are aimed at controlling the minds of children.”
What is the Aim of Nippon Kaigi, the Ultra-Right Organization that Supports Japan’s Abe Administration? by Tawara Yoshifumi, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (Nov 2017)
https://apjjf.org/2017/21/Tawara.html

And:

“The Abe administration’s “education rebuilding” policy was realized with the passage of the revised Fundamental Law of Education in 2006. The policy aims to create “human resources” (jinzai) to carry out the goals of the new law. Abe’s “education rebuilding” policy aims at 1) the cultivation of human resources sought by large corporations seeking to win in global competition; and 2) education that will produce a “national army” and supporters of the same. In both aims for human resources education, there must be inculcated in the schools a sense of “patriotism” and “morality,” and in order to realize these aims, the system of education and type of textbook are essential. The Abe administration stresses that “education rebuilding is the foundation for realizing a society in which there is “dynamic engagement of all 100 million citizens” [ichioku sōkatsuyaku].

Setting up a council to carry out education rebuilding, the Abe administration moved forward at a fast pace with various “educational reforms” to nurture such human resources. The main reforms included: 1) strengthening control over the contents of education; 2) nurturing effective human resources for the sake of the large corporations; and 3) controlling school administrators and teachers.

To accomplish that, the system of screening textbooks was revised. What had been treated as a “special course” of “moral education” [dōtoku] was elevated to the status of official subject entailing evaluation, (on a par with courses such as mathematics). The education guidelines were greatly revised to make this possible.

The next version of the education guidelines comprehensively control the education system with the state setting not only the contents of what is being taught but also the instructional method used by teachers, the way schools should be run, and even the relationship between schools and the home and local community. The system has changed from one in which the dignity of children is respected and the aim is character development to one shifted 180 degree toward creating “human resources” that will serve the state, national interests, and the interests of corporate giants. ”
ibid Yoshifumi  (1)

Also:

“Article 97 of Japan’s Constitution delivers a stirring declaration of the heritage of these rights: “The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.”

The LDP proposes to simply delete these words. The Party provides no explanation for this in its Q&A pamphlet, so we can’t be entirely sure about its motivation. I assume that Party leaders are most offended by the notion of an “age-old struggle of man to be free.”

Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change 危機に瀕する日本の民主主義 自民党憲法改正案、最も危険な10項目 by Lawrence Repeta (Japanese translation courtesy of Takahiro Katsumi0, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (July 14, 2013)
https://apjjf.org/2013/11/28/Lawrence-Rpeta/3969/article.html

See also:

CAVEAT EMPEROR – The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan
by Jake Adelstein and Mari Yamamoto, The Daily Beast (07.10.16 12:15 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-religious-cult-secretly-running-japan

and

Dissecting the Wave of Books on Nippon Kaigi, the Rightwing Mass Movement that Threatens Japan’s Future by Saito Masami, Nogawa Motokazu and Hayakawa Tadanori. Introduction by Sven Saaler. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (October 4, 2018)  https://apjjf.org/2018/19/Saito.html

Did you think that Franxx‘s evil wurld gummint cabal, complete with stylised monkey masks and “Papa” authority over the child soldiers was overdone?

Parasites?

To push at the edges of heavy-handed allegory in Franxx you have to stay relentlessly within a heteronormative male viewer frame of reference but if you do, you can see a standard sci-fi allegory as critique of instrumental authority — of the kind that the Franxx‘s Japanese audience’s demographic would instantly recognise. The kids in the “birdcage” are a lab experiment to see what happens when you allow a small resurgence of individuality and gender expression. They even have individualised girlish robots and… Lo and behold, one of their number is able to survive more than three piloting sessions with star quarterback demon-girl. They fight like kittens until leveled up but that’s immaterial as long as being with them motivates demon-girl to vainly seek to become more human and less demon by killing ever more of her own kind.

Before this essay bogs down in lefty contemporary Japanese politics articles, we can try to go at Franxx sidewise and note what it doesn’t do. Take for instance that even though we have invading aliens, we do not get the usual ‘Black Ships’ plot – a fave for lazy Japanese pop-cult allegories. Those robots: while they are clearly Eva lineage, rather than the usual blocky mecha lineage, it isn’t the boy who gets to spaz out to super-power one up. It is Zero-two demon girl who goes on solo rampages. Once again, a Beautiful Fighting Girl is trotted out for boy viewers. This raises the relentless guy-Ota-King gaze of Franxx. While not inconceivable that women might tune in to watch Franxx, they risk laughing themselves into stitches. Doggie-sex piloting positions? What nitwits came up with that one? Was not Infinite Stratos bad enough to prevent recurrences of this kind of foolishness? Perhaps there are some bishies worth some fun “transformative” interpretation?

Euuhyechhh. The writers did a clumsy “salting” of same-sex desire and gender politics in the story. Very clumsy. The rotten tribes are infinitely inventive when they get the urge to ship but if you leave a ham-fisted set-up out as bait it annoys them.

As well, Franxx has villains but no Adversaries, save for the late-on-the-scene Klaxasaur Queen who descends from the wires.

There isn’t a whole lot to work with here.

The Childbirth and Politics beat is closer to the nut but elides the only weighty (relentlessly heteronormative) antimony of the story. Sure all the girl child soldiers except the woman-loving one must heroically fulfill their biological essentialisms, just as Prime Minister Abe and the entire right-wing-militarist-shinto-nationalist power structure of Japan has been harping at them for decades…

However…

The world of the evil treat-the-kiddies-as-disposable-child-soldiers-while-the-adults-are-sterile and ruled by a nefarious government science conspiracy HAS TO BE TOTALLY OBLITERATED, a la 1909 E.M.Forester The Machine Stops catastrophe [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops]…

…Before the kids can pappa-mamma.

The lad with misplaced feelings of admiration settles for a girlfriend; the sole lesbian becomes a doctor, the gender-hating squad 9 go off into space to meet their destiny as kamikaze warriors serving as honor guard to Zero-ni, now queen of all Klaxosaurs and merged with a honking giant aryan babe centaur mecha that also needs to vore buddy boy so that it can obliterate the ever-waiting eon-spanning threat of the animation studio logo beings.

Survivors back on earth get to do the Whole Earth Catalog.

“Farming by hand is backbreaking work.” — Slavoj Zizek

At least all of the pregnant and child-raising gender essentialised ex-pilot young women command the full resources and support of the surviving human enclave. The Japanese right may call on the women folk of the nation to be “productive”, may push gender essentialism as part of a nationalist “Heimat” fantasy of family structure but they remain resolutely unwilling to spend any more money on programs or do anything else to reduce the very social and economic pressures that work against family formation.

Ladies, get pregnant yesterday and sign up for a second shift at the 7-11.

Over 50% of Japanese single parent mothers live UNDER the poverty line. Child support is arranged by private contract if at all. Social costs continue to be shifted onto prefectural and local governments, who in turn shift it onto users in the form of fees. Full-time employment with benefits is out of reach for more than %40 of the workforce. You get fired if you want to take maternity leave. %40-60 of men and women of marriageable age have given up on the dream of ever getting married and it aint because they want to marry their game consoles…

Mio-san and the cabal she performs for can spout off about unproductive gays or unproductive single women but most Japanese people under the age of 60 will shake their heads because they know perfectly well that this tired line is a crock of shit. How original; shift all the blame and responsibility onto individuals-as-subjects with a time-worn cheap-ass notion of state authority. Never heard that one before… this afternoon.

Another damming trend:

“Suicide leading cause of death among pregnant women, new mothers: survey

TOKYO — The leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers from 2015 through 2016 in Japan was suicide, making up about 30 percent of the total, according to a survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development and other research institutes.
[…]
Of the 92 women who took their own lives, those aged 35 or older totaled 45, and people who had their first delivery numbered 60 or 65 percent. The suicide rate was higher in jobless families.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15~39 age bracket. Mainichi Japan, (September 6, 2018)
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180906/p2a/00m/0na/031000c

Then again, suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15~39 age bracket.

More:

“Indeed, members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) keep demonstrating their world view is still deeply rooted in pre-war thought, before Japan had a constitution guaranteeing gender equality, popular sovereignty, and basic human rights. On May 10, another LDP politician, Kanji Kato. stated that single women were a burden to the nation and also added that “I always tell every newly wedded couple that they need to have three children or more,” recalling the pre-war slogan of Umeyo, Fuyaseyo (breed more, make more soldiers for the nation).

One in six children in Japan now lives in poverty. Half of all single mother households do as well. The number of people who have regular employment with all the benefits it carries has been declining for years. Death by overwork (karoshi) is a chronic problem that won’t go away and Abe’s latest “labor reforms” are certainly going to make life harder for anyone who isn’t a CEO. In fact, they legalize 100 hours of overtime a month, 20 hours more than what the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare deems dangerous. Some jobs will have overtime pay removed entirely. Technically, you can’t work to death if no one keeps track of your hours, or has responsibility for them, so perhaps that’s one way to eliminate the problem.””

THE TALE OF MISOGYNY: In Japan It’s Now #WithYou, Not #MeToo—But Sexual Harassment Is Still a Venerated Tradition by Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast (05.21.18 6:13 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/in-japan-its-now-withyou-not-metoobut-sexual-harassment-is-still-a-venerated-tradition

And in recent news: (Google machine translation)

“The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education showed attitude to interview the Mainichi Shimbun on interviews by the Mainichi Shimbun regarding sex education classes in which one junior high school in Adachi – ku, Tokyo explained sexual intercourse, contraception, abortion to third graders. The school will continue classes in the future. In this issue, LDP lawmakers criticize the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and the urban board of education departs from the scope of the instructional guidelines.

Liberal Democratic Party member Toshiaki Koga, who criticized the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. In the past gathering, “purity education to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage is necessary” “values ​​after war to self-decide to marry, do not self-decide in the first place are problems, marriage, childbirth, child rearing contribute to society” etc.”

自民都議問題視の性教育容認 中3に性交など説明
(Sex education acceptance 3 in view of the issue of Liberal Demographics)
Nakagawa Satoko, Mainichi Shimbun (September 11, 2018 21:38)
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20180912/k00/00m/040/101000c

Or, per Twitter user @neko_guruma01
Tokyo Metropolitan assemblyman Koga (LDP): We should teach kids that
– having sex before they get married is bad
– deciding for themselves whether they marry or not is wrong
– marrying and having kids is to make an important contribution to society

Despite all, the ultra-nationalist manzai routine remains very very popular among some factions of the LDP.

Young singles of Japan. If you wish to be able to marry and reproduce without starving or being worked to death, the LDP, the Keidanren [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Business_Federation] and the Nippon Kagi must be stuffed into a barrel and dropped into the sea, preferably from a great height. Vote Communist, subscribe to Akahata today!

Or….

Redefine the idea of family and live in communal poverty while working at shit jobs and shoplifting dinner:

Shoplifters’: Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winner is an eloquent look at the human condition by Mark Schilling, Japan Times (June 13, 2018)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2018/06/13/films/film-reviews/shoplifters-kore-edas-palme-dor-winner-eloquent-look-human-condition/

And:

Can Hirokazu Kore-eda’s success with ‘Shoplifters’ shed some light on poverty in Japan? by Jake Adelstein, Japan Times (June 2, 2018)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/02/national/media-national/can-kore-edas-success-shed-light-poverty-japan/

From the less-polite longer version in the Daily Beast:

“Kore-eda, in the course of doing research for the movie, also spoke with non-profit organizations and visited a care home for abused children. It was this visit that stuck in his mind. “While we were there, kids started to come back from school and I asked one little girl what she was studying at school. She pulled out her Japanese class textbook from her backpack and suddenly started reading Leo Lionni’s Swimmy out loud to us. The facility staff scolded her, ‘Everyone’s busy, you shouldn’t bother them,’ but she refused to listen and read to us the story from beginning to end. When she finished and we all clapped for her, she beamed at us with such joy. It was in that moment I thought, maybe what she really wants is to read that out loud to her parents who she doesn’t get to live with. After that, the face of this little girl reading to us haunted me and I wrote the scene in which the boy reads his textbook out loud right away.”

FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNTS – Prize-Winning ‘Shoplifters’: Japan’s PM Hates This Movie Because It’s Just Too True by Jake Adelstein, Mari Yamamoto. The Daily Beast (06.14.18 5:43 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/prize-winning-shoplifters-japans-pm-hates-this-movie-because-its-just-too-true

And:

“Ironically, on the day of the Kore-eda press conference, Tokyo police arrested a married couple on suspicion of neglect resulting in the death of the mother’s 5-year-old daughter. The little girl left behind a notebook pleading with her parents to stop abusing her, promising to work harder. The child had been previously taken into protective custody and the police in another prefecture had twice recommended her stepfather be prosecuted for abuse. The authorities kept returning her to her “real parents” until they finally killed her. That’s how the Japanese government protects children.”
— Ibid Adelstein,  THE TALE OF MISOGYNY

If you don’t have a proper Class War (or alien invasion), nobody will be able to marry and all the kids will end up in military orphanages, raised to fight to the death for “Papa”. Or die of abuse. Or survive by living in squalid petty theft communes. At least they won’t be raised by queer parents!

LDP representative Mio Sugito is curiously nuanced in her homophobia. She claims to have nothing against gay people and recognises the historical existence of homosexuality in Japan. It is only when gay, trans and other queer folk pick up strange outlander notions, get uppity and start agitating in the Asahi Shinbum – Japan’s premiere (mildly) liberal newspaper (whom Sugita associates with an International Communist Conspiracy) – do they become a danger to the nation. The next thing you know, brothers and sisters are wanting to get married, people are marrying their game consoles and the libb-rull apocalypse is at hand. Did she not herself once experience a girl-crush in high school? She got over it and went on to a successful career as a reactionary flak. Ladies, pull up your socks and get with the program!

Biology-is-destiny complaints aside, there are plenty of folks in Japan, as in other countries, that would love to have and/or raise children if only it wasn’t economically or legally impossible. LGBTQ folks are as prone to social conformity and competency at family formation and child-rearing as straight folks. If western experience is any example they might well be slightly more disposed to weather the social and economic forces that discourage child-rearing in contemporary Japan. Two moms? that works. Two dads? That might involve adoption but surprise; few people adopt other people’s children in Japan. Japanese practice terms adoption of children as “special adoption” because it is so rare. (2)  I wonder if two dads could remedy this problem. Trans* parents should also have the option to run the baby route, so why not quietly ditch the nazi-eugenics inspired sterilization and full surgery requirements for official gender re-assignment?

If Abe and the LDP want more child-raising family units (and wish to further cheap out on orphanage costs) a simple equivalent-to-marriage civil union addition to Japan’s laws could be passed into law tomorrow. No need to save gay marriage for a soften-up-the-voters trial run constitutional amendment. This is all well-known. Japanese activists know all the grotty details of how their country’s Family Law is messed up, from child support, to the nightmare of the family registry, to nearly non-existent adoption rates, maternity leave, child abuse, discrimination against “illegitimate” children, bullying… The list is exhausting.

Rightists and the Nippon Kagi‘s solution to any of these ills is to exhort Japanese women to somehow “take care of it” for free.

Everyone in Japan knows this. Everyone knows that the right are full of shit. When they spout off, it is the same as with western reactionaries; pump up the thuggish “base” and make a show of power to everyone else. Then cash in on your “patriotism” with some crony rewards.

“You calling me a liar?”

Against this frightening spectre of a modern Japan lurching towards authoritarianism under the influence of a secretive cabal, there stands the powerful and reassuring weight of social conformity and institutional inertia. And the LDP. Surprisingly enough – there are social progressives in the LDP. “Not all LDP” are war-crazed feudal lord wannabes. Japan’s LDP is a multi-party political system in and of itself. As it takes 3 blue moons in a row plus a Prime Minister and cabinet screwing sheep on the front steps of the Diet for the LDP to lose power for a year an a half, all the action in Japanese politics happens within the LDP.

There are factions that are somewhat disposed to grabbing, watering down and rolling out token progressive social policy initiatives, if only to maintain power. Outside observers have even ventured that the LDP makes a home for wingnuts within their ranks and throws token bones to them (as well as letting them run off-leash every so often) lest the rightists go all secret-secret-death-culty if expelled and start doing political terrorism.

Japanese rightists were historically noted for their taste for political assassination, seppukku after bizarre manifesto readings and whipping up lynch mobs against Japanese Koreans after earthquakes. They just do that kind of stuff. Better to have them inside the tent pissing out. Give them a warm blanket, a place by the fire and let them get fat and lazy. Overstaffed Japanese police forces might spend too much time running surveillance and harassment on the few members of the official Communist party but there is no need to re-deploy them against the sound truck nuts. The sound truck nuts are (mostly) well-behaved co-opted allies of the ruling party.

This highlights a further curious happenstance of Japanese political approaches to social policy issues: right-wingers can wave around the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers, Sailors and Schoolchildren because few other factions within the LDP or opposition parties give a flying squirrel about social policy issues. Within the LDP, daycare centers don’t kick back campaign contributions; best to leave that kind of stuff to local governments (3) and/or the Soka Gakkai backed Komeito.

With the power of the local women’s chapters within the Soka Gakkai and Komeito, plus their nominal do-gooder Buddhism image one would think that they would be a continuous force of agitation for social policy innovation. Instead they appear to be curiously reactive. Their ineffective resistance to the recent Casino legislation is typical. The Komeito‘s only political absolute is to ally itself to power and prevent any persecution or interference with the Soka Gakkai. The Komeito‘s sole social policy constant is probably that people should join the Soka Gakkai. One more quasi-religious power bloc scurrying about in the wings.

That leaves the Communists, one or two remaining Socialists/Social Democrats (they and the Communists hate each other) and the rather recent Constitutional Democratic Party [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_Democratic_Party_of_Japan]

More about Japanese parties here: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Japan ]

The CDP is a new party, born out of the disintegration of a previous catch-all party, whose rightists all bugged off to join a new, even more rightist party led by the charismatic governor of Tokyo. She promptly ran away from the mess during their first federal election and left a lot of hacks floundering. Meanwhile the liberal-leaning refugees banded together to form a new, radical party dedicated to keeping the Japanese constitution exactly as it is, with no damn amendments whatsoever. This is radical in Japan. They have also proven to be media and social-networking savvy, so they may yet become a force for social policy innovation. What the right’s cynical use of hot-button “social” and “family” issues proves is that in Japan, as in the west, progressive forces need to develop and articulate a broad consensus vision of the individual and the family, within society. One that features employment, enforced workplace regulations and has social safety net would be a start. Otherwise opportunists and scammers step into the policy vacuum and turn human lives into fodder for jingoism.

Is this beyond Japan’s (and our) abilities? Are such dreams only possible in China?

Anime Your Name’s studio releases trailer for its newest film, which isn’t set in Japan【Video】

Where does this leave us with Franxx? Aside from the unsurprising tendency to fill in the bits between the giant robots vs incomprehensible geometric monster fights with resonant sociopolitical filler, not much. One might as well try to glean insights into trends in Japanese education policy in the early 21st century through a close reading/ watching of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. That Franxx padded out its story by letting the kids grow up and make babies the old-fashioned way, once the ruling evil old men (and sneaky aliens and sterile, net-addicted adults) were wiped out was a simple and obvious pitch towards the sympathies of Japanese viewers of a certain demographic.

Dammit, we wanted Ota-princes and we got Netto-uyoku

Franxx is a spaghetti-at-the-wall sci-fi epic. It could have had the good doctor live and announce his nifty procedure for M-preg, or that along with the cavern full of washed out pistil & stamen kids in suspended animation waiting to be revived, there were also 90 miles of caverns full of viable, almost to term test-tube babies in suspended animation. Therefore everybody, boys and girls alike got to greet the new era by helping out in the nursery, for decades. Deduct four points for lack of imagination by the writers. Unfortunately, baby-making essentialism comes with the hippie commune Whole Earth Catalog ending; the WEC itself being an artifact of less enlightened times.

Does Franxx plant its butt on the ash-heap of history by suggesting that all or almost all of the surviving young ex-soldier women naturally -must- become “good wives and wise mothers”? Would it have won a grudging pass if more of them were shown to put off the maternity route if favor of exploration, administration, governance and farm machinery maintenance? Does the controversy boil down to ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to”? Boys squad to the nursery STAT!

Anything else? Oh yeah: star-crossed love affairs with super-powered outlander girls will NOT yield a happy family life but must end in heroic double love suicides.

At some point it could be instructive to track representations of family in anime and manga over the last 30 years. I suspect it would run from majority “ideal supportive Japanese extended” through “nuclear” to absent father/ single mother and finally parent(s) dead/ vanished/ work overseas, siblings supporting each other households – with outlying horrorshow instances – but that is just initial speculation. Family/home substitutes could use a survey as well. I predict share-houses as the next big thing; an update on ever-popular eccentric rooming-house tropes.

One could even quantify the heck out of this kind of study so that it would smell science-y.

Another interesting exercise would be to close-read-watch the few remaining young-girl-gaze anime properties and note how they build and use character and story (while still managing to sell sparkly plastic toys.) to foster dreams of independent, mature adult femininity with agency and an elaborate (though NOT skeevy skin flashing) wardrobe. And long, thin legs. The fashion model legs seem important.

Have a seat and get comfy, that one could take a while.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) More details on the push for “moral education”, including nonsense that required erasing bakeries (yes, bread) from schoolbooks!

English subs added to a Japanese documentary on right-wing efforts to control school textbooks and curriculum. Details and transcript:
“Education and Patriotism” (Kyōiku to aikoku). A Documentary
Translated by Collin Rusneac with an Introduction by Sven Saaler.
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (September 15, 2018)
https://apjjf.org/2018/16/Rusneac.htm

(2) Good backgrounder on orphan care and post orphanage support in Japan:
TT-956 — An Unsung Hero with a Pragmatic Approach for Orphans, by Terrie Lloyd. Terries Take, Japan Inc.com (August 6, 2018)
http://www.japaninc.com/tt956_unsung-hero-with-a-pragmatic-approach-for-orphans

(3) Local Governments Take the Lead on Social Policy, by Rob Fahey.
Tokyo Review (July 18, 2018).
http://www.tokyoreview.net/2018/07/local-governments-social-policy/

Spotted Flower 26.5+27: Keep your eyes on me, now we’re on the edge of hell

Spoilers ensue (0)

1) Une Saison en Enfer

Sempai, I may have left my scent on your hanten.

In chapter 27 of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower ‘the Husband’ AKA Harunobu Madarame has arranged to meet up with his university club junior to nail down an alibi as to how a certain Mangaka’s signature scent ended up on a house coat/ hanten in Mada’s apartment. At least that’s the excuse. Madarame has clearly set up the meeting so that he could brag about his adventure to ‘the boyfriend of the other mangaka (Ogiue) who the boob-grabbing girl foreigner (Sue Hopkins) helps out’ (the habit of eliding names in Spotted Flower is getting clunky, c’mon it’s obviously the once and future…) Kanji Sasahara.

Just to make the exchange somewhat balanced, Kio-sensei added a surprise earlier this summer in a 2-page web-extra chapter (26.5) on the Rakuen Le Paradis website. After many years, Chika Ogiue’s assistant couldn’t take it any longer and jumped her sleeping liege, stealing a deep and thorough kiss, as Ogiue had a nap-dream of a romantic moment with her boyfriend. As the long-overdue dawn of explicit f:f intimacy in the Genshiken verse, the execution feels rushed and troublesome. I am also at a loss to translate the European scanlator’s colloquial final dialogue; I am guessing that Sue’s retort was something about “not being finished yet” (playing on the page inking that Ogiue requested before napping off) followed by a declaration that she has yet to secure Ogiue’s .. panties (???) This translation is clearly NOT even close:

One of the machine translations dropped the word “pants” into the output. It would fit… Who knows? Meanwhile at least one of Sue’s hands is up Ogiue’s sweatshirt and much further “taking” is strongly indicated in a final cut-out panel.

Hmmmmmph! Maria Sama is still watching.

I am even less impressed because any Sue x Ogiue appears to have been whomped up primarily as a set-up so that Sass-boy can have a somewhat equivalent “triangle” situation to discuss in comparison to Mada’s. Oh wot the heck. Steamy Sue x Ogiue times finally. Kio, may I suggest grabbing some Takemiya Jin for a few pointers, so it doesn’t come off as pure Loser Fanboy service… Please. OMG, no, not the Kurogane Kenn stuff !!!

Mada’s triangle is judged trickier as there is a newborn baby in the mix. For the most part, Sasahara-kun plays his role perfectly by re-iterating how much of a dawg/ player/ scumbag his sempai has become, all while dropping asides about how he would lurv a threesome with Ogiue and Sue (1).

So yeah… Guys.

Putting aside the growing suspicion that Spotted Flower is a Shimoku’s Gate probability line where the majority of all annoying fan pairings/ ‘ships’ that the author was pestered about over the years are to be played out by bored and horny 30-something year olds, the discussion between Mada and Sass is odd in that “no danger of accidental pregnancy from -this- infidelity” is a talking point… As opposed to say; ‘Hato finally got his wish and he uked me, as in took my ass, quite thoroughly!” — although the occurence is mentioned in passing. Madarame appears to be enthusiastic about sharing details, treating the tryst as a Man-of-the-World Experience Points bonus round, rather than displaying any uncertainty over his sexuality. Neither does he give any hint of having a crush on Hato.

Instead of the insecure and flustered contemporary guy harem lead, Madarame now aspires to an earlier (1970’s-1980’s bubble, pre-1992-crash) model of male infidelity as natural privilege, of the kind that so often made a complete fool out of Urusei Yatsura‘s “Darling”, Ataru Moroboshi.(2) If winning the “most interesting mistress experience award” wasn’t enough, Kio-sensei piles on a few extra privilege points. When Mada grumbles about a sense of melancholy and unreality surrounding his life of late, Sasahara spills to Mada that ‘the ex’, (who can only be Makoto Kousaka) was in a pitiful state after seeing [Kasukabe-san], crushed that he had not been judged worthy of husband-and-father-hood by her.

“In my opinion, the idea of getting married to someone as eccentric as him didn’t suit her. And it’s normal. So really, you won her over with your own merits, senpai. And poor guy went back to my place, dejected, after you showed him your newborn daughter.
“Eh? You think so?”
“You look like you’re gloating. Disgusting.”

Also, a fortunate choice of translation: Madarame! You ‘three times asshole’ (as the italian scanlators put it) You DOUCHEBAG! (as Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit suggested.) I found this great essay on why douchebag is a perfect term for entitled manchildren (4).

Aggressively Foolish and Annoying; Expects Privilege.

Lest you think that I went on too long in previous posts about Madarame being Kio Shimoku’s Japanese exploration of the same themes as Updike’s ‘Rabbit’, (3) I can only say that I lack the mangaka’s skills at condensing the argument to a few lines of dialogue. Disappointed fan-boy butthurt over the manga story arc is no longer relevent; Kio-sensei’s ambitions have grown along with his chops. Or he is revisiting an earlier fascination with conflicted emotional plots; Heat Haze/ Kagerowic Diary/ Kagerou Nikki, Yonensai and Gonensai, as his confidence and abilities have grown. If anyone dropped the pictures and framed the dialogue with a smattering of convincing descriptive filler, Spotted Flower could stand toe to toe with most Murakami short stories. No talking cats required. Background music allusions optional. But such would be a criminal waste; Kio Shimoku loves the visual medium: Consider the cute, dishabille bedroom Hato and the look on their half-turned face! Priceless!

Wither Spotted Flower‘s Hato? Kio Shimoku missed his creation, returning them to the story in chapter 12. If their role was only to be the instrument of Madarame’s downfall, why was so much time spent adding depth to her character, her work life as an ero-donjinshi convention sales supported mangaka and her curious partnership with her manager-lover-(collaborator?) Merei Yajima? Unlike Murakami, whose women creations remain magically opaque to their male main characters, the spotted verse has tantalising snippets of characterisation for its women characters, and of course almost a complete character study for Hato as trans-fujoshi-ero-mangaka.

At first glance, and if you continue to squint, Hato has succeeded with Yajima’s help. Their dream of a fennish world to envelop them has come true, even if the cost has been pronounced. Rotten has consumed them. Rotten and the requirements of a hyper-expressed fujoshi practice govern far too much of their lives. In bed with Merei, Hato is still “collaborating” in their production. Merei will send her off, grudgingly citing “research”, even as she knows it is far more. Hato’s long-held infatuation is real and true, but can only be expressed as one or another variant of a late 1990’s BL bonk scene. And in her own way, Hato is just as irresponsible and immature as Madarame. This may tread perilously close to the sin of misgendering but she makes “guy” mistakes about relationship stuff, or at least Kio-sensei has her make mistakes in a way that echoes her residual – kept for BL field missions – guy-ness. Wondering if Yajima “had turned into” a lesbian and was in danger of being seduced by Sue was the most obvious example. The mpreg rediculousness was so off the charts as to be impossible to keep track of; with Hato’s body alternating between being treated as alienated residual and fujoshi lore turned post-gender sci-fi wish fulfilment.

Others can later debate how clumsy Kio-sensei was and where. The fact remains is that it was not necessary to a simple ‘The World of Mada Will Fall‘ plot to do any of this.

2) Wait for me, you’ve gone much farther… Too far.

I fear that both readers and writers of romantic comedies and romances have one thing in common. We have scant idea how a “real” romance (het or other) should “naturally” work. Is it that we suspect that without delusions and puppet scripts and assigned roles no one could ever meet up and sustain interest in another? Twitter and Tumbler are full of pseudonymous queer comments condemning this or that clumsy heterosexual pairing as “too het”, which I take as a shorthand for a sense of alienation and reification with the social role demands and expectations tack-welded onto too many girl meets boy stories. And that feeling reflects a truth. Guys and girls go to “sports bars” to find “normal”, straight, hard-working, easy to understand potential partners as much as they did 600 years ago at the harvest market’s festival.

When I was younger I used to wonder about the innocent fools who would slowly drive their customised cars up and down the main street of my town on warm summer weekend nights. Would they sit down years later and tell a child that he or she was born because some butt-ugly piece of Detroit metal with oversized tires attracted mom to dad?

Yes, Tyler, you’re here because of that ’73 Cordoba with the bitchin’ chrome mags!

This uneasiness is part of why straight folks womp up queer characters for romance tales: supposedly the “scripts” and roles apply less, so perhaps we can watch attraction play out unencumbered by anything more than lust and genre clichés. Simulations. Reduce the variables and re-run the scenarios. We might yet understand the human heart, or at least come up with a few more stories as to how hearts might romp if only they could slip their leashes.

Hello!, have we forgotten someone?

When LGBTQ+ characters show up in vernacular narratives, too often the impression for IRL LGBTQ+ readers is mixed, if not problematic. Even if run-of-the-mill bigotry has been somewhat toned down, rendered déclassé and boorish in the better neighborhoods of the global village, those of minority sexualities and gender expressions face further challenges of “erasure”. ‘It is fine whatever you get up to: I/ we/ society simply don’t want to see (any trace of) it“. The mere public existence of LGBTQ+ people acting as if they have as much right to be where and as anyone else -might- “frighten the horses” . When Shadow-of-gay characters appear, they are no longer invisible but too often they are routinely used in annoying one-dimensional story conventions: over-fanserviced or one or a couple of tragically killed off lesbians, outlandish performing ‘Hard-gay” guys and for trans*/ gender non-conforming/ non-binary folks, the otokonoko, the okama, the butch dyke and the crossdresser. No wonder IRL LGBTQ folks feel whiplashed. The choice between erasure or burlesque representation is not much of a choice.

Given that us straight folks ain’t gonna stop making up LGBTQ charas, some pointers or at least suggestions from the tojisha community might be a really really good idea. A decade ago Dr Mizoguchi made it clear what she thought should be extirpated from BL: so-called “rapes of love” and “I’m not gay, it’s only you”. Less obvious was her weariness with both exotic and straights-struck-by-lightning guys. What of just-so, hard-working, “yeah, I’m a gay man, what of it?” protags for BL stories?

Without looking for one singular “rulebook” for lesbian representation, one can probably intuit that extreme fanservice, including threesomes and moresomes; “killing your gays” and the insidious Maka Maka effect (fanservice angst-y f:f schmexy while either or both of a pair wait for “the right guy”) should take a rest. For gay guys, probably it’s more a matter of degree. You have the guy who works with the woman MC. You don’t have to  “queen him out” so that he can be a team-mate/ sidekick and not a romantic interest. An offhand mention is sufficient. See how useful guy privilege is?

To these obvious pointers, we can now add a few new ones for trans* characters, thanks to Twitter threads by Bogi “Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs @bogiperson”.

Who?

“I both edit and review a lot of trans-related fiction. I edited Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 (#Lammys winner) and the upcoming Transcendent 3 too. :)”

Ok, thems sound like experience points.

  • Writing thread! Introducing trans and/or intersex characters – some common and less common pitfalls! 
  • Worldbuilding thread! Some pitfalls related to shapeshifting, gender, and trans people.
  • Worldbuilding thread! How (not) to include trans people as background characters – some common mistakes.
    — Threads archived at: [ https://threadreaderapp.com/user/bogiperson ]

Nowhere in these is there a requirement that trans* charas must be perfect Whoever-Xues (we need a name/term for the wish-fulfilment self-insert non-binary chara – my suggestion with an X in this case follows the Chinese convention of pronouncing a leading X as Sh) These tips make plenty of sense and as a bonus, rid potential stories of more than a few groaners.

It was a dark and stormy night as our otokonoko protagonist stood naked in front of the mirror” can now be excised for one further reason. I found it a fun game to keep a tally of how Kio-sensei’s Hato fares as I went through the lists. Some of the tropes might be too western-specific, others subverted (the Stand(s) were incredibly useful) while others were purposefully worked against to follow a theory-ish plot-point. The last of these; a trans social for Hato remains glaringly absent because Hato instead chose a fujoshi/ otaku social. We shall see how far Kio Shimoku continues to push a conceit noted by Takahiro Ueda; that “otaku is a violence against gay” [http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf]

Is it time to make Spotted Flower‘s snoopish editor Endou queer, so that she can drag Hato and Yajima off to a cozy Ni-Chome bar?

3) Per Aspera

That’s two of them.. Please read the thread archives for the rest. My two cents towards adding to a “best practice” code of conduct for straight writers dreaming in queer would be that that ya can’t go wrong if you keep the tone of the settings, or at least of the actions of your idea-of-queer character “aspirational”. That appears to have worked well a few times. You can also hide a fair amount of sloppy behind it.

Meanwhile…

Kio-sensei’s new thing about the chorale ensemble seems to be taking up most of his recent attention. I look forward to eventually reading it, even buying the tanks next time i make it to Japan. Spotted Flower remains viable and exultingly open ended. Yajimacci! Hato-sensei’s mainstream debut and how Endou-editor-san manages it (is she completely out of her depths when it comes to broaching the DMAB subject?) Saki’s suspicions; Saki going home to see mom for a month (a very typical Japanese post-natal tradition) Mada at loose ends.

Mada and Hato must end up at a love hotel! It should be one of those really tacky ones that look like a castle! Bonus if they get to their room and Mada pulls out 2 six-packs of beer, munchies and a game console loaded up with ototkonoko games. Hey Mada, if you dont bring some blue pills then we’ll all know that you plan to do the po po pitiful me sou-uke hime routine… forever!

Otherwise, Mada’s next big level-up event will be Kousaka popping him one in the snout.

 

ENDNOTES:

(0) LATER: I had been taken by a silly notion to prefix a few posts with links to neato stuff I found online and simple life hacks in order to throw shade at a right-wing  web-philosophe. Huh? That really screwed up the flow. Ok, so I move it HERE:

Nor see three great movies… (a diversion as prologue)

I just heard that some philosophy professor became an internet sensation with his cranky “get-off-my-lawn” conservatism partially by the trick of slipping some simple life tips into his screeds. Could it be that “You might do better impressing a girlfriend if you brush your teeth and floss. Now here is some softpedalled transphobia…” is a winning rhetorical strategy?

Fine, two can play. Here’s one from left field: Your shower. You got one? Does it have a shower head on a hose? If so, I am going to make your life a tiny bit better. Most shower hoses are those metal clad thingies and they are typically 80cm-1meter long. Urasai! Buy a 1.5m, no screw that a 2m one! Wrap the shiny ends in duct tape before tightening with rusty pliers. Don’t mess up the rubber washers. I should sign up for an affiliate on these but haven’t yet. Here’s an Ebay search: Wow, lookie $5-$7 including postage. You could also try to find one cheaper on Aliexpress.com (all their stuff is cheaper if you use their app). Grab one, it will get to you in a month and then your life will be a tiny bit better and you will subconsciously associate all my opinions with happiness. I think I’m going to do more of these, as a semi-regular annoyance/ feature. Mwahhh Hahhh Hahhh!
Anyway, what kind of philosophe aspires to be a bully?

(1) As well as the European fan translators, I am indebted to Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit for help puzzling out chapter 27. Please support the magazine and Kio-sensei; Rakuen LeParadis can be purchased as an e-book/ Kindle publication on Amazon.co.jp
[https://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?__mk_ja_JP=%E3%82%AB%E3%82%BF%E3%82%AB%E3%83%8A&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE&rh=n%3A465392%2Ck%3A%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE]

(2) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urusei_Yatsura] . Rumiko Takahashi [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumiko_Takahashi] remains a living god of manga. As of writing at 60, she is still working; her current project being the retro flavored (Kyōkai no) Rinne.

(3) Not for a microsecond am i suggesting that Kio Shimoko is cribbing from Updike. Guy misbehavior is ubiquitous, there is plenty to go around. I’m just suggesting they both have booths at the same county fair.

(4)[ https://gawker.com/douchebag-the-white-racial-slur-we-ve-all-been-waiti-1647954231 ]