Upwind from Yoshiwara

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s wrong with that?

Meanwhile Japanese vernacular fictions keep trying to set them up with (or turn them into) Kabulock‘s Mrs. Hudson. Mrs. Hudson the Okama (venerable/ well used old rice-pot) crossdressing gay/ female impersonator-performer/ proto-non-binary character is a staple of Japanese manga/anime/game demi-monde settings (Tokyo Godfathers, Darker than Black, etc.) inherited from lurid pulp true-crime-sex-perversion pulp magazine stories that enjoyed wide popularity from the 1930’s through the 1970’s. The term itself is loaded with crude, nasty double meanings; suggesting someplace a guy (or dick-haver) would be ill-advised to visit, due to past over-use and rice residue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And at this point, the Isekai gets ugly.

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

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

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

more horror here:

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

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

Quaint cultural practices warning remains in effect.

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

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

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

Hard to make a Sherlock tribute from something like that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please Like & Subscribe.

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

Be a productive member of society

 

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

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

TLDR: Slumming is your best tourism value.

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

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

And sexier (if still burlesqued) criminal masterminds…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Given; my little guy band, male friendship is magic

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

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

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

Tabby Praxis

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

Problematic, even…

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

This is confusing.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

A myth of originality

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

As well, there’s the schmexy.

We need the schmexy.

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

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

Lacanian as all fuck!

Lacanian as all…

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

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

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

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

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

GIVEN:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Sato sings a melody line and Uenoyama is taken.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audience is restless.

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

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

SO WHAT?

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

They will inevitably leave the stage.

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

 

ENDNOTES:

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

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

Worthy of Grace

“HEY YOU KIDS GET OFF MY LAWN!”

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

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

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

Here we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOFF:

B+S: “What now?”

HOFF:

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

HOFF:

B+S: “Uurrrrrrr…”

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

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

HOFF:

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

HOFF: “No shade at Lily?”

B+S: “No shade at Lily!”

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

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

HOFF: “whyyyyyyyy?

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

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

B+S: “Feels uncomfortable.”

HOFF: “Whyyyyyyyyyyy?”

B+S: (mumble)

HOFF: “Can’t hear you.”

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

HOFF: “Fuck You!”

B+S: “No; Fuck YOU!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What happened with the Sailor Girls? “

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

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

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

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

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

B+S: ” Point.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B+S: “Tear away…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B+S: “DRINK TIME!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

B+S: ” T! M! I! 

HOFF: “whuttt?”

B+S: “Jeesh… My turn:”

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

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

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

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

HOFF: “We should do a podcast next…”

B+S

HOFF: “Whaaaaaaaat?”

B+S

 

ENDNOTES:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Work-in-progress warning: Even though this is the last installment of this essay series – and the one that took forever to wind up – I will be still messing with it. As the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and make a few changes. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

Continue reading

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

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

hanjuku_joshi_011 girls school web

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

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

Work-in-progress warning: This series is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

Continue reading

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

“…She said in a poised voice…”

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

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

Work-in-progress warning: This series is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

Continue reading

Too Het #1: A tyranny of impregnative mimesis

Manga whoopie for the disappoint.

Futari Ecchi; seinen manga, Young Animal/ Young Animal Arashi (extra chapters only)
by Katsu Aki, 74 Volumes, Hakusensha, January 1997 – present
[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futari_Ecchi ]

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 1 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Work-in-progress warning: This oddling is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

Continue reading

Japan trip 2019

wherein I announce my intention to play hookey again and run off to see cherry blossoms.

This is a bit early but I thought it a good idea to announce in advance that I will run off to the Enoshima – Kamakura region again this year, from mid-March, through the third week in April. I need to barbecue meat on a beach and only a beach on Sagami Bay will do.

That is if I can manage some nagging health issues. I have approximately a month to heal up; I need to get some exercise in as well so that I don’t end up sprained and lame as I have recently been wont to do. When I get there, I will immerse myself in my riajuu life. That barbecue. It folds up into its nice little canvas carrying case. I blame Yuru Camp/ Laid Back Camping anime. You can buy the little compressed charcoal bricks at Y100 stores.

Niku Niku. Eat meat! Meat is all you need!”

Also; cut down on pop culture consumption, eat good food, go for long hikes in the hills, get the inflatable kayak back in service, de-rust my trusty one-speed granny bike, all while spending quality time with my sweetie.

Kite flying! Art exhibitions! Touristy stuff!

If by chance you know of any fun academic conferences or need me to go on for 90 minutes on any of the theory wanks in this blog for your university class, drop a note in the comment section (mention if you want it private and I’ll keep it so). I might even post a few updates and pictures here and/or on my Twitter feed. They will be boring and have nothing to do with manga or anime.

I am so sick of winter. Bleh!

There is a secluded hilltop mini-park overlooking my sweetie’s town with cheery trees — including some monstrously huge, old ones that tower over the grove. We eat onigiri and share sakura chocolate there every year.

This year too.

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5: Kio’s Gate

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5
Kio Shimoku, Quarterly manga in Rakuen Le Paradis magazine
https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/

Free web extra chapter 29.5 Dec 30, 2018:
https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol28/trial/1230_kio/HTML5/pc.html#/page/1
via https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol28/trial/1230_kio/

Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on  Amazon Japan (kindle) #29 Feb 28, 2019
Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on Amazon Japan (kindle)  #28 Oct 31, 2018

WARNING: Spoilers and lewdz ensue.

Horny on Main:

English language fan-translations of Kio Shimoku’s follow-up to his Genshiken saga have fallen way behind, leaving only rabid determined readers to search out other language scans and try their hands with phone translation apps. As well, a vocal number of the old-guard Genshiken fans have walked away from Spotted Flower as sequel, bitter that the author slammed his two most prized creations together for a few pages of furtive guy-secks. Much powder was burnt discussing if Spotted Flower can even be considered a sequel to the Genshiken, or even if it was all a dream, or a doujin-within-a-manga, penned by a 29 year old Ogiue.

I think we all missed something. Slow on the uptake. Sensei pulls out the bamboo cane and starts doing emphasis whacks, as if at some crusty zazen class.

Spotted Flower is here for the lewdz!

There used to be a heck of a lot less sex in the Genshiken. Think back. Horny virgins. Much allusion to sex and desire and “enjoyment” and DIY doujin porn yet no sight of it. Three eventual couples but even among them, intimacy treated like murder in Greek tragedies. Performed off-stage. Saki in the original Genshiken letting slip that Kousaka did her while gaming, Ohno’s famous “This is what I…” as well as one vague reference to cosplay fun with Tanaka. Ogiue cheesed that Sasahara doesn’t act more “forceful’. Otherwise it was teasing allusions all the way down, even with Angela and Keiko underfoot.

Rakuen LeParadis has a completely different readership demographic and Spotted Flower is a different property but perhaps we all were thrown by Saki/The Wife’s pregnancy. The characters are all grown up now. They get to do sex but somehow adult married sex feels disenchanted, less than as if they were still bright and shiny young things. Boring adults are boring as they get bored. They have nothing but their old otaku hobbies to do any more except fuck, and then fuck around. And thence back to work. Perhaps we were tricked into considering awkward married intimacy as somehow less lewd than???

By the time Kio-sensei was ready to go on a tear, we had all been properly set up.

One IRL year ago – the pace of Spotted Flower time crawls with its quarterly releases – Madarame was trying to get Sasahara to stand as alibi for Hato’s scent on a house coat and was doing a damn poor job of it; turning the meetup into a brag session about some definitely not boring married 30-somethings’ sex. At the same time, Sue had come upon her napping boss Ogiue having a mildly hawt dream and had snapped; not merely stealing a waking kiss, but grabbing Ogiue’s boobs and vowing (in an echo of their first meeting) to steal her panties.

Chapter 27.5
Editor Endou attempts to gain more information from Ogiue about Asaska-sensei (Hato’s pen-name – possibly Hato/Yajima as a ‘circle’) and ends up going out drinking with Ogiue’s group plus Hato and Yajima after a day of convention doujin selling. Endou does her best to put aside her questions as to why Hato/ Asaka-sensei had a boner under her dress that one time, telling herself that her job is to encourage creativity. She then proceeds to get blind drunk and has to be carried by Yajima back to Hato and Yajima’s place – where it appears festivities continued. The next morning, Endou wakes foggy and hung over and bolts into the shower/ bath room (typically the toilet bowl has its own separate “water closet” in Japanese homes) where she gets a full-monty nekkid reveal of a just-showered Hato. Endou screams…

Chapter 27.5.2
Sue continues to sexually harass Ogiue with her big boobs. Ogiue ends up with her head under Sue’s top and decides to turn around and go for it.

Chapter 28
Ohno visits Saki, bringing her own baby and nurses both kids. Saki nods off from exhaustion. When she wakes, she tells Ohno that she suspects that her husband has cheated on her. Unsaid is that we all know that Saki knows damn well with who.

Chapter 29
Sasahara is at Ogiue’s and Sue is sitting next to Ogiue. As Sue gets overenthusiastic, perhaps in an effort to spite the boyfriend, Sasahara acts as if he he is enjoying the show then lets slip that he has heard big gossip. Ogiue, guessing what he is thinking about Sue’s antics, proposes a threesome in exchange for spilling the goods. Sue goes into shock, visibly traumatized as Sasahara is left speechless.
In a final panel, Mada is heading home from work.

Chapter 29.5 (free web extra)
It is immediately after the hangover morning naked shower reveal. Hato had been thinking about a newly acquired naughty doujin while showering and was sporting an erection when Endou bumbled in. Endou-san is traumatized. Yajimacci angrily shoos Hato to the bedroom and tries to calm/ explain matters to their new editor. Yajima even tries to sell Endou on the idea of Hato/ Asaka-sensei coming out as a fujoshi transwoman but this flips Endou’s ‘pro’ switch: the idea is shot down as likely to be taken as a stunt. Yajima senses that she is on the verge of losing their editor and plays her ace. Yes, sensei and her are a couple but sensei has had an “it’s only him” male crush since their university club days. Endou goggle mode to %110, coolant pressure rising, editor re-captured. When Hato is fetched back into the living room, Endou-san is fully dazzled.

The next issue of Rakuen LeParadis is due out at the end of February 2019.

A few points of note. Props again to the earlier correspondant who characterised Merei Yajima’s management and in-relationship style as “policing Hato’s gender and sexuality”. Merei policing mode at max. At least the cursed demotion to fudanshi status was avoided; fujoshi-dom instead advanced as the main reason/explanation for Hato’s presentation and top surgery. Even then the womens’ fan homosocial/ magic circle that is BL threatens to evaporate for Endou-san:

“Yajima: So, you’re still willing to continue working with us, right?
Endou: I- I guess… I guess it would be fine, but… / I’m not sure if I can talk about BL as freely as before… But it should be okay…?”
Spotted Flower, chapter 29.5, pps 10-11 Translated script by athrun_chan

…Which forces Merei to play her ace.

Wait for the sneaky self-satisfied-author kicker. The last words in the chapter mumbled by the now-fascinated Endou are in the nature of:

“You like BL, but that’s not quite it. I thought that…”
–ibid p14

Kio-sensei is slipping us the notion that the neat little indeterminate-Hato puzzle he built for his Genshiken Nidaime readership has now hooked an in-story bystander. Once again Hato becomes both fujoshi creator/ consumer/ fangirl and male remainder whose same-sex desires can be offered up as bounty to the fujoshi collective. Can Endou make the conceptual leap? She had already granted tentative lesbian couple status to Yajima and Hato (a not unheard-of judgement as acknowledged by Yajima) but lesbian fujoshi are no big deal in their fandom. What is missing is the usual “heart-of-a-girl” placeholder-ism for a trans* /genderqueer identity. Only the unique trans-fujoshi conceit remains. There will be no table manned by CYAN publishing reps (Endou’s company. I’ve seen that logo before; is it a call out to one of Spotted Flower’s publishing company Hakusensha’s IRL divisions?) at any future Tokyo Pride parade. Not yet. Then again, Kio Shimoku’s critical view of fujoshi socials tracks with a 2000’s era (and earlier) apolitical/ socially disengaged view of BL fandom. Some suggest that this is changing.

However Japanese publishers, even in 2019 remain known for their cautious, conservative incrementalism (backed, tested and proven with sales figures). Endou-san’s division might anthologise select Asaka-sensei doujins but their bread and butter appears to be work-safe properties that ‘pro’ mangaka like Ogiue churn out. Ogiue’s circle might still whomp up some ‘good stuff” for big conventions but that’s a special treat for hardcore fans. Asaka-sensei must remain a trade secret for now.
.

1.048596%

I never completely got the existential shock that drove a significant number of Genshiken and even Genshiken Nidaime fans to make such a big deal out of whether Spotted Flower was a ‘true’, voice-of-god, cannon sequel. From the beginning, Kio-sensei’s pro-forma denials, wrapped in legal and industry rituals for an author two-timing different publishing companies made any final and definite pronouncement impossible. From a Schrödinger’s Spotted Flower, the obvious resolution, a wink and a nod toward the fannish conceit of the AU (alternate universe) seemed an inevitable step, especially since Japanese pop fiction is jammed to the rafters with time looping and probability shifting stories.

Spotted Flower ch 35:
Drunk Hato, Yajima and Endou garbage-pick an ancient IBN laptop and a microwave oven on the way home from a post-convention piss-up.

Few hardcore Spotted Flower detractors were ready to make the conceptual leap. Most who wouldn’t seemed to be guys. I might be wandering into wild speculation-land but guys don’t generally immerse as much in fanfiction culture. Even if aware of the lore, could the AU trope possibly be too ‘gendered’ for serious manly-fan consideration? Or the consideration of a subtype of guy fan? Give stuff like that a chance to get loose and next thing, it’s all multiple probability rotten fangirl shipping fic all the time. All the way down. Rinse, repeat.

Only a dream? Ok. A doujinshi-fied roman-a-clef that turns out to be authored by the “real” Ogiue. Cool Story Bro!. Kio Shimoku wanting to wreak misery and heartbreak upon the Old-boy Genshiken fandom, using his insidiously powerful ball-crushing attention-whoring gender-bent Hato creation as a 10-ton shithammer? Always suspected as much. Everything Hato Touches Dies!

Waughhhhh!

What sad lack of imagination! Kio Shimoku got to the laptop and microwave oven first. If the author does it, it is no longer an AU. It took a bit of effort but he created a probability line where everyone lives, gets bored with their riajuu lives and starts fucking around. Then they really go at it. A lot!

Behold! Kio Shimoku’s ecchi adult ensemble rom-com achieves a stable divergence value.

Hijinx ensue! Who gets threesomed first?

Also; never stop reading or scanlating Spotted Flower.

Because…

 

Shimoku’s Basilisk.

Time enough for rotten doujins

It is important to consider perspectives.

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

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

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

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

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

Oh lookie, a shiny shiny new thing!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whirrrrr… whirrrr…. Whackackackack… whirrr.

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

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

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

Oh heck! One… More… Time:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe that genre needs a more subtle approach.

Also, read the thesis paper. Good’un!