My new found popularity

Sic transit gloria mundi

Much to my surprise, people are reading this blog. Why is another matter. WordPress makes available to bloggers a running statistics page about our blogs, with page views, unique visits, countries and …. and…

…Some of the search terms used by folks who ended up here.

Fret not, most of the searches don’t seem to get stored by WordPress. Per their help page:

Some search engines don’t reveal search terms for privacy reasons.  That’s why we don’t always know which search terms were used by visitors who arrived at your site from a search engine.  When we don’t know the search terms, we show them as “Unknown search terms”.

UPDATE: In September 2013 Google started to rapidly expand the number of searches that it encrypts, which results in a higher proportion of “Unknown search terms” in your stats.  According to some sources, this expansion will eventually result in encryption of all Google searches.  This is being done for privacy reasons by Google when someone searches at Google.com, before a visitor arrives at your WordPress.com site.  Therefore we don’t have any way to unhide the search terms.  We recognize this means a loss of stats information for you and we will look for other ways to show you how users arrived at your site.

But for those of you who don’t https:// …

It’s nice to be fancied, but gosh and jeepers, they’re ain’t no hawt pr0n here no how. Just a lot of “wow! lookie at that, wonder why they did it?” on Japanese manga and anime, and some sloppy attempts to throw some of it at theory and academic studies and see what sticks.

ooops.. busted...

It’s a hobby.

I wonder what the lists from senior, serious bloggers and blogs look like?

I want to feed this stuff into a random poetry generator, or…

What were you all thinking? (warning: naughty words ensue below the cut)

For everyone else, here they are:

Continue reading

The paper tigers roar at noon

“The number of persons or institutions by whom the existence of gay people–never mind the existence of more gay people–is treated as a precious desideratum [something wanted], a needed condition of life, is small, even compared to those who may wish for the dignified treatment of any gay people who happen already to exist. Advice on how to make sure your kids turn out gay, not to mention your students, your parishioners, your therapy clients, or your military subordinates is less ubiquitous than you might think. By contrast, the scope of institutions whose programmatic undertaking is to prevent the development of gay people is unimaginably large…”
— Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Epistemology of the Closet (1990)

“Anthropologist David Graeber argues that we must move beyond the definition of value in terms of the economistic individual evaluating objects’ exchange value or use value and beyond the overly holistic and static structure of a society’s ‘values’, because neither is much help in developing social theory that accommodate people’s efforts to [change society purposefully] [ital mine]. Instead, Graeber encourages us ‘to look at social systems as structures of 
creative action, and value, as how people measure the importance of their own actions within such structures’ (Graeber, 2001: 230). I am interested in seeing what thinking in terms of characters and premises might do as a kind of ‘operating system’ on which dispersed participants work in their particular areas of expertise. Few people within the process feel that they have a tremendous amount of ‘power’, but they would likely concede that as a group they work towards common, or at least somewhat shared, notions 
of value. As one anime producer said to me in an August 2006 interview in which he discussed his enjoyment of script meetings, ‘You get hooked (hamacchau). You like the characters. They become like friends, and you want to spend time with them.”
Anime Creativity Characters and Premises in the Quest for Cool Japan by Ian Condry

The attraction of the manga narrative lies precisely in that it is not great literature. It a simple, small machine that sets out to do one thing.

MIZUTAMA HONEY BOY/ 水玉ハニーボーイ; 水珠HoneyBoy
Released: 2015 Author/Artist: Ike Junko.
Genres: Comedy, Romance, School Life, Shoujo, Sports

Honey boy frontspiece C0p4

(Mild spoilers ensue)

They riddle and corrupt the heart

Aside from a few publicly funded art galleries who go hunting for “inclusive content” to assure their next year’s grants, some of the oddest examples of “want more hoyay” can be currently found in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture and the vernacular narratives that it spins out. Paradoxically, these are overwhelmingly straight-created fantasies of gay, lesbian, queer, trans*, inter-sex, asexual or just plain “non-conforming” identities and desires. Even if some of the creators are from minority identities, the overwhelming majority of their readers remain vanilla, boring “straight”. These go to their manga to dream in queer. That they so dare, in their society which is so fixated on outward shows of conformity and homogeneity, makes these dreams transgressive and that much more appealing. Those “in the (real) life” get to shrug their shoulders (or roll their eyes and grit their teeth) and wonder if the column inches are worth the confusion. The stuff is annoying, it seems to get in the way of realistic depictions of sexual and gender minorities but on the other hand, it does some small work pointing out a degree of dissatisfaction the mechanistic societal ideas about who should do what, why and to whom. Meanwhile a lot of weird manga characters get whomped up and turned loose to run about finding the true love that threatens to elude their readership.

Shojou manga, seems to lead the way as the go-to genre for characters and stories that push at and play with the normative assumptions surrounding identity, sexuality, desire and gender conformity, all while at the same time-serving as a reservoir of stories that exalt frighteningly conformist ideals of the status quo. The real estate covered is sprawling, the inhabitants unruly and the readership more varied than one would first imagine. Shy girls find strong, good-looking boyfriends just as often as girl princes ride off into the sunset with rose maidens, cheered on by happy seme x uke BL couples. Many theorists from Matt Thorn on have pointed out that the shojou genre has a habit of pushing boundaries and nibbling away at convention. Yup, it’s just romance tales for young women, pay not attention to the weird stuff behind the curtains but if you are wont to pay attention, why waste any effort on a piece of fluff like Honey Boy? This one is not only odd, but “wonky” in the sense that its pieces don’t quite fit together properly, or rather they hold together just well enough for fluff.

The harmless paper tiger bears strong fascination for the young

The first problem is the mangaka, Ike Junko. Honey Boy is penned by a very shojou mangaka, an up-and-coming talent whose one-shots have been popping up in Lala Magazine since 2011. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaLa]

Lala’s readership is, per 2009 figures;

“97% female while the other 3% are male readers. Its age demographic consists of 4% percent for under-13 readers, 23.4% for readers aged 13–17, 20% for readers aged 18–20, 13% for readers aged 21–23 while the remaining 29.7% of the readers are aged 24 years old and up.[3] Readers aged 24 and up are the demographic of the highest percentage.[3]”
– ibid Wikipedia Lala

Previous/ other works by the mangaka include: See You Again (2011), Sabaku no Requiem (2011), Bear Bear (2012), Tsubakizaka Tricolor (2012), Sora no Yousei (2013) and The Thief and the Jewel Girl (2013), all are standard shojou fare, some set in high schools and others in fantasy settings. The characterization, dialogue, action and emotional display center around the young heroine and sometimes include her female friends. The guys are all pretty standard bishie teen guys who the heroine can get interested in and happily-ever-after on.

Honey Boy drops a young gay-boy stereotype into the mix and then makes him straight.

Superficially, it looks like Ike Junko is a fan of Ayumi Komura’s Utsosuki Lily. Mizutama Honey Boy reads like an homage to it, or at least some of its female characters. Bits of Morinaga Miruku also seem to pop up out of the whirlpool and I’m sure I am missing the footnotes for an entire stadium full of venerable Shojou manga tropes and quirks.

What is a level-headed, competent and strong young woman to do, besides transferring to an all-girl’s school?

All the boys in high school are scared of Mei Sengoku (that family name!) or consider her a weird “warrior girl” or a “Samurai” and too many girls are writing her confession letters. Does she have to start deferring to any and all loudmouth young guys and/or walking pigeon-toed in order to have a normal high school life? Should she cut her hair short and go for the bifauxnen vibe? It would make for less time in the shower after a good sweaty Kendo workout. At least she isn’t being bullied (the women’s Kendo team captain? bullied? By definition she is un-bully-able), but still she feels something is missing.

Sengoku-san is a strong female lead, beautiful, intelligent and heroic in her day-to-day life. She doesn’t act deferential and soft-spoken and neither does she act genki or delinquent in order to pull it off. When she walks, she walks like a person who is going some place rather than a knock-kneed baby woodlands creature. She cuts a striking figure in her hakama and is seldom seen, even in civies without her shinai case. What she wants is to get on with her Kendo practice, keep her grades up, help people who need her help and make a few friends.

They drink no blood, they taste no meat

Perhaps in a more typical setting the boys would be all over ms. warrior. She is constructed as one of, if not the most beautiful woman in her school. There should be the athletic good guy and the slightly dangerous delinquent-ish guy competing for her attention, but they are nowhere in sight. Instead…

Shirou Fuji has family circumstances; a mom who wanted another daughter and a classically away-on-business father. A bishonen who runs more than a bit over the herbivore line to the point of effeminacy, his gender performance is nuanced towards what he likes (mostly domestic home-ec-ish stuff) rather than a full-on roll-out of cartoon dysphoria. That is if you look close enough. At first glance he is what can be un-charitably described as a flaming pooftah. His worst fault is that he is over-supportive to the point of being a parody of a classic helpful female chara. He is a boy Morinaga Miruku home-ec club heroine who won’t stop baking cookies and cakes for the one he admires. And yup, he makes a tasty bento too.

Make no mistake though, he is straight enough (or functionally straight enough) to thoroughly desire Warrior girl. He may like frilly things, might even crossdress every so often for situational reasons (Make mom happy, school festival, etc. this variant of Shojou is too chaste to suggest any kink) and may view intimacy only as a subset of overblown romance, but he is after her bod as well as her heart. He wants to marry her. He isn’t too particular about who will wear the bride’s outfit as long as Sengoku-san ends up standing next to him. More than a gender inversion of teen dating tropes, it is as if he has decided to do a full-on faux-yuri girl-crush on Warrior Girl, piled on top of every cliche of demonstrating domestic skill as courting that can be dredged from the pages of the shojou genre…

With one glaring exception; he will be there to protect her.

Honey Boy has twigged to the fact that warrior girl can’t be in %100 full fighting trim all the time. Every hero needs backup and Honey Boy will be there to take the hit whenever she needs a moment to get her twisted ankle taped up. A guy will put himself on the line to protect the girl he has feelings for – them’s the rules. Once upon a time she carried him to the school infirmary and he will carry her as many times as needed to prove how moved he was by the experience. Whether or not he can pull off his odd courtship is where the fun comes in. Being strong is important to Warrior Girl, and she wants to be powerful enough to protect herself and those she cares for, so she is extremely conflicted about his efforts or even how she fits into his romantic notions.

yes you can Honeyboy C0p42

Both Warrior Girl and Honey Boy are straight yet superficially inverted variations on their proper assigned gender roles, though he is clearly a more fantastic construction, whomped up to serve as a foil for the “problems” that her independence creates. Guy’s manga have plenty of initially scary high achieving high school heroines, all with secret weaknesses and flaws ready to be exploited by a harem lead; in that respect Sengoku-san is drawn and superficially resembles any number of tall, dark-haired formidable and supposedly unapproachable high school beauties. On the shojou side of the street, she most closely resembles Utso Lily’s (and Sword Fighter Komachi‘s) Ashiya Komachi.

The small romantic bits are secondary to the what-if speculation about what kind of guy can be a comfortable and fun match for a high-achieving heroine, even as it carries the question off into a series of comedy skits. Honey Boy may be fey, but the cookies are good (not -too- sweet), he is solicitous to a fault, supportive, there for her in a pinch, doesn’t over-talk her, has empathy power to 9000 and shows enough attraction – including physical attraction – to flatter but never crosses the line. In short he is posited as an unlikely but almost perfect fantasy boyfriend for the young female readership; if they ever decided that they wanted to act in a self-confident, strong and forthright manner. And he is gently, persistently and actively courting her. He has promised that he won’t give up and he doesn’t, but neither does he overwhelm her (At first it looked like he was, but the over-gifting turned out to be the work of an otaku stalker)

The first problem with Honey Boy develops from the narrative structure borne out of the inversion. More and more screen time is spent on Honey Boy, until we almost have two girl leads, with both of them occasionally popping back into hetero-normative behaviour during romantic situations, then reverting to inverted roles to diffuse the tension. Utsosuki Lily used to do this to great effect; the cross-dressing male lead “glowed” even more than the girl the day after they finally consummated their long romance. Somehow what worked with an average girl and a straight boy into crossdressing is unstable when it is done with a tsundere and effeminate quasi-gay guy.

In both instances:

“”The underlying perception of (girlish) femininity as unfavorable, is exemplified in the monographs by Fujimoto Yukari and Oshiyama Michiko. Fujimoto’s Where is my place in the world? (1998), one of the most frequently cited works in shōjo manga studies. Based on her extensive experience as a magazine editor, Fujimoto offers close readings of shōjo manga through the concept of gender.
[…]
Fujimoto argues that shōjo manga represents girl readers’ fear of sexuality, and hence their perception of “femininity,” a word which she uses almost synonymously with “female sexuality” in a derogatory tone (50). For Fujimoto, shōjo manga is a medium for women, a text that reflects the values of women most accurately, including the ideology of romance, which teaches female readers to dedicate themselves to love, whether mutual or unrequited (14). Men, she writes, do not fall into that “trap” because they know romance is another name for lust (25). Her negative casting of “femininity” is also evident in her interpretation of Boys’ Love, where she endorses the view that “beautiful boys” in shōjo manga (and yaoi) are nothing more than girls without the female body, and are hence liberated from (unfavorable) feminine sexuality, which for her is synonymous with passivity and objectification in the beginning (142-3).

Manga Studies #7: Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach by Masafumi Monden
http://comicsforum.org/2015/03/10/shojo-manga-research-the-legacy-of-women-critics-and-their-gender-based-approach-by-masafumi-monden/

Honey Boy also seems to play out a rather simple form of a longstanding tradition of proto-feminist complaint; Welker noted it in a study of 40-year-old Japanese gay magazines. (Flower Tribes and Female Desire: Complicating Early Female Consumption of Male Homosexuality in Shōjo Manga by James Welker)  It periodically resurfaces; this 2012 viral YouTube short re-purposes it to a contemporary cause

Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-YCdcnf_P8]

Honey Boy also harkens back to the early 20th century Koha and Nampa typologies of Japanese male behaviour. Recall that the “soft” Nampa tribe was far more appealing to and by most accounts also more interested in women. The “hard” Koha were male isolationists, valuing a male homosocial, if not exclusive desire for males.

A further echo of this pops up in late 1970’s and early 1980’s western queer theory.
Per Sedgewick:

“According to that framework, there were essentially no valid
grounds of commonality between gay male and lesbian experience and
identity; to the contrary, women-loving women and men-loving men must
be at precisely opposite ends of the gender spectrum. The assumptions at
work here were indeed radical ones: most important, as we’ll be discussing
further in the next chapter, the stunningly efficacious re-visioning, in
female terms, of same-sex desire as being at the very definitional center of
each gender, rather than as occupying a cross-gender or liminal position
between them. Thus, women who loved women were seen as more female,
men who loved men as quite possibly more male, than those whose desire
crossed boundaries of gender. The axis of sexuality, in this view, was not
only exactly coextensive with the axis of gender but expressive of its most
heightened essence: “Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.”
By analogy, male homosexuality could be, and often was, seen as the
practice for which male supremacy was the theory. A particular reading
of modern gender history was, of course, implicit in and in turn
propelled by this gender-separatist framework.
– Ibid Sedwick Ch1 p36

So, gender non-conforming Honey Boy is less suitable for same-sex desire as he presents as less manly? This is complicated! Brain hurts!

For the young women readers, Honey Boy posits an extreme makeover of the qualities of an ideal boyfriend while it highlights, again in extremis, the dog-work behind the ideal of proper supportive (usually female) role held up to them in their fave reading materials. All of the cookies, bento, cheering for their crush at sports events, walking home, waiting with the umbrella on rainy afternoons, shopping dates, skiving off from your school festival duties to fill in for a last-minute drop on your crush’s team, taking their place piloting the giant robot…

Having a Japanese high school crush is a heck of a lot of hard work!

This however leads to a further problem: as an effeminate male who is considered as verging toward gay by his classmates, he wields the threat of same-sex desire as a weaponised cliché against male aggression. Utso Lily had a bit of this too, but when the trick is transposed from crossdresser-lite to okama-lite the undertones are meaner.

Fuit weaponized Honey Boy C1p32

There is however a floral background character portrait (Yo! Kio Shimoku! Still waiting…)

It could be worse; at least Honey Boy is not nominally attracted to other guys and Warrior Girl is a case of “only you”, although the possibility of such a dynamic lies lurking as an extra frisson for the readers. Honey boy feels good old-fashioned heterosexual male lust, but he doesn’t need to fake any romantic slip-covers for it; like the pseudo-gay males of BL, romance and lust are inseparable aspects of his unified desire. This is something that conventional straight males are supposedly incapable of. They are too self-absorbed and too busy over-reacting to hide their discomfort with the idea of subsuming any part of their nascent identity to another’s happiness.

Will Honey Boy “man up” for true love? What does that mean? Are the parts where Honey Boy earnestly declares he desire for Sengoku more “heterosexual” and “true” to his male nature than baking cookies?

The primacy of America’s most popular threesome, two dudes and an Xbox, is safe.” – The Lobster Dance, a blog.

When Honey Boy tries to use his gay threat nonsense to dissuade the not-really-a-suitor Kendo Boy from pestering Warrior Girl, he ends up making a rash wager and gets clueless Kendo Boy as a third wheel. After all, Kendo Boy promised he’d “go out with him” if the wager was lost. Kendo Boy may be an idiot but he doesn’t care one way or another about the norms surrounding sexuality, he probably doesn’t even care about intimacy or desire either. He just wants to perfect his kendo on everyone (and any critters) who stands in his way. At least he has one redeeming quality though; he loves his five unruly siblings and they love him.

A happy family is after all the good ending for a shojou story. It helps to validate it within the narrative. Happy offspring will be raised and a living for them and two adults will earned, even if someone has to run the family dojo and someone else has to work at a pastry shop part-time and take care of the kids. Salaryman and shufu-hood as a future looks pretty remote for non-conformist couples of all kinds, but the dream of a cottage business is still dear enough in the hearts of the Japanese readership to paper over that problem.

They roar in chorus, not in tune

The expression of sexuality and gender and its place in our modern societies is a work in progress and the big stumble seems to be finding a nice simple rubric that can explain and organize everything and facilitate a societal consensus. The current liberal compromise in the West, especially the United States is that “presentation of self” eventually manifests innate characteristics and since these are innate it is profoundly immoral to social engineer against them. (as long as these stick to consenting adults, etc., etc..) Besides, creation arranged it that way for a reason, therefore there must be a benefit to its expression; natural is good, authentic is good. For want of a better term, I call this “the doctrine of authenticity“.

The drawbacks to taking this too far are obvious.

On the other end of the nightmare wasteland of easy answers lies the great promise of the social order as a construct and of its malleability. Secular prescriptive systems, the sociological and radical programs that supplant earlier religious attempts to mold societies all posit absolute faith that if social arrangements and structures are tweaked to reward and punish behaviors and expressions, then paradise is at hand; except for the sad need to break a few eggs for the perfect omelet to come. Since societies are a billion times harder to turn than ocean going oil tankers, the lag effects always call for more egg breaking.

Of course there are ways of negotiating between these extremes, but they are a bit hard to explain in a soundbite, and therefore far less satisfying or useful. When you try to yoke these onto a simple story line you sometimes get a brilliant synthesis, other times you get a hot mess, or worse, a warm one.

Innate is Honey Boy’s posited full fledged desire for Warrior Girl and her fluttering heart when his true feelings reach her. Learned is her masculine-ish warrior devotion to “getting stronger so I can protect” and his over-supportive interests in the domestic arts. It helps that both of them are idealized physical types; this story would be far more odd (and ambitious) if he looked like Genshiken’s Madarame and she looked like Yajimachi.

A bride img000022

All the above might drag a bit too much baggage into a simple romantic comedy manga aimed (primarily) at young women. Shojou manga story lines and characters offer subtle variations to well-loved, well established standards; they are designed to be comforting familiar and reassuring. What remains, after all the tricks and inversions can be seen as the distillation of what is supposed to be safe and appreciated.

The one thing that seems to remain constant in shojou manga is the romance. So far Honey Boy has used the residual tropes of physical attraction in a way that breaks the inversion spell and drops the characters back into their proper gender roles, if only for instants of hearts skipping a beat and forceful “I will have youtete-a- tete declarations of love. The guy is still proposing, the woman disposing. This is the catechism of shojou manga, which is also one of its blind spots considering how often girls and women have to take the lead in real-life romance and even, yes, lust. So one would hope that the mangaka kicks it up a notch and finds some reason for Sengoku-san to pin Honey Boy against a wall and make his heart do a few doki dokis too.

Alas the current chances for Honey Boy’s fluttering heart are slim. Sengoku-san may occasionally have a glimmer of feelings for him, but she will continue to brush these away, because she has effectively friend-zoned him – or he had friend-zoned himself. The message is clear; not masculine enough is not good enough for a shojou heroine.

So much for transgression.

 

Hic sunt dracones

If the Genshiken is a shadow or reflection of the contested approaches surrounding expressions of minority sexuality and gender in Japan, would we recognize it as such?
Or are these shadows fraught with their own problems?

Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality intone the Genshiken characters as they dance to Kio Shimoku’s pen-strokes. When some of his readers and fans take his characters or his treatment of them as having real-world resonance it is easy to pull back and exclaim “only a character”. Too easy perhaps. I try to mitigate some of my impulses towards repeatedly raising the cardboard flag by harping on aspects of the internal story limits that Shimoku-sensei has deployed to keep things fuzzy enough that the story keeps rolling along. I use the term “liminality” a lot, perhaps a bit too much, especially with reference to Kenjiro Hato, the de-facto focus of the second generation of the Genshiken.

And then there is the whole “It’s different in Japan”, “No it’s not” argument.

Too bad I haven’t really done my homework regarding the real-world conditions for gay, lesbian, trans, queer and related folks in Japan. It’s undoubtedly complicated there, at least as much as it is complicated here. Their complications are undoubtedly different, but not too different. Anyways, why should I care? Not really my problem. Ok, I could glance at the cheat sheet…

The wiki for Homosexuality in Japan will only get you so far: Monks, Samurai, Kabuki, Takarazuka, Mishima, a local politician, whatever…

From the simple fact that some folks desire members of their sex or know that creation made a slip-up and that they don’t quite fit the gender that they were assigned at birth by virtue of the conventional view of their body bits, things get complicated. Kio Shimoku’s Hato, as all fictional queer characters that go beyond one-dimensional cliché serve an important role. We can displace some of our curiosity onto a cartoon character.

Dammit Kio Shimoku! When are we going to get to eavesdrop on a good long talk between Hato and …. someone(!), anyone… so that we can figure out where in the Hato continuum Hato-ness falls? This is important to us. Unless Shimoku-sensei has an even more ambitious project in mind; to gently nudge us towards the notion that whatever is not really that important: mind one’s own business, behave civilly, respect, and if inclined befriend and support the person, not the tag. Once they decide to clue us in on any personal stuff about sexuality and gender we can then recognise that they don’t eat kittens and that life is better, more interesting and more fun if everybody gets a fair shake, because folks is folks.

That might be a bit too hearts and flowers to fly very far, but it’s as good a place as any to start.

Speaking of flowers; no full-page floral background chara portrait yet! Sadness…

Why anyone would think a cartoon character can give us any insight into real lives is another question. Oh they do; it’s just that the life they give us insight into ain’t the one we thought we were reading about.

This is going to take some shovel-work…

“”The perspectives held by straight people and gay people on straight people’s “reactions” to gay people will be significantly different. Many straight people (not just in Japan) have a reaction that goes something like this: “I don’t mind the idea but don’t really want to have to think about it.” Whereas actual gay people (not just in Japan) would very much like to see others like themselves represented in media, in the public sphere, and in business.””

‘How Does Japan Treat Gay People?’ Quora Answer by Erica Friedman reprinted in Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2015/05/28/how_does_japan_treat_gay_people.html (1)

Allow me to further muddy the waters: I have a sneaky suspicion that few advanced late modernist cultures have “gay spaces” so “colonized” by straight desire as Japan has.

Plenty of straight boys and girls in Japan “really want to have to think about it”, but their ideas are a bit…. odd. Why they feel the need to make up fantastic versions of queer desire for their comic books and cartoons is at least three of the seven mysteries of this high school. Aside from the usual pervy guys who think that “lesbians r hawt!” – either for old-school pr0n exploitation or upgraded Loser Fan Boy/ Yuri Danshi interest; nothing new there to us Westerners – there is also the pervasive effects of 30+ years of fujoshi fantasies, which are now an established pop culture niche market. Western slash fans have nowhere near that kind of commercial influence. Then one can add the entire hobby crossdressing thing, plus the otokonoko/ jousou game genre to annoy anyone with meatspace gender fluidity concerns.

“Slash is usually written by straight women, yes, and I think it appeals to straight women in the same way lesbian sequences in commercial pornography appeal to straight men. I always say that if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.” – Samuel R Delany

All of this makes for an elaborate and complex fantastic queer-space of straight imagination that overlays the situation of real-life folks who are trying to find happiness, dignity, hawt fun and warm fuzzies in their lives. I suspect that western queer folks are going to get a whole lot more of this, now that many of the old prejudices are falling, to be replaced by cable networks sticking their ideas of queer into every new property they can think of.

Since this is all about “how they do it”, curiosity remains at a constant level across cultures. However western societal proscriptions against same-sex love and non-conforming gender identities must have until recently served to somewhat suppress representation and interest. In Japan western categories of gay and queer identities were just so much more exoticism; like nuns in mini-skirts, Santa Claus, vampires and elaborate German layer cakes. Of course Japan had its own folks who liked folks of the same sex and folks who felt not quite comfy with the usual roles that came with their genitalia, but when you start trying to – categorize – ’em according to appropriated nifty outlander notions, things got… interesting.

So what has this to do with the Genshiken?

Kio Shimoku decided to play the Genshiken as a somewhat realistic ensemble story, albeit with light comedy and a few jabs towards fannish excesses. A fujoshi second generation Genshiken may have moved the goal posts a bit, but once Hato was dropped in, the story is now planted at the edge of much larger IRL concerns. At first it was all pervy straight boys, then pervy straight girls but now same-sex desire and gender identity are popping up in the Genshiken’s 3D (in-story “real) world, mostly because Hato, kun and chan wants to try on all kinds of neat ideas. That these ideas are a mish-mosh formed from the weird little stories that everyone was fanning out over can only lead to confusion. Thank the goddess that the rest of the club is not into fan-fiction about Morris dancing.

Is 3D queer desire going to destroy the Genshiken? Are happy endings or evenly distributed unhappy-but liveable endings possible? The first two Genshiken pairings were too easy, almost fated. The next one took a bit of work. This time there will be harem fallout and the possibility of circle queens or kings that could destroy the club. Can Otaku and fujoshi navigate complex personal politics of desire, sexuality and gender in contemporary Japan? Do they, as cartoon characters have to? How much preachy-ness and aspirational story line-ing will we get?

Will we as outlander fans be able to recognize it?

Time for a quick survey of the literature:

“…expressions of male-male sexuality in Japan, coupled with the fact that same-sex desire had multiple forms of expression in homo-erotic sub-cultures during the late 1940s and 1950s, prompts McLelland’s reflection that it is ironic for Western gay liberation activists to assume that all foreign locales have followed the same historical trajectory as they have, or that they alone can provide lessons on how future activism should unfold. While it is true that systematic processes of stigmatisation of same-sex love operated in Japanese society from Meiji on, one does not find an equation of homosexuality with evil in the same way as often occurs in Anglo-Saxon or Judaeo-Christian social and cultural contexts. The work of McLelland (2005), Lunsing (2003), Kazama and Kawaguchi (2003), and others remind us, then, that the foundational concepts of modern discourses of Western sexuality (“homosexual,” “gay,” “coming out,” “lesbian,” etc) evoke very different schemata and connotations in Japanese contexts; they bear new and originary meanings in translations and re-conceptualisations in Japanese language texts, and they exist alongside a wide range of “organic” conceptual categories of non-normative sexuality which can be drawn upon by participants within diverse textual and cultural forms in Japan. This historical overview can also serve as a reminder that “homophobia,” however we define it, exists in Japan in a way that is different from other locales, including those of Western cultural contexts. LGBT identifying individuals in Japan will evaluate the extent to which they want to employ or modify “Western” tactics to challenge inequalities wrought by homophobia, and to what extent they will draw on “organic” historical resources for the same purpose.””

‘Coming out in Japan A survey of attitudes among university students’ by Robert Ó’Móchain   http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol15/iss1/omochain.html

At least weird admonitions from the book of Leviticus play little part in policy debates about public norms surrounding sexuality and gender in Japan. Japan worries more about a diffuse sense of Japanese-ness. Japan is at least as hung up on sex and intimacy as euroethnic societies but it expresses in slightly different ways. What is allowed in vernacular media by law and tradition is different enough to have spawned global commercial and gift-exchange networks to spread an ephemeral, local pop culture across the globe. Japan, as a non-judeo-christian late high modernist culture is our fave post-lacanian “Big Other” They are our “Rimmer from the double-double universe” with a few more doubles added. The are us, but not us, but they could have been us, and we might have been them. The urge to pick over their stuff for ideas we can swipe is irresistible.

Hit the search box up top for Adrian Piper again if you need more on this.

Normal variations in sexual preference go back through Japanese history as they go back through all human history. Similarly, whatever small statistical range of folks who felt themselves to be not exactly how society told them to be according to the private parts they were born with has probably been a constant all over the world since the paleolithic, but who cared what self-reproducing farm equipment felt? Plant and harvest or die. The few who could avoid agricultural servitude made up whatever they could get away with and if they were good at it, founded traditions. Or the survivors who mourned them did.

Japanese same-sex desire has adapted its public social manifestations to Japanese societal imperatives at least since Meiji times. Mercantilism? Colonialism? Militarism? We got a gay for that! Koha and Nampa stand out as examples on the male side. And then there is all of those outlander concepts to try out, appropriate and adapt. Some losses (or gains?) in translation are inevitable.

“Omit the reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks!”

‘Out Gays” or “Shameless Gays”? What Gets Lost, and What is Gained, when U.S. Queer Theory is Translated into Japanese?’ video of lecture by J. Keith Vincent at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko8-FFARvhw

Here is a consideration of the evolution of the public construction of identities surrounding female:female desire that touches on the western imports:

“From the groundbreaking 1894 translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s
Psychopathia Sexualis, translation has played a key role in leading Japanese to reexamine, redefine and reconstruct their sexualities, making possible the establishment of Japanese queer identities and communities in their current form. That is, using borrowed but quickly localized words, concepts, and ideologies, some Japanese have constructed their ownidentity, whether rezubian, gei [gay], baisekushuaru [bisexual], toransusekushuaru [transsexual], toransujendâ [transgender], kuia [queer], or heterosekushuaru [heterosexual]. Even seemingly indigenous words for homosexuality such as dôseiai [same-sex love], and earlier variants, including dôsei no ai, dôsei no koi [both also meaning same-sex love] and dôsei seiyoku [same-sex sexual desire], are in fact translation words that—based on imported notions of sexual perversion (Furukawa 1994, 1995)—represent a shift from seeing (male) sexual desire in terms of “color”, joshoku [female color], desire for women, and nanshoku [male color], desire for men. Perhaps due to the number of loanwords or the distinctions that are often confused in public discourse about gender, sex and sexuality, many queer publications, including every issue of Anîsu, contain lists of queer vocabulary.35 These lists also serve to inculcate prescribed (imported) forms of queer discourse, deepening a sense of community. The words most commonly used today related to female-female sexuality in Japanese are rezubian and rezu, both of which retain pornographic nuances based on their use at least since the 1960s in Japanese pornography (McLelland, forthcoming). Chalmers (2002: 39) remarks that “[t]he connection of lesbianism with pornography is so strong that most women on first hearing or seeing the word rezu (lezzo) associate it with pornography […] denying lesbians a psycho-sexual identity in which to claim a social space in which to move.”
– ‘Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community’ by James Welker http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

More for the reading list:

The previously referenced, ‘Yaoi: Redrawing Male Love’ by Mark McHarry has a quick roundup of historical reference to same-sex desire in Japan, along with its early (2003) survey of the yaoi genre. Note also the footnotes at the end of the essay and appendix, see: http://archive.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html

‘The role of the ‘tojisha’ in current debates about sexual minority rights in Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1213&context=artspapers

‘Death of the “Legendary Okama” Togo Ken: challenging commonsense lifestyles in postwar Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2551&context=artspapers

‘The Process of Divergence between ‘Men who Love Men’ and ‘Feminised Men’ in Postwar Japanese Media’ by Ishida Hitoshi and Murakami Takanori, translated by Wim Lunsing http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12/ishida.html

Wow, didn’t know the history of the term Hentai as applied to pop culture. Fake pop psychology noodie magazines after the war?

“The second characteristic of the genre was the animated exchange that took place between specialist researchers, amateur researchers and the readers themselves. The hentai magazines frequently organised round-table talks where medical doctors, writers, readers and editors came together.[4] Here the discourse of modern medicine which categorised perverse sexual desires as ‘abnormal’ stood alongside testimony from people who themselves had interest in these marginal sexualities. This queer space of the hentai magazines, then, allowed the official scientific discourse of the sexologists to interact with personal testimony from people designated ‘abu’ [abnormal]. That is, these magazines themselves functioned as a type of ‘contact zone,'[5] in which hegemonic and subaltern representations encountered and interacted with each other. Hentai magazines like Kitan kurabu created readers’ columns that stimulated discussion about articles and encouraged exchanges between their readers. Such readers’ columns not only functioned as personal advertisements which offered people with the same interests the opportunity to meet, but also they enabled readers with different sexual interests to engage in dialogue together.” – Ishida , ibid.

A policy prescription approach:

‘JAPAN: Discrimination against Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgender Persons; A Shadow Report, May 2009′
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/Japan_LBT_May09_japan_cedaw44.pdf

A critical view of the Japanese situation from a blogger who regularly posts a roundup of gender and sexuality issue coverage, mostly but not exclusively concerning Japan and fandom:

“Here’s what this should say:

The Japanese don’t oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds in the same way conservative factions of religions do in other countries. This, of course, just goes to show how heterosexual-identified cisgender people of all nations use religion as a front for their own bigotry, because by removing the “cause” of the queerphobia (religion), we are left with nothing but small-mindedness and fear. Change has come slowly for LGBT measures in Japan partly because queer individuals are terrified of being fired or disowned and have basically no legal recourse other than adopting each other for inheritance purposes. While there isn’t a history of police raids or sodomy laws (which lasted 1872-[19? -moi]80) as in the US and the UK, the school bullying crisis shows that, while violence against adults isn’t to the same level, violence amongst children and bullying to the point of suicide are. So, while one might claim that the Japanese value harmony so much that the LGBT community hasn’t faced overt discrimination, the lack of legal recourse for individuals whose jobs, housing, children, and property are threatened by institutionalized queerphobia are still huge national issues that must be addressed. Shibuya has taken a huge step in the right direction, hopefully one that will spur the national government to action.””

– ‘Japan Gender Reader: April/May 2015′ from The Lobster Dance (blog); http://odorunara.com/2015/05/16/japan-gender-reader-aprilmay-2015/

What of transgendered people in Japan? On the surface it looks like contemporary Japan dealt with the legal accommodation of transgendered individuals quite simply and dispassionately, as a medical condition. Reports however indicate that social acceptance of transgendered people is still extremely problematic. Closer examination reveals that “legally transitioned” can only occur after complete SR surgery, a point that is often glossed over in popular discourse (that one caught me too, looks like I will be going back and fixing a few older posts) At least some schools are accommodating some youth, in some ways, if they get a doctor’s note, sometimes, because the central government suggests that they should, if they need to, and anyway they don’t want any more messy bullying-suicide scandals than they already have.

The first time I saw this, it looked like edgy comedy.

Dammit!

Here is PBS Frontline taking a serious look at transgender teens in the USA: ‘Growing Up Trans';
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/growing-up-trans/
No idea what it is like in Japan, but it is good that this is available. It might help some young folks.

More:

‘The Stonewall Transgender Guide to Japan, Section 6: Trans-Pacific:
Differences between Japan and the West’ http://stonewall.ajet.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Transgender-guide-final-1.pdf A chatty informative intro to transgender issues in Japan as a resource to visitors, with an emphasis on community. Sections 1-5 are more of a what to do if you are, and in Japan.

More LGBTQIA info for outlander English teachers and other Japan neophytes here: http://stonewall.ajet.net/start-here/

Wow, that’s more than enough research at least for me, for now. Not even an undergraduate first year survey course reading list, but at least enough to get the beginnings of some idea of what is going on in Japan. Enough to squeeze past any initial “whoaah; don’t need to know any of this, it weirds me out”. “Weirds me out” as an excuse is kind of lame, embarrassing  even.

As the above point out, queer folks in Japan are working things through, while trying to get the gummint to smarten up and while working on ways to cajole everyone else into realising that the sky won’t fall if a kid gets two wise mothers, or fathers.

A few things work in favor of a Japanese “best practice” solution: Not only is there not much nonsense about the book of Leviticus, but big science seems to still carry some weight, or at least offer ammunition for pissing contests by blustering old guys in Japanese political debates. It looks good to be on the side of doing the scientifically right thing. As well, some writers have suggested that outcome in Japanese social forms are at least as important as the characteristics of the individual practice, so while much needs to be adapted and tested out, adaptation is possible. Disneyland is all well and fine; what will it take to get a Shinto shrine to innovate?

Finally, when looking to the rest of the world, there is the unexpected benefit of the United States as negative example (in the way that social issues become fodder for the culture wars). This effect works nearly all over the industrialized world. I don’t think Canada would have ever moved its slow sorry ass on marriage equality if not for the ugly negative examples set south of the border.

Fiat judicia et sniff at those crazy yanks.

Maybe the old guy pols who run Japan are so far behind that they won’t off-their-ass on legal rights until they see how the recent US Supreme Court ruling shakes out. Could they be waiting for a USA example? Does the sky fall? How comprador! The Canadian political elite used to wait until they could tell how the stateside winds were blowing, but they gradually dropped “wait and see” for “get it over with painlessly” from the 1980’s onward. One way to find out would be to scornfully ask…

Here’s the current American “best practice” consideration of gay identity – “sanctified” in a Supreme Court Justice argument:

” Immutability. Kennedy tosses this into his opinion, bizarrely, as a side comment. Referring to gays who seek matrimony, he says, “[T]heir immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” Later, he speaks of “new insights” that have transformed society, including this one: “Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.” Kennedy doesn’t elaborate on these remarks, but they’re huge. Immutability is the biggest difference between homosexuality and polyamory. Even the pro-polyamory law review article cited by Roberts in his dissent acknowledges that immutability is a crucial factor in identifying unjust discrimination against classes of people—and that “polygamists are not born that way.””

– ‘Chief Justice John Roberts says the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling paves the way for plural unions. He’s wrong’ by William Saletan
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/06/is_polygamy_next_after_gay_marriage_chief_justice_roberts_obergefell_dissent.2.html

Meanwhile “don’t rock the boat”, “Don’t disturb the Wa” Don’t frighten the horses”, keep it at home or for the weekend and for the rest of the time pay ritual obeisance to the ideals of public Japanese-ness. You might live with your same-sex life mate, date same-sex lovers, participate in various queer socials, do a marriage-looking thing at Disneyland, you may even be in transition or have transitioned legally to your current gender, but the threat always looms that at any time you will be stuck in the misfit sack. Not quite a member of an untouchable caste, but not quite up to all the demands and responsibilities of being a fully Japanese person who does being Japanese, the properly Japanese way. Something like a Halfu, a returnee or a third generation Japanese “resident” of Korean heritage. And your employer and your landlord can then jack you around because of this too. How convenient for them.

“”Japan is a society where you can easily live a ‘typical’ lifestyle, But Japanese don’t respect our real choice, our real personalities. As long as you are ordinary, you are safe in this society.” –Aya Kamikawa
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/02/1051382096188.html

Plenty of straight folks can no longer live up to that Japanese ideal of “ordinary” either. Plenty of everyone are falling through the cracks. The economy can no longer support the dream. The whole Japanese family and social law thing needs a massive overhaul otherwise there wont be anyone left to work the kombinis, rent apartments, pay taxes and take care of the grandparents. In the end, Japanese social obligations and the customs they spawned are pragmatic. The “do it this way” for having and raising a family is failing massively. Start with marriage equality or better, sex and gender neutrality for marriage and family law. Who gives a rats ass who’s a member of the family. If you have more married folks of whatever genres you have a better chance that someone will do the grunt work of raising kids.

Single-motherhood in Japan is a near-guaranteed trip to the poor house. Revising the anti-war constitution, making teachers worship the Emperor and dreaming of everybody marching around like good little 1930’s army cadets might make some wrinkled old boy pols feel really really happy, but it won’t stop the demographic crash.

Clean up the family register system. Legitimize in law some financially viable alternative to the salaryman-for-life and stay-at-home good-wife wise-mother fantasy. Fix the damn labour code so that folks can afford to raise kids and that kids can actually spend a few hours per week with their parents. Overtime, parent leave, wage and medical/ pension payment benefit floor levels with no sneaky part-time, training, contract and/or subcontractor weasel outs. The works.

This is not me blowing hot air. Folks in Japan who give a rats’ ass over social policy have been pointing this stuff out for the last 20 years.

I hope someone is working on it, even if they will probably have to work on it for free.

UPDATE:  ‘Japan LGBT group files human rights complaint in bid for same-sex marriages’  by Tomohiro Osaki
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/07/national/social-issues/lawyer-lobby-handed-lgbt-rights-relief-request-pursuit-legal-sex-marriages/   Note how a legalistic approach is being persued, with the request to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) the nation’s biggest bar association to investigate the allegation and, if necessary, issue a warning to the central government to review its legislation.

Can we consider aspirational pop fiction like the Genshiken as part of the Japanese debate?

Quietly culturally appropriate emerging gender non-conforming and sexuality diffuse fujoshi Hato! So what if Hato gets or doesn’t get Mada. As long as no blood is shed, no one jumps off a roof, no quack therapists or religious nutters try to drag Hato (or the rest of the fujoshi members) off to “fix” them, no one tries to beat Hato to a pulp or screams at Hato and the rotten girls that GOD HATES FAGS, we can call it a win. The Japanese otaku social way, as exemplar of uneasy Japanese conformity that sometimes looks like civility and common sense, can be good.

Dont’cha just love a happy ending? I wonder how Takemiya Jin would write such a story?

Maybe Kio Shimoku will make things even more complicated.

He sure took a chance when he wrote Hato into the Genshiken. Did he have any idea he would get in this deep? Beyond the few guarded paragraphs in his latest interview, we can only speculate. Surprisingly enough, the more research I do on meatspace conditions surrounding sexuality and gender issues in Japan, the more I am struck by what a reasonable job he has done…

That sneaky so and so…

And he is aware of larger issues. A quick recap: a fujoshi membership doesn’t know any “real” out gay folk, as Saki chides. The echoes of the Yaoi Ronso debates, “it’s only you” and other mid-aughts pop theory surrounding fujoshi practice and queer issues. “Reading this stuff has to have some effect” (or does it?). Hato Hato Hato. What did I miss?

For all the embarrassed curiosity about queer-ish desire, one must acknowledge the fundamental straight-ness, the uneasy, yet pervasive heteronormaliity of the Genshiken tale and its ‘tourism’ approach to Japanese queer concerns. Of course the characters are all nominally straight fujoshi and otaku boys and girls, as (I’m guessing) are most of the readers. If you poke Hato with a stick, both variants will embarrassingly mumble a straight-ish disclaimer. But the problem isn’t gay-straight or cis-trans, so much as fantasies of gay-ness and gender non-conformity. Everybody, when they bother has fantastic ideas about “the other”. The Genshiken runs on the play of how these are so important to the heart, but at the same time, so prone to clumsy misapprehension.

At the core of fujoshi fantasy is the idea that all males, because of innate male-ness are subject to the madness of uncontrollable lust and could at any moment, maybe, perhaps, suddenly go wild and pair off into seme and uke roles. “Gay” seems to be secondary to an essentialist view of males and their propensity to go berserk in interesting ways when confronted by strong feelings. If either or both of them were already gay, it would be somewhat less interesting. (but could still be ok if the drawings were hawt). A crit-speak way of putting this is “erasure of gay identity” but queer concerns are secondary to the curiosities and frustrations of the nerdy fangirls. Meanwhile the loser fanboy brigade has plenty of ideas about why and how “lesbians are hawt” and all of them are constructed for our entertainment. So all Japanese lesbians are either amazingly sexy cartoon fanservice babes, butch and femme and/or so emotionally wise and caring as to be able to work out any painful conflicts and disappointments that pop up. Except for the cheerfully psycho lesbian version of the BFG!

Even with a such a starting point, lookie where the Genshiken has dragged them, as it has dragged me.

Shimoku-sensei has been both skillful and lucky; he has not yet created a ridiculous, insulting or overly fantastic character. Some minor bits of Hato rankle, some are tiny plot contrivances and fancies (the Stands), but all in all the design and engineering is sound and durable. Not flashy, not revolutionary; good quality workmanship. The Nidaime anime could have blown it all by losing the nuance with too much otokonoko hijinx & Stands vibe, but it squeaked by. Fans continue to get sucked in and keep reading. Above all, there is tension in the Hato character, between the fantasy space of the Genshiken and the in-‘verse real world and between approaches to “resolving” Hato and within the self of the character that, if taken too much further would tear the character apart in an analogous ritually performative echo of the very tensions within the contested spaces of minority gender and sexuality identities in Japan. (whew!)

Hato is no simple ototkonoko joke chara, or a fantastic crossdressing heroic lead. Hato chan and kun are not tragic or despairing, Hato has interests and works towards them. Folks try to work things out, hard won personal growth occurs. There will be some conflicts and disappointments and mistakes ‘o plenty, but joining the Genshiken was a good thing for Hato Kenjiro. And Hato is good for the Genshiken, by in-‘verse measures alone.(2)

I wonder if Japanese fans who seek to advance the rights, status and acceptance of gay and trans folks are writing fan letters to Shimoku-sensei, praising him for what he gets right, gently offering suggestions that would improve the product and, most importantly, refraining from sanding him over some small quibbling point of imported political correctness. Be gentle with the mangakas – don’t scare them, they can be useful.

Lets see if he can do more.

Keiko seems to be itching to take a few pokes at Hato. I hope that it just won’t be a jealous girls’ competition.

Perhaps Keiko should take Hato to an okama bar.

If “the adversary” won’t highlight the contradictions, who will?

.

(1) Once again Erica-sensei nails it with deft economy. “Icon” !!!  No escaping it now. Congratulations on your acclamation!!!
Also interesting from the essay page: ‘Persuasion and Opinion in Pop Culture Fandom – Are We the Cart or the Horse? The Persuasive Power of Popularity’ http://www.yuricon.com/essays/persuasion-and-opinion-in-fandom/

(2) It is a wonder that they aren’t swamped with new membership applicants, the loser club rep is now stretched thin. One pro mangaka, another one or two soon to follow, an acclaimed semi-pro cosplay cadre, very interesting members, solid alumni support (one recent sempai a rising talent at a game studio). Not too shoddy.

Off Topic:

‘Sherlock and the British Actor Boom: ‘Regifting’ Female Fandom in Japan’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto
https://www.academia.edu/13126858/Sherlock_and_the_British_Actor_Boom_Regifting_Female_Fandom_in_Japan?auto=download

Thomas Baudinette has recently been doing interesting research on the premise that Japan’s diffuse gay communities have begun to make a grudging peace with some aspects of fujoshi fantasies. Whether as “gateway drug”, “emergency substitute” or even quick “feels” fix. The last of these is probably the sneakiest, because guys have a limited range of strategies available to deal with the recognition of their own weaknesses: Ignore, do research or go Liddy (as in G. Gordon, who was famously so afraid of rats that he set out to conquer his fears in various over-the-top ways). Oooops, going overboard here, in any case some folks who happen to be guys who like guys, in Japan, are beginning to find BL and yaoi not that annoying. A short presentation:
‘Gay manga” in Japanese Gay Men’s Life Stories: Bara, BL and the Problem of Genre‘ by Thomas Baudinette. (you may have to reg yourself at Academia.edu as an “independent researcher” to access/ save the full paper – Do it, it is free and lots of good reading there. https://www.academia.edu/11591779/_Gay_manga_in_Japanese_Gay_Men_s_Life_Stories_Bara_BL_and_the_Problem_of_Genre

 

Another off-topic neat thing: the blog post; ‘The Homoerotic Requirement’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto in her blog ‘Some of us are looking at the stars’ points out a key POV shift in Japanese reception of the “Potter-verse” as opposed to that of Western slash fans. In simple terms, western fen-written slash fanfiction sees Hogwarts as a private high school. Japanese fen see ‘The Heart of Thomas’ and a long tradition of fantasy European boarding schools settings for pining and bullied bishie boys.
https://lorimorimoto.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/the-homoerotic-requirement/#more-205

Zen and the art of harem maintenance

Shin jigoku nan desu-ka?

very hato ish

“Pity boy, can’t you show me nothing but surrender?”

I keep going back to Genshiken’s chapter 111. A few things, besides Madarame starting to act like the lead in a BL tale, suggest themselves. First; when Kio Shimoku originally brought fujoshi fandom into the Genshiken, he was way over his head. Hato was a useful smoke screen lest any IRL rotten girl readers detect in-authenticity in the fannish exchanges of a pure %100 female fujoshi enthused Genshiken. By now he has had plenty of time to do his homework. Look at Hato-kun just lying there pinned on the bed and consider all the small purposefully BL-ish details; the arms, the hand ,the turning of the flushed face… This stuff feels cranked – if not to 11, then at least 10.3

And here is out- of- my- depth- ness part one. I don’t read BL or yaoi. It doesn’t work for me and I have enough residual phobe-bosity that almost all the bits I see in passing either irritate me, put me off or leave me feeling very uncomfortable. It is just me. (and if you want to split hairs, if I am going for nondiscrimination points, shouldn’t I be trying to get used to something other than straight girls’ m:m fantasies?) I also find too many m-f manga romances unconvincing. Everything is going along smoothly and then things get clumsy and sad. Society tells someone to act too forceful or someone else to just lie back and think of their duty to the country, or to some stupid idea of how they are “supposed” to act. it all gets sad really fast. I have a similar trouble with fetishes and paraphilias; they seem to become more important than the warm fuzzies. (One of the odd things about mass culture is how repressive cultural and religious traditions surrounding intimacy and outre fetishes seem to have jumbled together in disappointing ways.) What I do find interesting usually has a strong female character who is just as interested in buddy boy as he is interested in her (…and he mustn’t be a complete clot). No wonder I am a sucker for respectable “Story A” Shinso/ V2 yuri stories.

Kio Shimoku is a pro. If he had any discomfort reading BL, he has set it aside. It sure looks like he has done his research. I suspect that he leans heavily towards dojins or pro works that started out as dojins and that he has also done a light sampling of representative works in the josou genre. And that he is looking for the mushy stuff rather than the over-the-top hardcore stuff. “Think pieces”, BL versions of the complex emotional tales he used to spin.

After years of building up the Hato continuum, and then dragging a hesitant Madarame towards the edge of a m:m romantic cliff, the rotten girl audience is finally getting some fanservice. While a rough translated script was available some weeks ago, the finished English version of chapter 11 has just popped up, at about the same time as the chapter 112 raws have. I searched for the “Hato Ultra-Uke!” line that I saw in the script, but it was the script-translator’s comment, not a translation of a ghost caption on a dialogue-free page. Still it seems to fit.

In case you are impatient, here’s the executive summary for chapter 112: Kio Shimoku goes overboard with lovingly detailed background sketches of historic Niko, while Risa gets folks to pair off to tromp around historic sites. Thanks to Ogiue Maniax for pointing out the importance of the way she paired them off. Madarame is hanging back letting Kuchiki have his day. No embarrassed morning-after glances are being exchanged. Hato-as-chan gets paired off with Keiko. We will have to wait for chapter 113 to see if she tears a strip off of him.

Meanwhile back in chapter 111, I must continue my longstanding Kübler-Ross “fear of a HatoMadaHato hookup” routine. Nope, not buying it at all, still, yet, Nope… Big, big river in Egypt. “Why can’t two guys just be friends, asks Helmut?” It’s just me.

I could go on about “the doctrine of authenticity” and add more about how the two haven’t really talked that much, can’t even do male friendship, Mada’s shyness around women and the pain of the extinguished torch he carried for so long, Hato’s incredible nested layers of liminality and avoidance; “so far back in the closet that he’s half way to Narnia” (as one fan put it) yadda yadda yadda, but of course that would be no impediment for a conventional f:m pairing, so I lose. How atavistic of me. Back to the re-education sessions.

Ideally, at least for some of the invested fan-verse, Madarame should toss Hato-kun over his shoulder and only let him down only long enough to pick up a night bag stuffed with Hato’s chan gear, while announcing to the rest of the Genshiken that his heart (…now and forever, even after the flames take…etc) belongs to all aspects of Hato-ness and that at least a week of privacy will be needed before the happy couple-plus surface for air. Snacks and tubs of magic yaoi lotion can be left by the door. Think of it as a partial harem ending: As Hato is written as being notoriously unwilling to decide on any matters of sexuality or gender, Mada gets twink-Hato, otokonoko-Hato and transwoman Hato as a package deal.

And while we are at it, Madarame is also revealed to be the next Demon-King.

spotted-flower-go extinct

Madarame doesn’t seem to be treating Hato-dysphoria and the possibility of m:m romance as much of a problem, at least in comparison to the shock to himself of actually taking some initiative. With words paired to pictures, heart-breaker circle-king Madarame recedes into further realms of impracticability, (along with Dai-maou-rame) but he was still agitated enough (and drunk enough) to act. Being dumped again seems to be the hinge on which the whole scene turns. Madarame seems free of any kind of “eyuchhh, gross!” ‘phobe reactions. His rolling around embarrassment scene affords Hato, as kun, equal footing with any of the females in the harem, or otherwise.

Madarame felt no qualms about nearly stealing a kiss from Hato-as-kun, and the “you’re the only one I could be forceful with” line, while egregious fujoshi service (shame on you Shimoku-sensei!), does make a point. Madarame isn’t looking at this as a problem of the love that dare not make a too much of a fuss in public yet – the hurt of another dumped-again routine has completely preoccupied him. Those chocolates meant something, on whatever level, conscious, unconscious or suppressed and those feelings are being pushed aside before they can even be talked over. Valentines day choco is powerful magic!

The whole fantasy is fantasy thing is just one more excuse for playing him like a penny whistle and then leaving him stuck back in his room with one more bad case of “what happened?”

Having heard Keiko’s surprisingly bitter, out of the blue appraisal of Hato, Madarame at least has a small sense of permission to act upon his feelings of being a tad ill-used. “What about my feelings?” is a pretty big step for Madarame the doormat. He would never get up the guts to do that to Sue, Keiko and Angela, so it is also only a teeny tiny step. At least Hato’s “chose someone else” has relieved Madarame of any responsibility to show concern he would feel for extremely liminal-read-as-confused Hato chan-or-kun one-sidedly crushing on him. Being a harem lead entails or at least strongly encourages certain behavior requirements, and to Mada’s ill-fortune he seems already to be predisposed to many of them.

I don’t think this is happening (yet):

“In The Seven Basic Plots Christopher Booker uses this concept as his definition of the Comedy genre, only the point is that the Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends isn’t a shoehorn but the soul of the plot:
Start with at least 3 ideal relationships;
Each relationship is stymied because the people involved are:
1. Fixated on the wrong partners and oblivious to the good ones,
2. Failing to communicate, and/or
3. Suppressing their desires due to other factors (e.g., taboos, class distinctions, family pressures, etc.).
The Villain (or sometimes the Hero) is the source of the biggest road block, so
Make him repent (dramatically), and then…
Everyone can cheerfully enter into the relationship they were meant to be in all along.
The Villain (or Hero) acts as a Fisher King, casting a darkness and confusion across all the relationships until his Heel-Face Turn, which frees up the main couple to get together and that, in turn, frees up everyone else.”
–The Seven Basic Plots – TV Tropes

If the Genshiken was a certain spy-novel genre send-up by a sci-fi writer I have been making too much noise about of late, one could even say that Madarame is under a harem-lead geas (cf The Jennifer Morgue). Another way to look at it, and one that is telegraphed repeatedly is how the Genshiken characters go all “meta” with their trope knowledge and look for suggested behaviors, – do this next to follow these tropes – as a way of avoiding/ ironically (go on, lie to yourself some more and call it objectively) distancing their actions in difficult situations. “Fantasy is fantasy” and the dangers of this as a strategy of accommodation with the real world has been the background tune of the Genshiken since it first started. Don’t get me going on it (again) being a rejoinder to Dr Tamaki’s year 2000 book.

You could be too meta by half

And Madarame’s Harem geas is particular, in that he plots out as a subtype of a very conventional, as opposed to fantastic guy harem lead. Mada has no super powers, and neither do the harem members (Hato-dojin-ka-in-panchu comes close, but no cookie yet). He is neither abnormally rich or mired in cartoon poverty (which would then conveniently have him “working off a debt”). After he graduated, he went immediately from nerd archetype to prematurely worn-down low-level salaryman archetype. He is just the classic unlucky in love, socially clumsy around girls, every-guy, or every-otaku.

The only thing that the everydudue can do in such a harem is to try to maintain the wa and to step up and try to protect a harem member in harm’s way. And perhaps steal a kiss if he gets a lucky perv moment.

So, as long as you are willing to put yourself on the line for the girls (1), even the nebbish guy can be a hero suited to his means when the chips are down. After all, the harem genre wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular if the leads could only be all-powerful perfect heroes, neh?

And besides, males are all ultimately disposable drones, neh?

Out of my depth part 2:

This begs a further question: given the popularity of the harem genre, it is surprising that a typology/shorthand for male harem lead types does not exist. Male POV privilege? The girl charas come in well-sorted typologies, the rotten girls have typologies for their semes and ukes, even the plotlines have categorizations, why no harem lead breakdown? Am I missing something? TV Tropes isn’t being too helpful here.

How 2 Harem ichiban_ushiro_no_daimaou_Web

“It normally takes place in a High School setting, with one male lead, and at least three, often a lot more, girls who are romantically interested in him, or at the very least are bound by circumstances to live with him. Gender Inverted Examples also exist. Usually, each girl personifies a single classic characterization archetype. The protagonist either takes it as an Unwanted Harem, or reacts as a Harem Seeker, or Oblivious to Love. Works where a Harem Genre set-up is put in front of other relationship dynamics, and the plot is written with the intention to keep the “race” for the male protagonist’s heart as tied as possible, are known as the Balanced Harem subgenre.

In recent shows, the Harem genre has become somewhat divided into two “routes”. The first, the legitimate “Harem Route”, has the girls choose to share the lead character, equally or otherwise, rather than risk losing him and their friends completely. The other, more realistic route is called “Shuraba”, sometimes translated as “Bloodbath”; here, there can be only one, and all contenders are willing to destroy their enemy to achieve their own happiness.
In other cases, when a work uses this genre together with a more traditional Romantic Comedy Official Couple relationship, that is called the Supporting Harem subgenre.

Many of these works are also shared with the Ecchi genre, as it is harder to find a Harem story that isn’t filled with gratuitous Fanservice than one that is.”

A further point of the harem genre is how completely separate, 180 degrees inverted and sanitized the trope-verse remains from horrible meatspace “harems”. ISIS and barbaric sexual slavery (which they use as an effective recruiting tool for the lumpen-proletariat children of Europe and the middle-east), Amurrican right-wing “quiverfull” cults of female subservience and abuse. Pols, tycoons and celeb guys wanting an “open marriage” after they develop late-onset magic cock syndrome (wow! worked once – must be magic!). The manga and anime harem-verse is for the most part, surprisingly well-behaved. It might be a stretch to suggest that the women in the harem have a some agency, but the story is seldom all about the perfect guy hero accumulating smitten babes.

Here is a real good short and sweet history lesson the modern origins of the genre in CJVC:

History

The lineage of harem is more difficult to trace than one would think. The comfortable, cookie-cutter tropes known today evolved slowly from broader ideas that began to take shape in romantic comedies.

RumikoTakahashiThe thematic elements of harem, though not yet defined, began with the work of Takahashi Rumiko (高橋 留美子). Her 1978 publication of the sci-fi romantic comedy Urusei Yatsura, published in Shonen Sunday, served as a framework for future series.

Urusei Yatsura (1981)

Ataru Moroboshi, the unluckiest young man alive, is selected to defend earth from an alien invasion. This brings serious complications to his love-life.

32 years after its original broadcast, Urusei Yatsura, aka “Those obnoxious Aliens”, became a catalyst for the creation of future harem anime. It is significant in being the earliest series to feature more than two love interests for the central character. Also, unlike modern harem heroes who can’t appreciate their good luck, Ataru Moroboshi ranks as the most perverted teenager on planet earth. The only reason he can’t pick a girl is because he wants all of them. Then, in an un-harem-like fashion, he gets turned down a LOT. Humorous physical abuse abounds. Also worth noting, Urusei Yatsura had a “Beach Episode,” a result of the characters winning tickets via a supermarket lottery prize. Yep, it goes back this far.
– Read the rest at: http://annesanimeblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/better-know-a-genre-part-3-harem-anime/   

Another short history: http://www.the-games-blog.com/history-of-the-genre-harem/

An early, somewhat theory-esque analysis of the genre: All in the anime harem family at:
http://eugenewoodbury.blogspot.ca/2005/12/all-in-anime-harem-family.html

See also Astro Nerd Boy’s quick list of classic Harem franchises: http://anime.astronerdboy.com/2011/05/why-harem-genre.html

What models of harem leading man manly ness are out there? How does the guy navigate his sudden good fortune? What is the take-away from the good ending?

I was thinking about this lately, because the harem genre is surprisingly flexible and durable. A search on a certain aggregator site with High school and Harem checked off yields 249 manga that were interesting enough for groups of nameless folks to scan, translate, clean, shoop and typeset for the rest of us leeching cheapskates. A similar search on an anime site yields about 65 properties, with numerous second or more seasons and OVAs doubling the count.

One of the genre’s big attraction is that a nominally second or third rung guy, even a “failed male” can be the focus for the female grouping, if not female attention. Often the romance is pretty well pre-set or not even that important; you do not really need a fierce competition between the girls. It is as if the guy is an excuse for them to socialize and the harem provides a similar excuse for the guy to have some women friends (who may be his only friends). Hato; you didn’t have to crossdress – you just needed to have all the Genshiken girls “aware” of you. Nope didn’t work, and it didn’t work for Kuchiki, but it adds a bit to what he was referencing.

That the typical male harem lead can be a completely forgettable regular/ everyman guy has been suggested as a hold-over from the harem game where you could enter your own name onto a blank-slate character. A self-insert, often a bit withdrawn, a bit socially clumsy and wounded, wanting to have a boring, normal life, but ready with the minimum of prodding, to help out – even at the cost of getting in way over your head.

ijitsu confes web

“Everymen types usually aren’t so literal about the whole self-insert thing. It’s usually more about being able to relate to and identify with their situation and general reactions/decisions.

The ones from porn games, which are the types that harem leads grew out of, were more literally characters you were supposed to live vicariously through in the games. They’re “blank” and might even allow you to input your own name so that they can be the player’s avatar. This doesn’t transition well to anime and manga, so the archetype evolved to be one where the lead is both bland (personality and design-wise) and incapable of making any sort of decision. That way the story can happen -to- him and focus on harem antics.

Harem series are moving away from this in general, though. Most of the big, popular ones have a defined lead with a unique look/personality these days”
– some Forum

Meet interesting new people, interact with them, hope they crush on you.

But getting more than, as one blogger put it:”Boobies!” out of the harem genre gets confusing fast. An above-linked essay suggests that ultimately the harem genre provides a  fantasy “replacement family” setting for the male character to fantasy-regress in. Good to be fawned over like a kid. Female centered harems, so-called reverse harems seem to provide honorary membership in a male homosocial – one series with a fujoshi lead even features a definitely female-interested oujo-sama bifauxnen as an additional “honorary male”, which is a step up from the overdone predatory “Maria-sama watches over our girl cult” clique in Ouran Host club. The male social is almost the secondary lead character, as the female social is in conventional harem tales.

But the genre lays down far too much smoke and blows off too much chaff to easily get a handle on. A guy is surrounded by pretty femaloids who want him. It’s Good to be King. Time for a beach or onsen chapter. Supposedly; out of proximity, boredom, competition or lack of imagination and/or alternative options, each of the harem members decide that they want buddy boy. Is there more to this? As in much of CJVC, the women get to carry the social-emotional bucket; they do the relationship-py dogwork. Buddy boy simply hangs around, acts un-committal and waits for Lucky Perv moments and free food. Sometimes he has to do “a date” with one or another of the members.  In more action-oriented versions, he may have to defend one or more of the members from some threat. He doesn’t need to be a perfect hero, but he has to try and be seen trying. The threat can be other rogue males looking to clumsily usurp his position, generic dangers or some hidden flaw within a member herself. In any case, a division of labor is presented as conforming to a greater, natural “order”.

The exception being that the natural order of man proposing, woman shooting him down hard down is done away with. There are of course exceptions to this, as when the “I’m magic” effect compels buddy boy to want all the harem members, rather than make or allow a final choice to be made for him. The fearful pressure of rejection has been lifted and replaced with a warm fuzzy blanket of female attention. Kio Shimoku was being brilliant when he decided to play this note. Sue doesn’t turn Mada down, she just gets flustered and even more cute and vulnerable. Hato’s “rejection” for all we mortal guys know could be a well-worn BL trope to bait a seme into hotter pursuit. I wish I could get some useful advice on this from the rotten readership. Even if the fear of rejection is removed, the male lead gets a new fear to replace it. Fear of making a choice and leaving the happy world of plentiful slack for the adult “desert of the real”. Haiyore! Nyarko-san‘s lead boy has a mom and a dad, but we never, never get to see pops. He has to sleep under his desk at work to catch up after he dared take a vacation with his wife. He never gets home. This is a good ending?

Of course our hero could always just go back to his room and be a NEET. Harem lead role getting to be too stressful? Stop bathing. Problem solved.

Since the “girls” carry the emotional and social load of the harem, they soon end up setting the rules of engagement. Buddy boy had better behave himself unless specifically invited to do otherwise. And if he is invited, his poor brain-box has to attempt to process what the effect on the other members will be. Did he make the right choice? Will he slip up, collapse the whole shaky edifice and be forever branded an enemy of all womankind? He might even end up with his head in an overnight bag! Nice Boat! No wonder the Harem story as romantic comedy is full of titillation and more titillation, but seldom any bonking. Female mangakas seem to be better at pushing this to extremes. Girl Saurus, especial the DX reboot quickly escalated to levels that would make Ken Akamatsu blush. It remains my all-time favorite.

Since the currency of a good romantic comedy harem story is dating fail, the readership can vicariously learn all manner of different ways to screw up and dig oneself into a hole in the presence of a woman. And the girls get to screw up nicely too. This is probably a lot more humane than hanging out on PUA forums. I note that a Western comedian has just released a book written in collaboration with a sociologist that is full of folksy dating advice for modern hipsters, but also plenty of examples of dating fail. [http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2015/06/modern_romance_by_aziz_ansari_reviewed.html] It should be immediately translated into Japanese, so that mangakas can glean a whole bunch of new chestnuts to adapt into their stories. Even p0rnish harem ero games can trace their lineage to ‘dating sim” games that were supposedly originally developed to help overly shy guys figure out the basics of going on a date. That they evolved into pure 2D fantasy play could get a few folks a PhD, if anyone ever cares to dig through some 30-year-old Japanese console and pc games. I wonder what influence ‘Leisure suit Larry” had, if any?.

As the harem genre is a fully developed one, it is harder for a mangaka and or a studio to just toss a bunch of nubiles at some guy while cranking the panty shots, boobie jiggles and onsen episodes up to 11. If you want to do a harem show in 2015, you need to do something fresh.

The Genshiken may be in the forefront in that it already is a fully developed slice-of-life ensemble tale that is using an alumni character as the lead in a harem composed of current main and peripheral characters in a story arc. The conventional harem story can look like an ensemble story at times, but the focus on buddy boy and the absence of non-harem characters cripples it. Adding “those two guys” is never enough. Having a few folks who are not part of the harem, who are already in relationships, or outside consideration adds depth, as well as providing a convenient chorus. Advice and meddling can come from beta couples and the peanut gallery. If needed, a second, overlapping harem can be cooked up.  Hato needs some Sadie Hawkins adventures too, so my bet is that it will soon be his turn in the cross-hairs. The poor fool thinks that a dress will let him escape his fate.

Hijinx Ensue!

No idea whatsoever...

Maybe I just needed an excuse for reading a whole bunch of harem manga. I have of late harem manga’d out. Open multiple tabs in the browser, skip between them and watch the whole mess melt unto itself. Occasionally something awful, or something really odd pops up. Hooray for Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture!

What follows is my attempt at a preliminary schema of harem leads. Much more work is required, so feel free to drop a line, suggest examples, categories and better Japanese category names for such. No way Japanese- illiterate me can come up with something like “Yandere”.

Ex-delinquent or mistaken for such.
Haganai/Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – mistaken for a delinquent
Fujimura-kun no meitsu (ex-delinquent)
Enma no hanayome to kimetsukerareta fukou na ore no jinsei keikaku (ex delinquent)
Yamada-kun and the seven witches (slacker/ delinquent)
Nisekoi’s Raku Ichijo – Yakuza heir

Ex-weirdo/ sordid but non-violent past
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!’s Yuuta Togashi
Genshiken’s Madarame

So fixated on 2D he can’t clue in
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

Hidden Super-power guy
Araragi from Monogatari (see also footnote 1)
Aria The Scarlet Fanservice Loli’s forgettable horny hero
The World God Only Knows
Noucome
Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou.
Trinity Seven: 7-nin no Masho Tsukai
A Certain Magical Index/ Scientific Railgun’s Kamijou Touma
Tsukihime/ Melty Blood’s Shinji
Ratman’s Shuto Katsuragi

Grumpy loner guy
Hachiman from Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru

Normal clueless guy (TV Tropes’ Unlucky Everydude)
Kuromine Asahi from Jitsu wa Watashi wa
Mysterious Girlfriend X
Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri

Everydude’s mostly faithful quest
Keitarō in Love Hina

Reluctant Normal clueless guy – Very Unlucky Everydude
Rosario + Vampire
Haiyore! Nyarko-san/ Nyaruko: Crawling with Love.(2)
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki
Girls Saurus’ Shingo

Normal clueless guy bloodbath
Many games’ bad ending route, School Days/ Sukūru Deizu’s. Nice boat! meme
only gets an honorary mention because it is a simple triangle-tale rather than a harem.
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Normal pervy dude – (At least he’s still interested in 3D!)
I Dont like you big brother/Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki ja Nai n da kara ne
High_School_DxD
Bludgeoning_Angel_Dokuro-Chan’s Sakura Kusakabe
Boys, be ambitious! (but don’t be a complete asshat!)
Ben-To
Sora no Otoshimono/ Misplaced by Heaven

Complete Loser until noticed by girl #1
Also Madarame in Genshiken
Keiichi Morisato of Ah!My Goddess
Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei

Thinks he is a harem lead, but he is a mascot for a female social.
Student Council’s Discretion/ Seitokai no Ichizon

Puppet Boy/ Bullied by Girls
Minamoto-kun Monogatari
Koimoku’s Inamine
Himegoto (etc)’s Hime Arikawa – current prime exemplar of the jiggly panchu josou trope.
Mei no Naisho c.a 2007 magical panchu boy x girl school otokonoko fanservice.
Witch Craft Works
Seitokai Yakuindomo’s long suffering tease bait guy.

Don’t do it sensei!
Any number of teacher crush plots

Girl #1 is stuck to his right hand
Midori no Hibi (Huh? WTF?)

Examples needed: Marty Stu, the perfect harem lead
None exists, because he gets violently hacked to death the second he appears.
No magical girl revives him, he stays dead, all order sweets to celebrate.
Negi comes dangerously close at times though…

I guess one could set the wayback machine and include The Tale of Genji – Hey wait! One of the first known works of Japanese narrative fiction is a harem tale! I guess that explains something…

Examples needed: A tall harem lead
I read a complaint in some blog, there have to be one or two, don’t they?

Female harem leads…

Every-girl’s harem of bishie guys
Pick one, any one. Some other reviewers’ suggestions and musings:
http://okamizchan.blogspot.ca/2014/06/the-reverse-harem-genre.html

Deadpan snarker girl’s harem of bishie guys
Ouran Host Club

Fujoshi harem of bishie guys, pursue each other, please!
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (3)

Normal/ naive girl’s harem of bishie guys bloodbath
A staple of Otome games, but I am out of my depth.
Hatoful Boyfriend has this; avoid the school infirmary !!!!

Polymorphously playful secondary female lead – Buddy boy hasn’t figured it out yet, but she has a solution to the entire problem.
Genshiken’s Angela
Haiyore! Nyarko-san/ Nyaruko’s Cthuko-chan

Fanservice “lesbian” will give up all her girlfriends for OTP
Shojou Sect

Magical “lesbian” sex-bot commune (because that’s what we do, teee-hee!)
Pick any of ’em (4)

Mary Sue the perfect girl who attracts worship, mostly from other women
Manga no Tsukurikata’s insufferable young mangaka

She is beyond good and evil, but is completely good anyway and likes girls, lots of girls.
Iono the Fanatics with her tens of thousands of ladies-in-waiting. Exception to the no monogamy, no true yuri rule, as she is sponsoring and defending a magic sapphic realm.(5)

Rotten girl all male variants:
Go find your own.

…And so it goes

On the other hand, this schema could be ditched in favor of one that ranks by nature and degree of interest by the members in the lead or vice-versa. After all, a harem usually starts with the classic new girl vs the never-considered-her-that-way childhood friend, then piles a few more folks on. The androgynous boy who radiates girl-aura also seems to pop up too many times, but this runs the danger of making just one more schema about harem members, rather than buddy boy.

In the days of my youth, I was shown what it means to be a man.

There is an IRL reason for why an investigation of harem leads, specifically male harem leads (I tossed in the female leads for the heck of it) is such an interesting bit of pop social psychology and it gets grim really fast.

What the classic harem lead of a thousand faces is not and never ever has been is the silent, stoic, real man talks with his fists, takes-it-all-on-his-shoulders type of manly man hero. Otoko wa tsurai yo. The kind of guy who is admired in both his Japanese and Western variants, and who in real life is far too likely to suck it all in until he suddenly goes POP and kills himself, and/or others.

Betcha ya didn’t know that the suicide rates for guys in the UK are fast approaching Japanese levels, and that plenty of survivors confess that they tried and tried and tried to live up to this kind of manliness and it almost killed them. That’s what I get for putting The Guardian on my Facebook feed – how disturbing.

The economy sucks all over the place but how the economy, changing societal gender roles, dastardly right-wing corporatist gummints and the rest of the bad-news-du-jour actually plays out on the macro level of bloke after bloke after bloke violently snuffing it is scary and tragic. Male hysteria can be fatal. Suicide is the leading cause of male death in the UK for ages 20-50 I thought the food would have got them first (Stop it, not funny..) Dudes, go easy on yourself!

See:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/15/suicide-silence-depressed-men

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/feb/19/rise-in-middle-aged-men-committing-suicide-all-the-uk-data

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_351100.pdf

Could slacker everydude”harem lead characters offer a model of guy-ness that can serve as a prophylactic against such despair? Otaku guys are supposed to be pretty marginalised in society, are often used as the exemplar of failed male-ness in Japan. You would think Japan could barely run any commuter trains for the danger of otaku deciding that otaku-ish life sucked so much that oblivion was preferable and yet…

Dr. Tamaki did say otakudom was a very successful adaptation to the stresses of modern life.

Better to bend than to snap. It’s not really your story anyway, let the girls figure it all out. Shut up and smile. Learn to get along in a group. You can’t do everything yourself. Learn to ask for help, that’s what friends are for. Speak up. Even a blind pig with a head-cold can find a truffle every so often – as long as you get out of your room and interact with folks. And if you do find someone interested in you, take your lessons from all those harem grinders, and behave in a properly monogamous, good ending way.

I wonder how the stats play out in Japan.

 

.

(1) Araragi Koyomi; thrower of self onto too many grenades. He really is a serial suicide risk, except that as a vampire he originally considered himself already dead. By the time we meet him in the first anime, he is still harboring a huge load of guilt about the ruined vampire that he will still protect and feed for the rest of his life. I was going to go on and on and on about his character in this essay, but then I fell down a hole at the Monogatari Wiki, and a further hole at a certain light-novel fan translation site and read his yet-to-be-animated origin and ending stories. As the anime Monogatari-verse is still incomplete, it is a major spoiler risk to do any heavy analysis on him, as the source light novels add much to his character and that of the one who was Heart-under-blade.

It is good that he finally calms down. It is good that the young women he helped have taken up the task of helping others and helping him, as he is literally his own worst enemy. One thing remains fairly constant; saving young women from deadly supernatural afflictions seems to be a great way of getting noticed by them. However if your main super-power is getting beaten and mangled to a pulp, regenerating and then doing it all over again, it might be a good idea to develop a few less painful approaches to problem solving. Especially if your for-real girlfriend is getting super-annoyed at you for taking stupid risks. The latest of the series to be animated, Tsukimonogatari rubs this bittersweet lesson home: disenchantment strikes with the realisation that he cannot save everybody all the time just by serial kamikaze-dom, even if that strategy was what got him into this mess in the first place.

I have been reading a lot of Monogatari reviews and analysis from years ago, when the anime(s) originally aired and many are amazing in their insights, but few consider the effect that pairing studio SHAFT with an immensely popular and long-running light novel series produces. What was the strategy behind the adaptation order? What are the effects of the jumbled timeline in the presentation of the tale by the anime? (I would lean towards arguing that it made a narrative space that allowed the series “breathe” and expand in a magnificent example of synergy, but it also toned down Araragi’s self-destructiveness considerably) Can we consume all of our SAHFT fanservice and still have it (as fulfilling a higher purpose -ironic contrast and/or symbol of an all-too-human teen male normality that Araragi feels is slipping away from him) too? Why Senjougahara has to be the most “normal” woman in the harem and why her fierce proprietal and very adult love for Araragi is in the end all that can save him and how the anime adaptation brilliantly, deftly, economically shows this time and again.

But I digress…

(2) What was I thinking trying to out-weird Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture with last post’s Kaminaga Kult? The Lovecraft mythos turned into a junior high school harem series? Why not. Lead girl is Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos (“Chaos serves love! Squeeee!“) It looks like it is a deft updating of one of the first Harem animes ever (Obnoxious Aliens) I can’t believe I’m watching this,, How low have I sunk, wait – it’s actually quite funny, he writes as his critical faculties have been turned to tasty vanilla pudding oozing out of his ears. Gaaaaaaahhhhh! 

Also possibly female lead section; Girl #2 has ideas that she is the lead, not buddy boy. “I bear Nyarko’s child, the boy bears mine!” Hastur the ganymede figures that he could bear buddy boy’s child too. Haiyore!‘s aliens are all perverse outworld otaku and fujoshi in search of romantic happy endings. The rest of the Universe spends most of its entertainment budget on bootleg CJVC goods (very funny). Same sex attraction comes off as pure burlesque fodder, but then so does heterosexual attraction. At some point almost every sentience on the planet seems to be fixated on buddy boy. I was waiting for the vacuum cleaner to get a crush on him (“Cy-clone!!!”) Does any of this matter when most of the charas could be mind-destroying horrors from beyond the colors of space?

(3)Wonder how much of this thing gets ripped off by Yuri Danshi? Wait a sec, it looks like it returns the gift as well; nice Bifauxnen ‘got there…

(4) For example, a recent stumble-upon: Mai no Heya, classic light hentai fanservice “yuri” pron. Not much plot. Color pages in Penthouse cartoon airbrushed style. Girls living together in lingerie. F:f fooling around while waiting for the “right guy”. Gratuitous bondage play. One instance of non-consensual m:f sex (anal rape) when bondage play goes too far. Not funny. Ends with an underage otokonoko who marries the pervy sexpot of the girl power apartment and fathers her child, with the rest of the members continuing to hang around. W T F ???

(5) Re: Iono: “That’s an order of magnitude more than Solomon. It’s strongly implied her country has been reduced to [penury] mainly due to the cost of supporting so many free-loading lesbian love-slaves […] The kicker? She has a place in her heart for each one of them.” – per TV Tropes.

Iono is a pure Takarazuka Girl Prince. Fantasy aristos are different from us, so we admire them as we cut them slack. On the other hand, no readers, male or female would put up with the guy version of this. Besides, even Iono makes an idiot of herself occasionally as she importunes office ladies on the streets of Tokyo. It is all rather pleasant and well-behaved; instead of lingerie, the mangaka really likes drawing full, elaborate outfits on the cute girls and women. Crap, I like the outfits.. Who would have known that an overdone neo-baroque chapeau could affect me so. Damn! Iono is Sooooo impressive in formal dress mode! I am sure a certain space pirate gang learned something from her wardrobe department. But that ridiculous hat,.. Dat Hat on her… Excuse me for a moment, I feel a bit embarrassed. I guess if it’s not baroque, don’t fixate on it..

A TANGENT: Rebellion and Despair, Children and Adolescents in Recent Japanese Films by Jose Montaño https://www.academia.edu/12130480/Rebellion_and_Despair._Children_and_Adolescents_in_Recent_Japanese_Films

A FURTHER TANGENT: Play It Out Before You Live It Out: Are ethical video games the future of on-the-job training? By Rachel E. Gross (Naw, just one more thing to be Ecchi-fied for otaku! On-the-job harems! 2 Fantasies in one! Employment AND female attention!)
See: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/05/will_interactive_video_simulations_ptsd_sexual_harassment_hiv_on_the_job.html

COMPLETELY GOOD, BUT OFF TOPIC: Something from Mechademia that we proles can read for free: James Welker’s review of The Heart of Thomas [Tōma no shinzō]. By Hagio Moto. as translated by Matt Thorn. 5/20/2015, Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2012. Note the historical details, Very well done!
http://mechademia.org/reviews/james-welker-review-of-the-heart-of-thomas-toma-no-shinzo-by-hagio-moto-trans-matt-thorn-5202015/ .

FOR SCIENCE!
The International Anime Research Project is looking for people to fill out its 2015 survey.
I have sworn a blood oath not to reveal what it is about, (Ok, no dramatics, it’s well done and looks legit…) Their site here: https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/
Survey link here – if it doesn’t work, go to their site, in case the links magically wiggle for some super-duper web 2.0 reason:

https://texasamcommerceed.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_ai3dYy4ZLlKZCBL

Results of the previous year’s survey are here: https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/iarp-2014-3-fandom-survey-results

Bakemonogatari

This is surprisingly GOOD!

Posessed p71

Nothing today about the usual “gender, sexuality and the construction of imaginary others in Contemporary Japanese Visual Cultures“. Nothing even about car repair…

Just go seek out  Shiori Experience – Jimi na Watashi to Hen na Oji-san by Yuko Osada, read it and smile. Ok, one might quibble at the fine points of representing a certain famous guitarist, but the story, plain and simple as it is has more than enough heart to excuse any lapses.

Fucking A!

I will be waiting eagerly for the next chapter. Call up some background music on youtube and enjoy.

Go go Shiori!

A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

Worse, the Lucky Perv moment has passed not only without a man-smooch but without the long-awaited full-page floral background character portrait of either Hato and/or Madarame. Kio Shimoku sensei; how long do you think you can string your fans along without this tiny but essential bit of service?

I will accept either. I will even accept dopplegangers in Spotted Flower.

not a proper floral chara pageNot quite what I had in mind.

I will not be forever denied!

Perhaps I need to start a day counter page or something: 2,682 days without a floral chara portrait page…

I will have to change the name of this blog to “Why No Floral Chara Portrait Pages of Hato or Mada in Genshiken ???” , abbreviated as WNFCPPOHOMIG???

Kio Shimoku swears that he fears and abjures reading the fan commentary and fanfiction surrounding his creation. Such a statement is at best perfunctory: the levels of truth value, effect and shades of influence can be slippery once a fiction gets loose in the wilds of fanspace and takes on a life of its own. Weird stuff happens. I dare the author to remain oblivious. So far the dog might be yelping a few times per night, but it should be barking a lot louder.

So I vow to muck with the Genshiken fan-space-verse-headcannon-thingy until I get my floral chara page. Like floating transparent pink elephants in unnatural congress with cartoon unicorns, I dare you to unthink them once mentioned.

Which is by way of an oblique entry to another take on the auteur’s problem with fans. On one hand, once “invested”, fans want a story’s characters to perform in ways that they find satisfying. This can range from a happy ending, to behaviour, to the implementation of any number of plot cliches and tropes – all familiar and comforting to the readers.

For example; a full page, floral background chara portrait would…

If the story and /or characters poke at some larger issues that may reflect IRL concerns, more than a few readers and bloggers (including your truly) will burn too much powder on mapping loose congruences between the story verse and meatspace; especially if these have either to do with politics, religion, gender and /or sexuality.

On the other hand, fan imagination and secondary production; the theft/ appropriation of a story-verse for fannish exploration, amplification and elaboration all demand that the author leaving enough gaps, “space” and unknowns for fannish hearts to run wild in. Hence Comiket. Sure you can go postal on your intellectual rights, but then you don’t get any community or the marketing boost that comes from it. You lose the Love.

Even in Japan, the author, like the impossibly mythical Secretary of State, will disavow any knowledge of your action. Good Luck Mr Phelps. This mangaka interview will self- destruct in 5 seconds.

It is fun to read the fanfiction that grows up around the edges of an established and well-loved story. After a while, one can even get used to the slash-y (and/or pr0nish) nature of some of the output. Then I start wondering about patterns.

Fieldwork sitrep: Genshiken fanfiction is mostly too conservative. Even in its excesses it is either too simpleminded (Ohno or Ogiue get much pr0nish attention) or overly cute (HatoMadaHato make a sweet domestic couple). Yes, we all wish the charas well, (except when we want to see them hot and bothered) because like many other readers we want to see a happy ending that matches our own properly progressive IRL senses of self (without actually having to deal with messy real humans in meatspace), but Jeesh! Yawn! and C’mon! HatoMadaHato is never going to be Collectors, or a aspirationally positive LGBTQIA-lite version of Spotted Flower.

One wants the fanfic stuff to be just a bit over the edge in a weird or funny or innovative way. So far, Kio Shimoku and his studio minions are greedily winning the weird-a-thon in the fan-fic-verse. This is either cause for acknowledging the powers of le maitre or a bit of a failure of fan imagination.

lust und figurines

Consider the infamous Genshiken anime second season Yaoi episode (ep5). The wall of anime figurines and fine liqueurs,

the louche couple

Louche anything-that-moves Saki and Kou, SassXMada with Ogiue steaming as she winds her fancies about her.

Ogiue bliss

I also await the translation of the long-suppressed “The Return of the Otaku”. I think it at least had some Aliens, Time Travellers and Espers tomfoolery in it.

This is preposterous! Kio Shimoku has written better Genshiken fanfiction than his fans. Genshiken is all about fannish production, one would think that more than a few of its followers would get in the mood and start drawing and scribbling. A few do but want moar!

While chasing down some musings on Genshiken at wildgoosery.tumblr.com, I spotted a link to a bit of fluff by someone nymed Zpolice. I might have to reg up a pixiv account to see more of the HatoMada crossdressing date. The teaser illustration looks cute. Gotta admit that the fan-drawn Mada-chan has a real shojou-ish vibe – I smell Utso-Lily-fluence. Main point in its favor: it shows some imagination.

With cable-tv’s backlot discovering Ho-yay, the mainstreamification effect is even more pronounced. USA cable viewers can watch all manner of gay positive retreads of 60’s social comedies. Meanwhile the grey lady, the New York Times has started running a Transgender Today series on the Opinion pages. The right -wing bible thumpers warned us this would happen. Next thing you know, blah blah blah… (time to smarten up and get serious, these are real lives here – must show some respect) Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture is suddenly feeling dated and musty, like Miss Haversham’s wedding table.

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

Oh, right: mess with the fan-cannon until I get my damn floral page!

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” ― Slavoj Zizek, “The Importance of Being Hegelian

Given how much fun Yajima’s mom is, what is Hato’s mom like? Massive bonus weirdness points if she looks a bit like Kaminaga. What if almost all the women in Hato’s town look like Kaminaga… (cue shining music)

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

What if Hato’s dad used to have a certain hobby? What did he look like crossdressed? Crap, (cue shining music) almost everyone, female or male in Hato’s town should end up looking like Kaminaga because of the weird rituals that call forth the eldritch horrors from beyond the colors of space-time each Walpurgis night – you do not want to be an outsider trapped in Kashukumaou over that weekend!

…Until…

…Instead of waking the sleeper in the pyramid, they summon up an infestation of telepathic, teleporting cartoon ducks who seem to live only for prying into human affairs, ruthlessly ridiculing them and popping into existence at mealtimes to swipe food – they love human food and booze. (per C.Smith, From Gustible’s Planet ).

“Do you eat this? It is not very good! Phhhtttthhhhttt!”

Just throwing out ideas here folks. I miss Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, it was full of this kind of nonsense.

At least the 20+ year old Stop Hibari-kun! shows that one can have some fun with gender issues while not being overtly vicious. The last character addition is even more fun than the Bifauxnen sports star with ill-defined longings, a Taka mom and Village People brothers.

Read powerful manga web

Swiped right out of Family Compo, Geki (taiga-chan) jiro-kun has the heart of a manly guy-hero trapped the wrong body, determined to achieve an ideal of male-ness based on 1970’s gekiga guy manga, (see Otaku research and anxiety about failed men – Galbraith(1)) complete with delinquent haircut and yankii attitude. Pity the series will remain abruptly unfinished for all time.

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

Meanwhile, most of the diaspora talk about Genshiken (including my own in this blog) have been mulling over the “wither Hato” question, with regards to it resonance with larger issues of meatspace sexuality and gender.

Take for instance this extremely cogent summation of the argument in favor of emerging trans* Hato

“”Hato lives in a culture very different from ours and struggles a lot with their identity and doesn’t fully have the resources to accept themselves as trans yet, but as an omniscient reader you’d have to deny a lot of evidence if you wanted to read Hato as cis.

Even very early on, they were buying feminine clothing and doing vocal training a while before they started attending the club, they said they didn’t want to change in the club room b/c they wanted the club members to see them as a woman as much as possible, they expressed gender dysphoria when facial hair started to grow in while presenting as female, and they said Kaminaga was always someone they aspired to be. When Hato stopped dressing in feminine clothing, they became very unhappy and the manga treated it as a complete denial of self, and they felt compelled to keep up their feminine body care regimen even while presenting as male. If Hato were merely crossdressing, I doubt it would be handled in this way. And of course let’s not forget Spotted Flower, where Hato was shown post-op. It cannot get more obvious than that.

Anyway, I was just surprised to see this post and thought I’d talk about it a little since someone brought it up.””

– posted at http://hatomada.tumblr.com/ as reblogged excerpt

And yup, you gotta admit that it pretty wells nails a lot of the usual indicators, unless Kio Shimoku just read a whole bunch of pop-lit on mtf transfolk, cribbed it and jammed it onto a chara that he had other plans for.
.

Must I mention freight trains again?

(I have been looking for an excuse to drop that venerable ancient AMV chestnut into this blog for ages!)

Besides, Why should I give up on my original hobby horse of Hato-chan the virtual rotten girl lesbian in the Genshiken? (Invoke together: There are no lesbians in the Genshiken!) Mada cruelly rebuffs Hato-chan; fly to Sue’s arms for comfort! Sue would be ok with a Hato-chan romance once she is sure that she doesn’t have to gently protect Hato’s fantasies. Sue is mighty! Sue is always there, looking at Hato. (Not quite creepy, yet…) What is you waiting for kiddo- an engraved wedding invitation?

Yeah, I ship SueHato and AngelaMada, you got a problem with that?

tainted web

Or I am just in denial about the possibility of man-love (or MtTW warm fuzzies) in the Genshiken. Atavism, moi, darn.

On the other hand…

I cannot resist a rejoinder to one of Wildgoosery‘s questions:

“I honestly cannot tell what’s going on inside Madarame’s head at this point. And I get the feeling that’s intentional — that we’re meant to understand that HE’S unsure of what he wants. Undeniably, he’s interested in women and in sex with women — the ongoing tension regarding breasts, Keiko’s or otherwise, makes that that pretty unambiguous.

But there has also been so much time on the page dedicated to his emotional and sexual reactions to Hato — and to the IDEA of being with someone like Hato — that it’s honestly taken me by surprise. While Keiko and Angela — and even Sue — have appealed to Madarame for reasons that center on their appearance and/or anatomy, the way he thinks and talks about Hato has been so much more….god, I hate to even say this because I know it makes me seem like just as much of a fujoshi as Yoshitake, but more ROMANTIC?

Whether it’s being overwhelmed with happiness over valentine’s chocolate or replaying all of his trap h-games, Madarame seems to be taking Hato’s interest…kind of seriously? The whole reason that Kugayama dragged him to the cabaret club in the first place was to convince him to stop considering Hato as an option.””
– http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Yup, Madarame Harunobu is far too naive, too shy, too good-hearted, too open and full of holes to ever think of playing with the Hatos. He would never, even unconsciously engage in … baiting, or a little bit of turnabout is fair play, would he?

If Madarame was considering a smooch, one has to give Kio Shimoku credit for dragging him to the edge of the cliff in a very manly way. Mada finally taken the initiative and gets his moment of forceful action, even if all the rotten girls go Squeeeeee.

After Sou-uke, Sou-uke, Sou-uke, first from Ogiue and Ohno, then Hato  letting go with public Sou-ukes to block Angela, then Kuchiki going into ass-grabbing fugue state, then the whole new club membership including Hato-chan reprising,  the spying session, the ritual dragging him off in public for Angela at the last Comiket, the broken wrist, the sudden harem nonsense only after he gets to stew in injured ronryness for a while (Risa delivering the moratorium news over the New Year’s holiday), Hato Nadeshiko, Valentine’s chocos and then phhttt, vanishment(!)… After being the Genshiken goat for so long, after reacting, reacting, reacting and trying to cope with all the nonsense situations thrown at him, with  the Hato continuum front and center through most of them, Madarame finally lands on top!

(He did consider coming on strong towards Sue. She dealt with that fast enough.)

Dumped again? Sod that – it ain’t over till I say it is over. Oh, but pretty boy here thinks HE’s gonna be the top, yeah… How’s that working out for you kid?

Boobs boobs boobs, whatever – Lolicon, remember? Imaginary and flat like board. Pre- as well as innocently a- sexual, with a bit of fancy footwork to get past squicky pedo-bear concerns by edging over into Josou game territory… Please tell me Kenjiro Hato, who is the most innocent, doe-eyed, manipulate-able, fantastic and uke-sh in the room tonight? Where is all that judo you keep up your sleeve? What’s wrong; fantasies got your tongue?

Which all might be some sort of cliche’d rotten girl plot chestnut, but still has enough internal logic to propel it along. And sure, I would agree with Wildgoosery’s proprietor if Hato chan or kun had actually even once dropped shields and talked with Madarame as Hato Kenjiro, kun or chan. But it never really happened. From their initial Mada-cooks-dinner meeting onward, any words that flew by Mada’s face from Hato were all part of one or another Hato puppet dance. (I might grudgingly exempt Hato’s first Comiket morning with Mada, but then he started Sou-uke-ing Mada in front of Angela) The strangest thing about the whole accidentally- pin- Hato- to- the- bed scene was that Madarame finally got to talk to the Hato behind the curtain.

Or did he? 

Two points for Mada. I guess the frisson of man-love is acceptable if you get to be in control? Dude.. are you sure you weren’t set up? Oh well, I will grudgingly accept a man-smooch involving Madarame – archetype and stand-in for all us awkward nerds – If I get my full page floral portrait!

I might be easy, but Kio Shimoku wants cheap too? No way!

Contrast: at a similar point in a certain Sect, the player gets a ring as a reply to her teasing. Folks said it was all just yuri pr0n. Hmmph!

Meanwhile, I for one welcome the new forceful Madarame. Sue was right to bring handcuffs. Girls, you have created a monster.

All harem routes must be cleared! If it wears a skirt (ever) it is fair game! The Revenge of the Otaku! Devastating Mada, the heartbreaker unleashed! That means you too Rika – yo skinny ass are belong to us! …And your pedo bear sister’s too.. Circle King will get all the girls and destroy Genshiken!

BoooWaaah!

Keiko will be a bit of a challenge: screw and dump her without the right kind of dramatic bullshit story and she will set you up for a beating from bouncer ex-boyfriends or a “chance” seduction by a skanky(er) friend with the clap as payback. Bad girls play rough.

Meanwhile that’s three up for Kio Shimoku. No tracking distraught Hato to the train station and replaying Ogiue/Sass as dawn breaks. Nuts!

Best to ease off on the playset levers. The circle trip arc is fun enough with the exercise of watching how other fans react to it. I note that some of the respondents in a senior bloggers’ discussions on recent chapters are wondering how the Japanese fans are taking it. Need to Know! Finding and adding other fans’ takes on the recent chapters is a great POV-shifting exercise. I am tickled that I completely missed some of the takes on Hato’s behavior, Madarame’s conflicted actions and the rest of the chara’s maneuverings, even while many of us spotted other similar trends elsewhere.

This of course is how fannish interaction and exchange works, even anonymously and over great distances and time. In the larger scheme of things, what x character thinks of y isn’t really that important, but understanding how to consider (I didn’t exactly entertain the notion, I just gave it a glass of water and an after dinner mint) others’ points of view is a fine diversion.

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

“Madarame, good as I’m sure his intentions are, has put Hato in a really shitty position — by allowing this “harem” to continue for so long, he’s set Hato up to be in direct competition with three women, two of whom are so much more experienced that they may as well be from another planet as far as Hato’s concerned. So of course Hato is doing everything he can to perform femininity as perfectly as he can manage — those are the terms that have been set for him.
There’s no escaping his total lack of experience with sex and romance — the only thing he can control is how well he performs the role of cute, female underclassman. But even in that, Hato is way out-matched — the bit about his accidentally getting Kuchiki much too drunk, for me, was shorthand for “you are in way over your head, even in the ‘giggling and pouring beer for men’ department.”

Still, he’s trying his best. Madarame has given him very little indication that he has any other choice.”
— http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Note: WordPress is taking my links used as attributions and making frames that insert  sections of the quoted source into the posts. I am trying to figure a workaround, in the meatime – no appropriation is intended, and you may have to copy & paste to open a link manually.

Yes; Shimoku-sensei lampshaded this, but a fen take on the setup is 180 degrees from the male fan point of view: the whole could be trans/ could be crossdressing late onset chunny-fugue Nadeshiko act by Hato looks so far above the feminine presentation abilities of the core female club members as to seriously pose a challenge. Sue is non-committal and will never flirt, Keiko- well Keiko is Keiko, so for guy readers, Hato-chan was really coming on strong. The only serious challenge was Angela – and only if she would ever tone down the carnivorous Amazon act, but again, she only pops up a few times a year.

Note that both points of view are equally valid. Digesting both is a treat for any infovore.

““Even if I might just be trying to force my own desires… All of our desires are just things we force on others anyway”
-Hato, Genshiken ch 66

Remember as well that Kio Shimoku loaded the dice long ago. Even if and when Hato finally ever realises that the Hato continuum was always a woman’s heart trapped in a man’s body, comes out and decides to transition and is treated in a positive and respectful manner by the entire Genshiken (that means no more shipping Hato, there would be no more male residual to ship); If the IRL concerns over respect of the fans are finally and fully addressed, do you think that the fan peanut gallery is going to shut (TF) up?

Fat chance: Hato is still a “fantasy of crossdressing”; too easy, too perfect, presented as as ideal cartoon transwoman while meatspace youth facing real challenges agonise over whether they can ever meet such unreal levels of presentation. Kio Shimoku isn’t off the hook yet. Look at some of the more respectful manga on gender issues. The “so cute she can’t be a girl” model is always a land-mine.

Hato might be better off sticking to their original mission: becoming a fujoshi (and/or a trans*fujoshi). Being fujoshi is Hato’s real and only one true love. If the Hato continuum ever really and truly falls in love for someone, the fallout will be a lot messier than “I am not the otokonoko you think I am, chose someone else“. Shimoku-sensei is weak at doing heartache. Time to dress like Sue or Ogiue, or even civilian Keiko, or stick with the frumpy Mikako Takeya persona. On the other hand, the Hatos’ insistence on an idealised presentation could – I guess – be sorted into the “arguments for a trans identity” column (dreams of an idealised female self).

And here is one final new yet old twist on HatoMadaHato that will really rile folks up: Consider the original complaint of Akio Nakamori’s second article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko (per Galbraith op cit) “Do Otaku love like normal people

“No, otaku do not love like normal people because they are attracted to fictional girl characters” -ibid

Don’t go there…

Note that Nakamori did not invent the term 2D complex, but he was the one who first dragged it out into the light of Japanese public discourse and stapled it to manga-maniacs-as-otaku in his infamously vitriolic  Otaku studies/ I am studying you column. And then he went on to paint this as the prime symptom of male otaku’s failure as men, calling them “myo ni okama-ppoi” or weird/ faggy. And then he conflated them with effeminate crossdressers, while his underaged girlfriend made eyh-yeuchh noises.

Clearly there is a lot more baggage hanging off HatoMadaHato than the euroethnic reader can first take in.

This is complicated. Which is part of the whole fan-space POV shifting/ sharing thing.

A full page floral background chara portrait would do much to allay the feelings of confusion…

…So would an action-packed fanfic of the circle on the run from the Kult of the Kaminagas and supernaturally animated 1962 era vintage Howard the Duck prototypes.(2) A few zombies would be kewl too…

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

…Or this whole post is too random; the shock of seeing Mada almost smooch a boy has obviously subconsciously upset me.

I wonder what Kuchiki is going to say in the morning.

.
(1) A recent chapter; “Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith from the upcoming anthology: Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons (Soas Studies in Modern and Contemporary Japan) Hardcover – July 16, 2015 by Patrick W. Galbraith (Editor), Thiam Huat Kam (Editor), Björn-Ole Kamm (Editor), Christopher Gerteis (Series Editor) should not be missed. Grab it here: [www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men] and read it now. The writing is straightforward, lucid and reflects up-to-the-minute understanding on the material. Madarame (and Hato) are deeper character types then we first imagined. Lots of good stuff on the historical roots of the rage of the Ota-king, the shojou-fication of manga, the role of japanese fen-dom and complicit guy editors, and much much more. The full book is a bit pricey for moi; guess I will be pestering a local library soon. A few more chapter excerpts are available via Academia.edu

(2) Where ya think Howie was swiped form, along with Martians Go Home (1954) [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martians,_Go_Home] The Kaminaga Kult is a blatant lift/ tribute to Stross’ Laundry series, especially The Apocalypse Codex, which you should hunt down and read, because they are massive fun and clearly Stross’ first love; they don’t go flat at the ends like his other stuff. Ps: brown as in “Dun”

What, and give up show business?

Wherein I get tangential and subjective (again) while considering the not-quite intersections of real life, work, fiction and fandom. Not too much about Genshiken this time. Caution: weird digressions on leaving town, sewer clearing and car repair ensue.

15 years ago I was dreaming of being a band manager of a post-punk novelty band, trapped in Hong Kong and pursued by angry gangsters. All because I really, really needed to get out the town I lived in.

Continue reading

An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

The tragedy of our predicament, when we are within ideology, is that when we think we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.”
– Slavoj Žižek (no, really)

Disenchanted and disappointed long-term fans aside, It is obvious where the attraction of the current Genshiken lies. The mangaka is also playing it coy; otakus and fujoshis are no longer the societal pariahs they once were, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise is now a comfortably boring slice of life sitcom. There is plenty of fun yet to be had, especially with the longstanding puzzle challenge: guess what Hato is!

Let’s try again. If you figure out what Hato “is”, you get the “reason” Kio Shimoku is telling the story!

Hato is (/written as):

A straight male otaku who was inexplicably drawn to BL, who uses female presenting personas to enjoy the fandom surrounding BL and who abstracts the desire portrayed within the genre to his own condition (whatever that may be).

He crossplays a fujoshi to be part of the charmed circle of fans. His conflicts over reading BL and his fear of being rejected and shamed again leads him to panicked fugue states wherein he offers “gifts” to the fujoshi social when he feels that his position is endangered. First he offers the possibility of shipping himself as a male seme to Madarame’s sou-uke. This causes distress and threatens his position in the group. Then he gives the circle the “gift” of his drawing potential, if they help him to unlock it. He cannot draw a full narrative, only clench scenes. The work is an amazing copy of Kaminaga’s, so he needs support to find his own unique style. Finally he must wear women’s clothes, or at least underwear when drawing. Boy-drawn BL might be too jarring to the circle – this blunts the shock, while retaining some shred of female exclusivity in the ritual production of fujoshi fan-made material.

His latest gift, the creation of Nadeshiko no Genshiken again offers a shipping fantasy/ possibility as a candidate in the Mada harem: a demure, passive ultra-feminine character, erroneously conflated with the josou/ otokonoko (trap) genre. The story that he believes that Madarame has an interest in these provides sufficient cover. As the rest of the harem is mostly composed of peripheral Genshiken affiliates, the circle is not threatened. (Sue really doesn’t belong and has denied membership in the harem, but as magical outlander girl she can claim observer status. This begs the peripheral question: how much could Sue blab? Harem dinner reports? The secret stash of Mada x Hato-chan drawings?)

Why BL (and yaoi)? It does something for Hato. I have previously wondered if he (could be written as having) tried  Bara/ “real” gay-male-made gay comics, but I missed something obvious. Hato has given no indication of finding these appealing. But neither does he offer any proof of interest in conventional m:f narratives, seinen or josei, yuri or even loli. He seems to like Durarara!! – based dojins and the works of a few hard-to-identify circles. He declines to borrow Madarame’s josou games. Male otaku style pr0n-ish loli ecchi stuff “works” on him (at least when in male persona, at comiket, reading the other guys’ hunt list loot) but it holds little of the fascination of rotten-girl authored smut.

Could it be that none of the other genres are interesting enough? Do conventional boy-plots only offer wish fulfilment along lines of now-disenchanted models? Yuri? (the female-authored/shinso variant) The girls are interesting but how to connect? Loli otaku smut? Creepy! Real gay guy comics – we like this, it is fun, you can do this/ fantasize about this, invoke often!

How depressing!

Hato’s fascination for BL seems to skip over commercial products for fan-produced works. His interest highlights the open-source copy and transform nature of fujoshi dojinshi culture. This is not surprising, given his interest in drawing .The rituals of secondary production, the fan communities and their tastes as well as the exchange and sharing of outre enthusiasms promises to be far more interesting than discussing the weaponry featured in Black Lagoon and Jormungand or arguing over which Gundam is cooler. Don’t even start with the ecchi stuff and the waifus – it is cringe inducing. The fujoshi stuff looks more “adult”, but not disenchanted. On a meta- level, his creator could be using Hato to acknowledge the incredible contribution womens’ fandom has made to Japanese manga culture, at the very least for expending story boundaries and serving as the backbone of comiket for the last 25 years. Hato’s fascination is a curious, but earnest tribute.

Contra:
Hato was drawing female Hato being clenched by manly Mada before the harem manifested. Before that he was interested in fantasy m:m erotica. Why can’t he just be a nice well-behaved male-presenting fu-danshi who likes guys? Or has he “the heart of a girl in a boy’s body”? He cannot draw BL in a polished style characteristic of the genre unless he is dressed, not as a fujoshi but as a woman.

Aside: I still think his male persona drawing is interesting – it should have been pushed further to see where it leads. Japan is full of polished manga illustrators, professional and amateur: why add another? – unless to worship his creator.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Wilde (use auto xlate)

As well as these, these and these

Finally, note how Kaminaga’s chiding “You can’t read this stuff without it having some effect“, echoes Dr Mizoguchi, yet Kio Shimoku plays one further trick. The original statement is anti-essentialist and queer (completely straight for the female BL readership doesn’t quite fit), while Kaminaga’s restatement is heteronormative and essentialist (that stuff will make you gay!) Kaminaga situates fujoshi practice firmly within heteronormative female experience, She will soon marry to prove this point. Kaminaga is not (written as being) a nice person.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male homosexual. He wants (is written as wanting) Madarame, as a male subject to another male. All his desires are for other males, (any interest in Kaminaga was misplaced admiration, or even a gesture towards that most elusive of Japanese feelings; ittaikan ) BL provides him an alibi; “its only you” is his way of negotiating his emerging sexuality. He dreams of a romantic, intense monogamous relationship, rather than meeting lots of sex-friends, so he avoids any stereotypically imagined gay “scenes” and/or their fiction; the fantasies provided by BL are more than enough for him at present. His crossdressing is a method, a hobby and a kink. Crossplaying a fujoshi first suggested a possible way to remain closeted and later when Hato as seme proved unworkable, a fall-back strategy. Wow; guess he is a bottom. But watch the drama unfold as he gets cold feet in the harem. Back to fanning over BL guys and his solitary fantasies for now. His creator is spinning a tale by staging a battle between “that stuff will make you gay” vs “that stuff might attract repressed young gay guys – what would happen?

Contra:
Hato presenting as a male is rare within Genshiken-space. This can be finessed if his crossdressing is his naive interpretation of the josou (trap) genre or an earlier take on stereotypically effeminate gay male identities. To naive (or over-enamoured with tradition) folks in Japan, presenting a “drag” feminine persona is seen as fulfilling a normal, if somewhat out-of-date stereotype of public male homosexuality(1). Drawing BL in pantsu is a symptom of a larger kink: Hato enjoys presenting in drag as adjunct of the libidinous charge he derives from his thrice-forbidden (as smut, as gay-ish smut and as a guy reading female smut) fantasy material. If Hato was gay, then he would do gay desire without prodding and what would be the fun of that? If Hato was an emerging transwoman, then the Stands would not try to ship him, because it would not be BL, it would be kind of straight and therefore boring.

Further problem:
this interpretation verges on extremely contentious IRL controversies, being related to the arguments used by hardline female-essentialists to denounce trans folk and inclusive queer ideas of feminism and female identity.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

An emerging, extremely repressed trans-woman. Hato is conflicted and his feelings of being wrong-bodied are just beginning to manifest themselves. Despite saying “I’m a guy”, Hato presents as a female in safe spaces and has idealized female selves; the rebuking Stands. Hato fantasizes about being female and intimate with Madarame (?), is concerned over facial hair when presenting as female, enjoys yaoi because it is a quintessential female libidinized activity and seeks out female socials. Hato naturally prefered to slip into the girls facilities to change (that’s stretching it – Hato feels no existential dread using the male facilities at comiket, except when costumed.) Trans-woman Hato would not be “gay” in her desire for Mada, as she would be female. Any residual male-ness in Hato is being shipped by the emerging female subjectivity via methods suggested by fujoshi enthusiasms, so as to be rid of “the accursed remainder” – how’s that for dragging euro-pop psychology into the Genshiken? Plot mojo comes from the unsuitability of the Genshiken fujoshi social in supporting an emerging transwoman.

Spotted Flower “proves” this. No-honestly-not-Hato-for-contractual-reasons will go on to become a successful BL mangaka, adopt a public female presence and undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Contra:
His internal dialogue as “a crossdressing male BL mangaka” does not acknowledge any gender confusion, simply that the sexualities implied by his interests resist conventional categorization. Initial BL smut drawn by Hato was m:m with him as seme. His first crush was the mighty, yet very female Kaminaga. Query: does the smut he draws for his private Mada x Hato posit him as female or as a crossdressing male?

As well, he has never expressed the feeling of being in the wrong body – the female Hato is an expansion of his self that he has created; She is limited to presenting as a fujoshi in fan-space socials. The Nadeshiko character is purposed to succeed as a harem member; if she was to succeed further by seducing Madarame, it would be cruel and disruptive. The heroic sacrifice also gives the retreat a storybook melodramatic tone. Any flirting has been within a chaste, Sue-chaperoned harem script.

The Stands are remarkably stupid or at least extremely purposeful: the original only teased Hato when he was in male-male ship-able situations, mostly with Madarame. It demanded that BL scripts be played out by male Hato. Perhaps this was to drive him more into a feminine persona, but it was sure a roundabout way of doing it. The second version, the flatter-chested Kaminaga-esque one, demands that he pursue Madarame even when he is in girl-character, but an internalized Kaminaga-ur-fujoshi-ish point of view would only do so if it still saw the core of Hato as male and therefore a target for demands he act out BL scripts. Even if Hato-san acknowledges and assimilates them into his conscious, admitted-to-himself desires, they remain focused on very limited concerns surrounding his fannish enthusiasms.

What little self-hatred or self-destructive behaviour Hato engages does not center around the suppression of a unitary female subjectivity, e.g. admitting that “he” “is a woman trapped in a man’s body”. Hato doesn’t engage in risky sexual behaviour, hang around in seedy bars or even engage in online attention-seeking/ shaming rituals. It is probably a good thing that his creator does not drag out all the tired and insulting stereotypes that suggest that anyone who suffers gender dysphoria issues will self-harm. Hato presents as female in a cloistered, extremely safe and supportive community and has used the space provided to develop new skills, make friends and enjoy normally proscribed enthusiasms. Hato! Check your privilege?

Finally, “word of kami” from Kio Shimoku and Spotted Flower are both notoriously hard to pin down. “Flower” may be any number of things. As well, the recent English language translated interview with the mangaka must be taken with a grain or three of salt, even as it adds very little to arguments one way or another. Contractual obligations forbid him from acknowledging ANY correspondence between Genshiken and Spotted Flower, and besides, he likes to play coy and maintain his secret identity; so even if he could, he wouldn’t. More questions are raised than answered by the doppelganger in Spotted Flower having a “boob job”  – which is how the mangaka lieks it! 

Hato is (/written as):

Originally straight, but inventing his own extreme (big R) Romantic, rebellious queer-ness/ gender-queer-ness. Part of this is a kink that fixates on sempais. All that Mada has to do is give him a pair of slippers and the kid would sit in a corner warming them against his chest (a historical trope beloved by medievalist Japanese fujoshi, as used in Haganai (2)) blubbering for the next hour. Hato holds the view that true romantic love must be powerful enough to break societal rules and bounds; that it is not only the finding of a soul-mate, but an extreme recreation of the self through desire. There are elements of classical masochism in his desires, but these run through fujoshi lore in any case. His cross-play and crossdressing serve to fit him to a fujoshi social, serve to offer the other members exchange and serve to pursue desire itself: gender and sexuality categories be damned – all while transcending, by transgressing not only his male role but the female social as well. The lad likes transgression, as long as it is well-behaved.

There is a strong whiff of narcissism here as well, although narcissism is less of a pathological  than a chronic condition of the modern subject, now that the global economy runs on it.

I repeat: the global economy now runs on narcissism. A bit of it is perfectly acceptable for well-adjusted citizens and don’t you really want an Apple watch?

If he was a transwoman caught in a male body, any romance would still be raiju-ish. If he was gay, similarly raiju. If he was “Bi” (that old standby of western slash-fen), he would be raiju (and indiscriminate) If he gave up on BL and just fixated on loli charas he would still be uncomfortably raiju, in the sense that all those other desires match up to what is expected of them, now that they are no longer deep dark secrets to be hidden but acceptable market niches and or “tastes”. In this sense, Hato is also Kio Shimoku’s way of dealing with the new-found acceptance that otaku and fujoshi have gained within Japan. He is a further disruption, in essence the last etranger standing in the Genshiken.

Hato’s desire has to be “you and only you” to break societal rules and thereby prove the power of its truth. This also confirms the authenticity of his self and that of the equally true and free and yet to appear soul-mate. This spell always invokes desire for desire, the lover is a phantasm that has yet to appear.

I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

Then they take you.

Once more note that his original cross-play as fujoshi was an uncanny replica of his first crush, now soon to be his sister in-law. If she ever cuts her hair short she will look like her husband’s brother! And she has a bad case of rotten too, so she shares the itch! Hato: avoid family reunions!

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

Otaku-dom is no longer seen as an abject, pariah state, but as an otaku cross-dressing male fujoshi mangaka in training, the transgression is restored, redoubled and redoubled again. All Mada has to do to avoid the drama is to play boring until Risa enrolls.

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

Contra:
All this may be Hato’s cover/ rationalization for an underlying gender dysphoria condition, as it piles absurdity upon contradiction, upon further absurdity. Oh, and he is a manga character, so the mangaka is being clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive.

Most of the confusion leads back to the logic bomb that is BL and yaoi.

As a spectre of male homosexual desire created and enjoyed by the female gaze, it haunts the Japanese patriarchy, positing an eroticized romantic exchange that both abstracts male behaviour stereotypes, including aggressive/ violent ones and rewrites them as female authored scripts of repressed, forbidden desire and identity to be shared among women.

It is raw, undiluted, powerful female sexuality. It disrupts. it mocks. It rages. It refuses “to take responsibility”. It plays hob with every “official” categorization it can lay its mittens on. It has issues. It is not well behaved. Bakhtin’s Carnival theories cannot touch it. It is far more insidious than “drag”. It will kill the puppy if you do not buy the magazine. But it also screams out for what it finds lacking in the real world.

It is the desire for desire, for a tale of “love” that destroys and remakes the entire world.

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

This is not uncommon in romantic fiction and there are plenty of other genres that take a related, but more well-behaved approach.

Hato is moving towards an extreme acting out of individuation within Japanese society, based on fujoshi romantic tropes that privilege transgression against social codes of sexuality and power, not transgendered identity. Hato’s solution seems to start with folk notions of two-souled individuation and play with them. It is a trial by combat of desire, as a possibility for escape or accommodation or salvation; against a society whose rules and structures appear to make any love or desire an impossible, naive longing.

Shut up and get back to work.

It is also a very old story: like Quixote, it dares to remake the world, hurling defiance while demanding that society obliterate it or accommodate it.

The problem for Hato and the furtive kami that creates him lies in the confusion that this presentation offers: within the Genshiken-verse it makes for fine plot mojo. However IRL concerns threaten to make the extreme liminality of the characterization and the situation appear (again) clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive. Nerves, in some quarters of the meat-verse are raw especially when you have skin in the game or know someone who does. Whatever “girl’s heart in a boy’s body” notions that have been left to float around should fast be circumscribed, or at least toned down to:

“Hato’s rotten enthusiasms made female, sharing space with him in his body”.

“Why can’t I have both? It’s less ronery this way!”

It would be wrong to go towards any soap-opera notions of split personality/ dissociative disorder. Both versions are aspects of Hato. Gender is what is treated as optional, yet essential to the “role” required. It is as if “male” and female” are relative and situationally based public facets of the self, like “sempai” and kouhai”. Extreme Judith Butler time. The female aspect of Hato declines to “drive the Hato truck” for any other purpose than her fujoshi interests. This begs the question: what role and/or purpose does Hato-as-male answer? Student? Son? The guy who helps carry drunk acquaintances back to their hotel?

Perhaps in a rejoinder to the pop psychology surrounding otaku (and fujoshi) studies, Kio Shimoku is edging towards positing moe otaku and fujoshi desire as emergent variant sexualities in their own right? (3)

Extreme otaku and fujoshi desire as a new form of queer, part of a larger tendency in the meat-verse towards asceticism and virtualism or fantasism? This strategy also holds the promise of understanding cybersex enthusiasts, cosplayers, furries and the Takarazuka Review. (Fantasy is fantasy and reality is ugly, complicated and leaves me cold!!!!) but is closer to the range of paraphilias than a sexuality. And it does nothing to answer messier questions of gender identity – unless gender identity takes a back seat to individuation in construction of subject-hood.

If this sounds too weird, imagine individual practitioners of an outre kink, who are fabulously wealthy, head a commercial empire and are descended from European nobility. Their indulgences are consensual and they do societal good works; no Dr Evil with fluffy white cat stuff.

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

Lookie how thin our modernist-derived ideas of “identity” are. Storybook critters all!

Hato likes BL, likes BL fanning and enjoys BL sexual fantasies (but he won’t say how). BL works for Hato and that’s the way he was created, even if it has been made difficult to precisely situate Hato within the enjoyment.

Bara and the rest of it doesn’t turn his crank. Doing fujoshi stuff as a guy is uncomfortable and has been a real heartbreak. Now that he can do rotten girl, it wouldn’t be as fun: he is comfortable with his fujoshi aspect and she helps him draw too! He only goes a bit weird when his place in his fannish circle (which underpins his identity) is threatened. The most maddening thing about Hato is that he is “just what it says on the label

He is also plainly uneasy with the idea of having 3D secks with anyone, male or female: at very least he must be in love first. Not mere raiju love either: crazy, hits like lightning, very very frightening, break all the rules love. Special, unique, uncategorizable love. Not raiju. Raiju=death. Gay would be raiju. Bisexual would be raiju. Transwoman to male would be raiju because Japan’s laws say that a transwoman is a woman and Hato’s rebellious subconscious is also very law-abiding and polite. Asexual would be raiju. Aliens, time travelers or espers might do in a pinch but if they were too random they would be raiju (they are alien, one expects them to do alien things) as well and therefore unsuitable.

The ideal lover would probably be someone as equally plagued by fantasies as Hato is. This of course is the older “misfits into the sack” view that posits that the best match for an X is another X – a large part of why we do the whole categorization thing in the first place. The further complication to this, a sardonic jest on the part of the mangaka, remains that so far Hato can barely manage friendship.

A further interesting question pops up. The libidinous spaces of Japanese fandom are filled to the brim with invented others defined by odly imagined sexualities and desires. Genshiken’s Saki lampshaded how tenuous these can get when she casually alludes to having (“real”) gay friends. Buzz-kill! But if the world is full of interesting real folks, why spend so much time creating the fantastic? Why all the straight boys and girls keep making up their versions of others’  sexualities, goes far beyond imagining what those people do and/or boxes of tissues. The latter wouldn’t be needed if these shoddy constructs and the fantasies created with them didn’t scratch some deeper itch. These needs are complex, submerged and multi-faceted, but by no means unique: they are largely conventional and mundane, when taken in toto. As such they appear as tantalizing clues that promise insights into how we fit into the messy world that we have created. They make fine fodder for pop psychology and sociology.

Nawww… It all means nothing. Just kick back and enjoy the silly stories…

A radical queer/ genderqueer approach is probably the most productive means of situating the questions posed by the Hato character, (and /or just throwing up one’s arms while exclaiming “fugggettit!”) as long as we qualify it by positing an extreme aversion to any limiting aspects that societies always seek to impose on any categorizations.

Demanding a place in the world that fits the shape of one’s own heart is always a risky and somewhat foolish enterprise but given the state of Japanese society and the Japanese economy, Hato’s passive-aggressive rebellion is not risking much. It isn’t like he is sacrificing a job for life, a loving bride who becomes a shufu and a happy family – these are in short supply lately. With little to lose and the breathing room offered by university little prevents him from doing some product development research.

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

Sometimes the world finds a place, even a tenured teaching position for nice Jewish cis-grandmothers who are also gay “bear” trans-men. A trick like that however takes a lot of chutzpah as well as relentless, persistent and creative kicking.

Kenjiro Hato should seek out (or be written as seeking out) some new reading materials for pointers.

The alternative is to adopt the radical view championed by grumpy old neo-Hegelian Lacanians that the pursuit of a sexuality that fits one’s heart is fool’s errand because all sexuality is a manifestation of the universal force of human fail. Sexuality=fail and fail=eroticism and no one really fits in to anything or anywhere until we are measured for a pine box…

Suck it up and keep rowing.
.

(1) As well as the monk/ acolyte, warrior/ page tropes contained within the nanshoku/ wakashūdo/ shudō traditions, Also of note are the Onnagata (female-role) and wakashū-gata (adolescent boy-role) historical traditions of the theatre and floating world, Citing these however draws criticism from those who claim that an essentialist historic view is too often deployed to mask contentious current issues in Japan. For an overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan and an older work that was often cited in BL/yaoi bibliographies 10 years ago; an historical survey of male homosexuality in Japan, as it applies to the yaoi genre by Mark McHarry, originally printed in the Boston-based gay magazine, The Guide, November, 2003. Had to scrape “The Archive” a few times for this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20050111090154/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html
Note as well the interesting side-note in the wiki regarding the curious absence of the female from the first three generations of the genealogy of the gods, as found in the Nihon Shoki, which begs a whole slew of questions.

(2) The “jump the kouhai” scene from haganai is now even more confusing as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Yukimura Kusunoki turns out to be a girl who normally presents as a boy but presents as a boy crossdressing as a girly maid to “learn masculinity” from the male main character. Yukimura-san’s gender-fluidity is ascribed to “family circumstances“, the other great explain-all of Japanese comedies of gender identity along with “it’s a hobby!” Now that her secret is out, she has switched to a butler routine, which just goes to show that trying to get any sense out of a comedy manga might be asking too much.

(3) Dr Saito Tamaki has wondered about this, but put it aside preferring to see otaku behaviour as an elegant adaptation to contemporary conditions. Dr Akiko Mizoguchi has suggested that nominally straight fujoshi who internalize the fictional sexualities are not “straight” any more, but is imprecise as to how one would characterise them – either as virtual yaoi males in bed or virtual lesbians in their fan circles: the “you cannot look at all that…” effect once again. Earlier hints of this tendency to “ghost the shell” of the Japanese otaku can be found, such as in the 1999 “I’m alone, but not lonely”, Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place by Volker Grassmuck, as well as his 2000 Man, Nation & Machine: The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society. Although both are highly conversational and impressionistic, with too much bubble economy and Gibson references  they have been widely cited as early materials in what would become “otaku studies”.

Afterword: As always this blog’s coverage of the Genshiken remains indebted to the “senior” bloggers on the series: Ogiuemaniax at WordPress and Astro Nerd Boy, as well as their commenters. This post and the last would have been far thinner without the discussions therein, especially https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/scattered-thoughts-on-the-view-of-anime-and-manga-as-sexist/  and  https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/hatoful-genshiken-ii-chapter-110/
My gratitude and admiration also go out to the anonymous folks in the grey reaches of the interwebs that make the series available to my outlander eyes, and to the mangaka, whose unreadable original tankobons I am accumulating as I can. 

Insane Bonus Track: A french documentary film from 1994: Jean-Jacques Beineix’s (Diva, etc.) rather sensationalist  ‘Otaku’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCj9cQdIr8