Genshiken Ch115: impatience

Wow! Looks like someone decided to sort things out!

Keiko loses it C115

Chapter 115 raws are out! (wheeeeee!)

We gotta talk c115

And as for certain raw sites getting all possessive with their ill-gotten content….
Phhhhhtttttt!

 

Addendum:

Some of the Tumblr Genshiken fandom has decided that they NEED a zine about Hato. Wow! HATOZINE want! must see!

Kio Shimoku might have invented Hato, might be writing Hato, but the Hato continuum is loose in fanspace and now belongs to all fans who care, ship and love the character.

I am moved by this.

From the FAQ at http://hatozine.tumblr.com/faq

” I’m a straight cis dude. Can I still participate in this?

Totes.

I seem to have accidentally written a 5000 word essay about the intersections between the otokonoko and gay scenes in Tokyo and how Hato might potentially fit in once they graduate and uh…it has footnotes? Um…I don’t know if it-

Please send it to us immediately.”

Oh snap, this is sooooooooooo….

Want to see this, want to read this! Crap, I even broke down and regged up a Tumblr acct to see this, which is something an “old” like me should be careful about doing.

Full info at http://hatozine.tumblr.com/guidelines

Your own private Game of Laplace

Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace and the curious case of the detective novelist’s good friend’s hobby.

(Warning: Here there be honking big blockquotes – Game o Laplace mild spoilers too.)

The currently airing anime Ranpo Kitan: Game of (lets shorten it to) Laplace is of course a bit more and a bit less than a commemorative retelling of the iconic Japanese detective stories of Tarō Hirai/ Edogawa Rampo. There is also a toned-down re-visiting of the mood of the “erotic grotesque nonsense” (ero-guro) genre that played a prominent role in the original stories, with a deft updating of the tradition by laying out bait for otokonoko fanboys and yaoi fangirls. Anyone who wonders why this little weird thing exists is bound to do a quick peek at the wiki entry for Hirai/ Rampo.

From thereon however, things get odd and very, very Japanese.

Tarō Hirai, AKA Edogawa Rampo is considered the father of the Japanese detective story and was a great admirer of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. His Akechi, the first recurring detective character in Japanese fiction was clearly inspired by Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. In Laplace he is a grouchy 17-year-old genius with carte blanche from “The Imperial Household Agency” (we wont go there, just as we will not dwell too much on how the civilian casualties of the Ginza invasion in the anime version of GATE were kept low through the timely intervention of ‘higher authority’). Plagued by ennui and a never-relenting (per previous; caffeine withdrawal-get that kid to make you some strong coffee dammit!) headaches he ends up with two unwanted “assistants”. The first of these, Kobayashi is a diminutive junior high school (middle school) student who is often mistaken for a girl and displays a curiously amoral, detached passivity.

Happy Zet Carnage

Grotesque murders – even those that he is accused of committing seem to be the only thing that interest him. His friend, serious rich-boy Hashiba has appointed himself as Kobayashi’s protector and gets dragged into the Boy Detective Club that updates an original Edogawa Rampo conceit. As well, Kobayashi has started to crossdress, whether for solving crimes or just to amuse himself. I recommend episode 6, A Glimpse of Hell; the remaining episodes so far try too hard but not hard enough at giving the viewer a pasteurized taste of both “ero-guro-nansensu” and “iki”, that fatalistic, refined detached air which was a big thing in Edo Japan and which I suspect is the hook for the Kobayashi character.

“As an aesthetic expression, iki alludes to a certain style of life and of art that was current in the amusement districts of Edo, reaching a fashionable climax around 1830. However, in spite of its mundane outlook, iki has spiritual roots enabling it to reconcile the idea of Buddhist renunciation with Bushido idealism. Kuki Shûzô (1888–1941) established iki as a more abstract, philosophical term by attempting to define it, in his famous book The Structure of ‘Iki,’ with the help of Western metaphysical and anthropological methods. Surprisingly, Martin Heidegger mentions the notion of iki in an essay published in 1959 entitled “Aus einem Gespräch von der Sprache.” Though Heidegger’s reflections are interesting as such, they do in not grasp the real concept of iki.
Kuki writes that “‘iki’ has its origin in the ‘World of Suffering’. […] Now, ‘resignation’, that is the disinterestedness in ‘iki’, is an urbane and well-formed heart which has gone through the polishing of the hard and heartless floating world”. Iki is produced through a “resignation to fate and the gaiety based on ‘resignation’”. Iki asks for the negation of an “everyday world” which Kuki calls the “con-ventional” world. If we resign from the “conventional” we discover style: “You will be chic when the conventional has been rubbed away”. In many ways iki comes close to a philosophical ideal of “coolness.” The decisive point is that through the negation of the “conventional,” iki will not be “dis-covered” as an “essence” that already existed “out there”, outside everyday life. On the contrary, the act of resignation from everyday life reveals a kind of iki that always exited within everyday life (and even within ourselves) but that was covered by the conventional. In this sense, Kuki writes: “If we are able to combine the abstract conceptual moments of transformation obtained through analysis, and to constitute the being of ‘iki’, that is because we already carry iki with us as experiential meaning” (73). The particular act of stylization through which the conventional is “cut off” depends on the stylistic cut called kire, which is essential to the aesthetics of iki.”

– The Structure of Detachment: The Aesthetic Vision of Kuki Shuzo: With a Translation of Iki no kozo. University of Hawaii Press 2004. Botz-Bornstein, Thorsten.

In less elegant words; stray kittens, beautiful prostitutes, pretty boys and attractive boi-dykes get into horrible life situations. Life is messy and cruel, only the fleeting moments of beauty redeem it – be careful not to over-react to these. You can pet them and occasionally feed them; you can admire the sublime moment but nothing can save them. Falling in love or sympathy with any of these is folly and will only drag you and everything around you down with them. We’re all going to die and they will die sooner, in messy circumstances. “The flame that burns twice as bright burns only half as long” and dwelling on this ruins the moment, so shut up and enjoy the cherry blossoms. Note that Iki predates the European idea of the flanneur by half a century or more. Also note that “the floating world’ was a miserable place to be stuck in for either sex; bond-servitude prostitution (slavery) remained open and accepted until the advent of the post-war constitution.

As well, Kobayashi embodies another aspect of the homage-a-Rampo-ness in Laplace; the True Crime/ Tokyo Reporter nudge nudge wink wink “deviancy” of all sexuality, be it raiju or minority. It may seem odd to the Western mind, but high levels of Japanese literacy and cultural engagement, combined with the heavy hand of the state resulted in tons of important discussion on sexuality, gender and society being carried out during the twentieth century in sensational, lurid vernacular publications. Imagine if Masters and Johnson had to release their landmark sexuality studies in Real Man’s Manly Adventure Monthly, sharing space with “Flesh Eating Marmoset Attack!!!”.

manly man attacked web600

When he was not writing detective stories Hirai/Rampo spent time with his friend Jun-ichi Iwata, who appeared to have been determined to prove that a separate, long-standing nihon-jinron ‘gay in Japan’ tradition existed independent from contaminating Western notions of sexual and gender minorities.

“Another of his interests, especially during the late 1940s and 1950s, was bringing attention to the work of his dear friend Jun’ichi Iwata (1900–1945), an anthropologist who had spent many years researching the history of homosexuality in Japan. During the 1930s, Edogawa and Iwata had engaged in a light-hearted competition to see who could find the most books about erotic desire between men. Edogawa dedicated himself to finding books published in the West and Iwata dedicated himself to finding books having to do with Japan. Iwata died in 1945, with only part of his work published, so Edogawa worked to have the remaining work on queer historiography published.[12]”
— (per Jeffrey Angles, Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishōnen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ISBN 978-0-8166-6970-7.) – Wiki enty for Edogawa Ranpo/ Rampo, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edogawa_Ranpo

… And here I do a bit of link following and lookie what turns up! A Cliff’s Notes summary of the whole ball o wax by Brad Borovitz, academic, cultural critic and conceptual/ software artist originally written back in 1993. (This is damn fine, take some time later and read the whole thing)

“Iwata’s friend Edogawa relates that he was completely disinterested in Western materials on sexology while Edogawa found them both fascinating and important. In fact, Iwata refused to treat the ethnographic dimension of homosexuality; but his relationship to ethnography is complicated. He did do other “ethnographic” work (such as a study of Toba area pearl divers) and was associated with minshukugaku (民衆苦学) especially through his correspondence with Minakata Kumagusu (南方熊 楠). If, as I assert, Iwata’s historical project is a response to a new sexuality that has everything to do with the West, his refusal is significant; it seems to suggest a reactionary positioning. It may represent a reaction against the ethnographic attentions of the West—Edward Carpenter (1911), Ferdinand Karsch-Haack (1906) and Magnus Hirschfeld, all wrote about the phenomenon in Japan —and an enactment of defiant self-definition, a “writing back”; or, it may be defensive appeal to tradition in response to the undesirable influence of Western notions of sexuality. In doing history, Iwata performs an implicit rebuff of a privileged foreign knowledge and in a claim for identity and consciousness absents the imposing voice of the West.”
— The Discourse on “Love Between Men” in Interwar Japan: Iwata’s History of Homosexuality by Brad Borovitz http://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

Unfortunately, there were not that many academic journals available to social anthropologists in inter-war Japan, so…

“Edogawa Rampo relates that Iwata spent a great deal of time searching in old book stores for sources and meticulously taking notes on his material before he ever wrote anything for publication. It was apparently at Edogawa’s urging that he published the series of essays called Honcho Nanshoku Ko, “Reflections on Love Between Men in Our Country,” in Hanzai Kagak, “Criminal Science [Magazine],” starting in June of Showa 5 (1930). This first series proceeded chronologically from the beginning of recorded Japanese history—citing the Nihon Shoki (c. 720) and the Shoku Nihon Gi (c. 797)—up to through the Kamakura era (1185-1333). Other essays, published mostly in the in the same journal, also covered the Muromachi era (1333-1573). He went on to publish, less systematically, work that dealt with the Tokugawa (1603-1868), but he tended to focus more and more on the literature of nanshoku, through collections of stories. His final work, never published in his lifetime, was Nanshoku Bunken Shoshi (男色文献書誌), “An Annotated Bibliography of Male Love.” The manuscript was finished in 1943, but it was not published until Showa 31 (1956). Nanshoku Bunken Shoshi is a 370 page long carefully annotated bibliography of all references to nanshoku in Japanese literature from the Manyoshu and early chronicles through the literature of the Edo period. Considering even just the scope and form of his project, it seems that a great deal of rhetorical force is collected behind an assertion that, as something that pervades the history and literature of Japan from the earliest time, nanshoku is thoroughly Japanese.” – Ibid Borovitz

Flying rodents ripped my flesh

Other vernacular publications at the time included “Sex-Customs Storybook Magazine”, “Sex-Customs Science Magazine” “The Grotesque Magazine” and “Hallucinatory Literature Magazine” (per,Jeffrey Angles, Index, Ibid, passim.) Rampo made his living writing demi-monde thrillers and critics argue that he went from cerebral detective fiction to straight pulp sensationalism very quickly.

“The prescriptive literature of Habuto, Sawada and other experts who offered their counsel to the officials of law enforcement and education, found another audience in the bored urban middle class. Valued for their ability to titillate with descriptions of deviant sexuality, these works became part of a growing underground culture of sexology, part of the era’s popular fascination with ero-guro-nansensu (エロルロナンセンス), erotic-grotesque-nonsense. Iwata’s work, published as it was mainly in crime magazines, may teeter on the line between these genres of academic sexological discourse and popular erotic interest.” – Ibid Borovitz

See also this short passage from Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s by Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano

https://books.google.ca/books?id=d__1ryAnmFkC&lpg=PT371&ots=K2mAirnXDn&dq=Japanese%20magazine%20%20%E2%80%9CCriminal%20Science%E2%80%9D&pg=PT371#v=onepage&q=Japanese%20magazine%20%20%E2%80%9CCriminal%20Science%E2%80%9D&f=false

Lets see if I can get the embed to work for Google Books:
https://books.google.ca/books?id=dIc0RBYMs9kC&lpg=PA33&ots=1q1RtDjsMR&dq=Japanese%20magazine%20%20%E2%80%9CCriminal%20Science%E2%80%9D&pg=PA33&output=embed

Despite his “fall” the move proved popular and ultimately secured his place in the popular imagination. A flanneur detective who can slip through the seedy underbelly of Tokyo proved to be a durable creation.

http://www.zerochan.net/1721588#full

Also: Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s And 1930s, by Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano

https://books.google.ca/books?id=dIc0RBYMs9kC&pg=PA33&lpg=PA33&dq=Japanese+magazine++%E2%80%9CCriminal+Science%E2%80%9D&source=bl&ots=1q1RtDjsMR&sig=W_mfhpdEknohUVUL0p_LLLP7PBc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCAQ6AEwAWoVChMIksCt57G4xwIVUQiSCh0MRAPJ#v=onepage&q=Japanese%20magazine%20%20%E2%80%9CCriminal%20Science%E2%80%9D&f=false

Nope.. Google Books embed ain’t gonna happen! Phhhttt!

Recall as well from an earlier post how 1950’s discourse on minority sexualities ended up in pulp magazines:

“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.” – ‘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

The point of this excursion into pulp fiction is that like “Pulp Fiction” or better, “Blue Velvet” anything that did not lead a salaryman and a mom to raise normal offspring had one foot already into a strange and probably lethally dangerous hentai demi-monde.

So put aside this childish stuff, shape up, marry and reproduce!

The feminization of men and the masculinization of women and the neutered gender that results is a modernistic tendency that makes it impossible for the individual, the society, or the nation to achieve great progress. Accordingly, since the manliness of man and the femininity of woman must forever be preserved, it is imperative that we not allow the rise of neutered people who defy nature’s grace.
– General Ugaki Kazushige [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazushige_Ugaki], per Borovitz, Ibid

If you want more ero-guro nonsense in updated form, hunt out a copy of the 1968 film Black Lizard, directed by Kinji Fukasaku:

” The movie was adapted from Rampo’s novel of the same name by noted author Yukio Mishima, who also appears briefly in the film. The story pits the detective against a female mastermind, known as the Black Lizard, who is played by transvestite actor Akihiro Miwa. The film is considered high camp with its bizarre conventions and over-the-top performances but has a loyal following among fans and critics alike.” — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogoro_Akechi

Yukio Mishima and his transvestite lover ??? Laplace’s cheesecake derivative is a pale shadow! Many years later this Black Lizard will re-appear as the voice of the witch in Howl’s moving Castle. Miwa is alive and well today and still getting TV gigs. The soundtrack was composed by the now-famous composer Isao Tomita [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isao_Tomita] who would later go on to score a slew of renown anime classics and collaborate with an orchestral composition for Hatsune Miku  [http://www.crunchyroll.com/anime-news/2012/08/27-1/hatsune-miku-to-collaborate-with-japan-philharmonic-orchestra]. Mishima’s  cameo in the film was as an embalmed corpse.

With Eng subs – https://youtu.be/5S1k9Uq-Zaw (hope it stays up for a while)

A little more digging turns up a bit more info on Rampo’s original Akechi character:

“Kogoro Akechi is a tall, handsome man with heavy eyebrows who dresses well. He is married to a woman named Fumiyo (文代) and lives with Yoshio Kobayashi, the leader of the Boy Detectives Club. Kobayashi often plays an important part in solving cases. Like his mentor, he is an expert at disguise and is especially adept at posing as a young woman. Aside from these relationships little is known of the detective’s personal life, which always takes a back seat to the mystery in his adventures.
[…]
Modern references to him can also be found in Gosho Aoyama’s popular and long-running manga series, Detective Conan. One of the characters, Detective Kogoro Mori is a persistent and courageous yet highly flawed and lecherous private detective—almost a parody of Kogoro Akechi. He has his cases solved for him by the youthful main character, Conan Edogawa. The name of young Conan’s elementary school detective club is the “Detective Boys”. Akechi himself is highlighted in volume 2 of the manga, in “Gosho Aoyama’s Mystery Library, a section of the graphic novels (usually the last page) where the author introduces a different detective (or occasionally, a villain) from literature. Further Akechi references can be seen in Aoyama’s other series, Magic Kaito, where a master thief who steals high-profile items for recognition.

Both Akechi and the Black Lizard are referenced in the Sakura Taisen series of video games and anime. One of the musicals performed by the Teikoku Kagekidan is Benitokage (“Crimson Lizard”) and features the title character, a criminal femme fatale, along with a handsome young detective named Akechi Kojiro. The manga and anime Nijū Mensō no Musume, or the Daughter of Twenty Faces, focuses heavily on Akechi’s arch-rival. Akechi himself is featured as well, but as a much more minor character. Akechi is also referenced in the character of Police Superintendent Akechi Kengo in Kindaichi Case Files, a popular detective manga series. In the media franchise, Tantei Opera Milky Holmes, Akechi is represented by a girl police detective named Kokoro Akechi.

Recently, a new Anime series entitled Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace has been created, based off the Mystery novels of Edogawa Ranpo, and in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of his death. The story follows Kobayashi (a reference to the leader of the Boy Detectives) who becomes assistant to eccentric 17 year old Akechi. In this Anime Twenty Faces also makes an appearance as a vigilante serial killer.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kogoro_Akechi

Back to Laplace and Kobayashi. Like the second iteration of the Genshiken, the point of view shifts to the otokonoko character; Akechi, the nominal hero is a grumpy cypher. Unlike Kenjiro Hato though, Kobayashi is a far more problematic character. Wake up in a pool of blood holding a hacksaw to find the dismembered body of your home room teacher nearby? “Wow! Neato, school was beginning to bore me!” When the case resolves, it turns out that the murder victim was himself a murderous pervert who in turn was killed by a jealous complicit almost-victim who suddenly was tossed over as the dead perv began to fixate on the beautiful but emotionally vacant Kobayashi.

What follows after this is a sad parade of child murderers, vigilante killers, sex crazed female criminal masterminds, industrial magnate sex cultists and other assorted freaks.

One wishes that this Akechi gets a Fumiyo to calm the whole mess down a bit.

Aside from Akechi and Laplace, the weird circumstances of the study in Japan of minority sexuality and gender expressions in the twentieth century remains. The first and for a long period thereafter, the sole comprehensive examination of historical Japanese homosexuality was midwifed/ or mid-husbanded by the formost pulp detective writer of 20th century Japan. The Legendary Professor Munakata also makes an appearance. There is a strong feeling that he is modelled on the famous Japanese folklorist/ biologist Minakata Kumagusu[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minakata_Kumagusu] [The Legendary Musings of Professor Munakata http://myanimelist.net/manga/24090/Munakata_Kyouju_Denkikou]

“The well know biologist and folklorist Minakata Kumagusu initiated a correspondence with Iwata about nanshoku after reading Honcho Nanshoku Ko in Hanzai Kagaku. The fact that Minakata read Hanzai Kagaku, and took Iwata’s work seriously enough to engage him in dialogue shows the degree to which popular and high culture were integrated and the extent to which ero-guro-nansensu was part of both. The correspondence lasted from 1931 through 1934, a total of 58 letters that take up over a hundred of pages in Minakata’s collected works. ” — Ibid Borovitz

The odd circumstance of the evolution of early Japanese sexology as topic for popular discussion was that it was often soaked in “Japan-ness vs foreign-ness”, the discourse of nihon-jinron. Faced with Western research that pathologized minority sexualities and/or wrote them as a symptom of societal breakdown, the historicist approach holds the possibility of rebutting at least some of the wild claims that were beginning to wash up on Japanese shores. From the inescapable historic fact that throughout human existence some folks experienced same-sex desire and others felt that they don’t quite fit into how their genders were supposed to behave, all manner of mapping and other-ings can be invented to fit the whims of the moment. Years later, in the West, some theorists will throw up their hands as well and look warily at nature/ nurture, convinced that either or both approaches can and have been too often refashioned into crude cudgels to be turned upon the subjects of their speculations. A historicist approach instead normalizes, with a message of “it has always thus so been”. Only the tales that the nosy neighbours tell change.

What we are left with is a curious and long-standing tradition in Japan of using vernacular cultural spaces, normally the locus of cheesy stories, as contested space (or spaces) for competing views, interests and arguments over sexuality, gender and therefore identity. That this practice continues today, in the myriad spaces of Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture is part of a long running dialogue, and inseparable from the larger project of modernity.

In this wider context, the common complaints levelled at otaku and fujoshi seem beside the point. We must wait to see what larger projects emerge from these hobbies.

The Genshiken lacks an ero-guro otaku, though I suspect that Rika is written as knowing most of the historical stuff. The lack of guro even if there is sufficient ero is curious.

Bonus: Ero-Guro nonsense – with Yakuza!

Track down Branded to Kill and its over-the-top sexploitation yuri remake Pistol Opera
A video review:


[youtu.be/AvwBZQmRtKE]

Outlander must save the Japans! pt2

Repent Alien Jones!

they-live-we-sleep3
.. But do you know WHY we sleep? (0)

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Comiket is this weekend, I haven’t done up my review of the Spring 2015 mini-international-comiket that I managed to attend back in March. I was looking at my pictures and they are all kind of meh! I wanted to follow the rules and was too flustered at being completely unable to function in Japanese to sign-language-annoy table folk and volunteers for permission to photograph more than a couple of them up close. Almost all the pix are sweeping wide crowd shots of folk’s backs. Boring! I barely got to talk with anyone, because I suck speaking Japanese, didn’t push my luck and demand a minder/ interpreter (I wangled a press pass) and ended up completely overwhelmed. I also overloaded myself with gear and managed to get a mild scolding for plopping myself down on the grass out in back next to the garbage bins and sneaking a smoke. Gomen! How embarrassing. (there were plenty of Japanese style pariah pits in the front of the convention halls, but I was too bagged to trudge back to them, gehh! Outlanders, can’t trust us with anything… )

The critical anthology Fandom Unbound has an interesting chapter on Comiket and it could be integrated into a post…

There are also chapters on cosplay and rotten girls, and something that is hanging un-mentioned in the Genshiken-verse that needs some poking with a stick. Nidaime OVA #4; there I said it. No yuri here, no way, nope, not in the Genshiken. Lets change the subject fast. Quick, nudge Hato into a fugue-out, whew! 

But these will have to wait because…

I HAVE TO SAVE THE JAPANS !!!
(again)

Ah, is that so Commander? I really have to run...
…Ah, is that so Commander? I really have to run!

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Normally I would try to drop the idea onto some of the more well-known English-language blogs about life in Japan, something like the bitingly funny Japanese Rule of Seven, and hope they pick up on it but this is far too serious a matter. Comiket is upon us again, tourism to Japan is picking up, the Olympics are only a few years away and yet…

A specter is haunting Japan

www.youtube.com/watch?v=39MILG4txBk&index=1&list=PL4F3C1016A2216AB3

The specter of disappointing, weak canned vending machine coffee!

I’m serious! You can’t fool me, Alien Jones. Your coffee sucks! All Japanese vending machine canned coffee is piss-ant weak, tragically, disgustingly unsatisfying, homeopathic, cheap-ass, zero strength useless brown-ish dishwater water. (perhaps there are a few perc-into-a-cup style machines left somewhere in Japan, but mostly its canned coffe if you want coffee) Sometimes it smells coffee-like, but don’t let that fool you, your disappointment will only be greater. And I sooooo wanted to believe! Sure it comes in nifty heated metal cans. Sure it has coffee-looking pictures on the cans. Sure you can get a can for Y100-Y140 almost anywhere. Sure they have the world’s kewlest commercials for it: none of it matters if the coffee is weak swill.

Where I come from, we call it KITTEN COFFEE

…Where I come from, we call it Kitten Coffee

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This coffee is not acceptable and must be denounced! 
(4)

The crying shame of it is that Japan rally really knows coffee – almost in a biblical sense. They are very, very, very good at coffee – except when they put it in a can in a vending machine. They make coffee to die for; to die, have some dribbled on your cold corpse lips and resurrect for. Coffee at their Starbucks is better than coffee at your Starbucks and Japanese Starbucks coffee is middling good on the scale of what you can get in Japan. Sure you might end up paying Y500-Y800 a cuppa, but it will be a wonderful experience. I recommend the little chocolate cakee thing too, even if it runs you another Y1000.

13-FOB-FOOD-SPAN-articleLarge

More on this at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Food-t-000.html (also from whence the alluring pic above came from)

On the low-end of the scale 7-Eleven is pushing out brewed coffee in a big take-out cup for Y100, and all their stores have nice clean restrooms as well. No reports yet as to whether that Y100 cuppa has any guts though!

And we need to talk guts here.

Too_Much_Coffee_Man web600

Weak coffee is the world’s number one cause of salaryman burnout, falling productivity, depression and even suicide. The reason all those Japanese companies make their employees work 12-14 hour shifts is because everyone is so burned out and zombie-fied that they are getting nothing done. And when they need a lift? Hah! Nothing but a cruel disappointment! The entire breakdown of the Japanese family, the hellish hours, the absent breadwinner, the alienation and despair can all be attributed to weak canned coffee!

pain doesnt go away w600

Oh sure, weak coffee has its place; some folks have delicate innards or get the shakes after 10 or 12 real cups and might need to take it easy for the rest of the night. A few tormented souls may even find that coffee is not their cup of tea, but since this is Japan, we pretty well have the tea thing covered, neh? I will mention one more thing: every single co-worker or boss that I have worked with that made a fuss and insisted on weak-ass coffee in the workplace coffee-maker has turned around and stabbed me in the back. I shit you not. So it is not as if I am equating a preference for thin insipid pseudo-coffee with personal moral bankruptcy or psychopathic behavior but the coincidence leaves me cautious. Fool me once…

guess why you have a headache tag web600

I blame Coke!

Per, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/13/business/economy-business/suntory-gains-ground-battle-machines/#.Vcq8yOyrTdV

“”Back in the ’70s, one of Coca-Cola Japan’s regional distributors came out with one of the first canned coffees, Max, and when it tried to expand the brand, Coca-Cola in America wouldn’t subsidize it because it couldn’t understand the concept of coffee in a can. But when Max took off, the parent gave in and Georgia was born, as well as the whole canned coffee culture in Japan.

Boss, which Suntory launched in 1992, is now the second-biggest-selling line, and the company has invested a lot in trying to overtake Coca-Cola. In 2000, Boss sales were about a third of Georgia’s. Now they’re about two-thirds.”

Anyone old enough to remember American restaurant coffee from the 1970’s? It was just as miserable and weak as the Japanese canned stuff is now. Back then, unless you got lucky and found a pot of joe that had been slowly turning to tar on the truck-stop Bunn-o-matic all night (Ah! Heaven! 100-mile coffee!), a cuppa at the lunch counter would probably be a weak and foolish insult to the coffee gods, even if it came with free refills. This grievous bit of culinary malpractice must have traveled across the seas and settled in as a tradition in the Japanese market when Coke Japan started putting the joe in a can. While the Japanese are world-class at mastering whatever strikes their fancy, they are also sticklers for authenticity and tradition. Japanese vending-machine coffee perfectly recreates weak 1970’s mid-America lunch counter coffee. The very horror that brought about the 1980’s retail revolution in North American coffee consumption, launched a thousand Starbucks and infested entire inner cities with hipsters in its blowback still lives in every Japanese vending machine that dispenses canned coffee.

You can see how desperate a situation this is.

theylive2

Not that I have not been warned about the futility of using an English language outlander blog to gripe about Japanese practices, and not that I don’t take Matt Thorn’s heartfelt admonitions seriously (1) but what else can I do? The country I love to visit, the country of manga, anime, yummy food and she-who-up-with-me-puts is in peril! Dare I stand quietly by?

I am not suggesting that they destroy what some might now consider a Japanese tradition. The Japanese rebuild their temples every 40 years or so and they have been drinking weak-assed canned coffee for that long, so by now weak-assed canned coffee is probably as traditional as mikos piloting giant robots. But innovation lives side by side with tradition in Japan! Red Bull and native Japanese taurine energy drinks (that 3000 stuff is freaking amazing, but it ain’t coffee) are all over the shelves of their every-8th-storefront drug stores. (Drug stores in Japan; there are probably more of them than combinis) You just need to present decent coffee in a can as something new, possibly with a nifty manga or anime tie-in to give the market a long-withheld and well-deserved caffeinated boost. Our hero Too Much Coffee Man probably won’t work for Japan.  The traditional tough-guy manly man who prefers deeds rather than words is already maxed out. Boy-band members are wimpy. Wimpy we got too much of already.

A pro wrestler might be a good choice, or Murcielago, or both! Otherwise Japan is going to get desperate and start drinking the great lukewarm sticky evil: US-style Mountain Dew (2)

The Horror! The Horror!

Immediate stopgaps are possible: Alcohol free coffee liqueur in a can; Kaluha Free Zero (or would it be Zero Free?). Something built on the idea of espresso (although real espresso is strong on flavor and aroma, but curiously easy on the caffeine). Where is Starbucks when you need them? Given the “pedigree” of their name in Japan they would probably avoid rocking the boat and would make any canned coffee just as pathetically weak as everybody else’s. That’s the way things are done in Japan. You show respect for tradition.

Well screw that. Japan makes awesome coffee, in a cup. The best minds of the planet must be mobilized into cajoling the big Japanese beverage companies into sticking it into a thin little cans and putting it into their vending machines, hopefully by yesterday.

bebop coffee gif

There! I’ve done my duty. Hopefully the call will spread and the forces of righteous coffee enjoyment will prevail. We can all look forward to the dawning of a new age in Japan, and then slowly, inexorably across the planet as strong, tasty canned coffee becomes as well-know a Japanese innovation as cup-o-noodles.

For Great Justice!

Holy Shit! it’s almost 6am. How the &^%$& did I manage to stay up all night on this stupid post?

(0) Grrrr! Just noticed the ad-blocker and privacy plugins are suppressing WordPress photo captions and some of the embedded videos. So now I have to put the captions in the text and hope the formatting makes sense. Oh Lord give me strength!

(1) Matt Thorn’s blog is curiously down/ and/ or looks like it has been grabbed by a troll trying to sell foreign exchange trading tips. See this Japan Times post for a precis of his argument: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/01/11/voices/need-talk-japan-english/   So I might be outlander-complaining. No way, I am trying to SAVE Japan from the scourge of fake weak coffee that is at best a misapprehension of an American mistake, at worse a furreign corporate plot!

(2) Mountain Dew is made by a special process that absorbs ambient room heat so that it is always tepid. The Canadian version is not jacked with extra caffeine.

(3) redacted

(4) The tagline from a legendary story from around these parts. An old woman of apparent Eastern European extraction and somewhat military airs enters a hippy-ish coffee shop, sits down at a table, pulls out a thick commie book and notebook and pencil and then asks the server in a loud voice: “Is the coffee here acceptable, or must it be denounced?”

Hello Kitty guitar ftw!

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man still only has one eye. He does not necessarily get to be King.”

It is disconcerting to run up against one’s own blind spots. The natural reaction is to dismiss what one cannot fathom: just because other folks can see something in the mist doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be interesting or useful for me. Here in meatspace, I just spent a few evenings watching world-class experimental films and for the most part, even though I have a strong background in the fine arts and a wide range of interests I must confess to Idongettitt for the overwhelming majority of the offerings I watched. It’s just me. Fortunately I know enough about the condition of being bemused to realize that there is usually a huge, lurking body of knowledge, of prior work and “lore” that I have no idea about and which forms the context in which the works I sat through, some boring, some fiercely opaque, that if I knew might redeem the evenings’ experience for me. Or not…

If I knew more, I would probably be in a rapturous state for having discovered one of two amazing new things. I suspect I would still be cranky and dismissive about a few others; I have used the “repeats over and over and over for far too long to prove that it is serious art” trick a few times myself. Sorry, not buying it. On the other hand, I know that I am biased towards words and narrative; some of the works that I found, subjectively the most annoying must be pure eye candy to folks with a strong visual bias; which is something to remember if I am going to spout off about Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture.

I should pay more attention to the pictures, and to the stuff that is going on offstage in the dressing room.

With this is mind, here is a round-up of neat miscellaneous stuff that I have run into lately, that ended up in the “never looked at it like that before” pile.

Alice +rabbit

I have previously noted Masafumi Monden’s short essay: “Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach”  [https://www.academia.edu/11361844/Sh%C5%8Djo_Manga_Research_The_Legacy_of_Women_Critics_and_Their_Gender-Based_Approach]
Reading more of his work on the Alice and Lolita fashion in CJVC reminded me that I had been doing a lot of looking,but not enough observing. Monden’s work comes from a background of design and fashion studies; which sounds pretty “out there” if your hobby is throwing light critical theory at manga to see what sticks. The above essay went on to make a case for shojo ballet manga as far more common and as deserving of attention in the study of shojo manga as gender non-conforming girl princes. Then you stumble on to something like his “Being Alice in Japan: performing a cute, ‘girlish’ revolt
[https://www.academia.edu/7036962/Being_Alice_in_Japan_performing_a_cute_girlish_revolt] (You really need to reg up an Academia.edu account, it’s a free and easy way to sneak around a few academic pay-walls) and the executive summaries “A Gentle Kind of Revolt: Cute (Kawaii) Fashion and Japanese Music-video Appropriations of ‘Alice” 
[https://www.academia.edu/1684744/A_Gentle_Kind_of_Revolt_Cute_Kawaii_Fashion_and_Japanese_Music-video_Appropriations_of_Alice_ ] and “Lace Dress of Liberty: (Re)appraising Decorative Femininity through Kamikaze Girls [https://www.academia.edu/1678109/Lace_Dress_of_Liberty_Re_appraising_Decorative_Femininity_through_Kamikaze_Girls ]  that help to fill in some of the meaning that is invoked when a certain character type is presented in CJVC. Who’d have thought that Alice in Wonderland was such a big thing in Japan, or that its legacy is one of appropriation and localization:

“Lewis Carroll’s two books featuring Alice have had a strong presence in Japan since the first Japanese translation of Through the Looking-Glass in the late nineteenth century. It started with Hasegawa Ten’kei’s Mirror World (Kagami sekai), a sequential novel in eight episodes published in Youth’s World (Shonen sekai), a magazine for boys, throughout 1899. In Hasegawa’s version, the name of the heroine was changed from Alice to the more Japanese Mie, and the story was more an adaptation than a direct translation (Kawato 2000). Under the pseudonym of Sumako, Nagayo Shizuo published possibly the first translation of Alice’s adventures in wonderland in the newly created girl’s magazine Girls’ Friend (Shojo no tomo) in 1908. While using the name of Alice, the story was again more like Nagayo’s adapted story rather than a direct translation of Carroll’s book (Kawato 2000). Maruyama Eikan’s Fantastic Tales of Ai (Ai-chan no yume monogatari), published in 1910 by Naigai shuppan kyokai, is said to have been the first complete translation of Alice. This 209-page book with Tenniel’s illustrations, where the heroine is called Ai instead of Alice, indicates the difficulty of fully translating Carroll’s word play and puns into Japanese. This might have been one reason why Hasegawa and Nagayo focused on harmless, fantastic aspects of Carroll’s novels (Kawato 2000) rather than their darker nuances. Nonetheless, the Japanese literary world’s fascination with Alice has continued, and nearly 200 editions of Japanese Alice and Looking-glass (including reissues) have been published between 1908 and 2004 (Sakakibara n.d). The current popularity of Alice is largely thanks to Sir John Tenniel’s celebrated illustrations (1865 and 1872) and Walt Disney’s now classic film Alice in wonderland (1951), which was first released in Japan in 1952.”
– Monden, Being Alice in Japan, etc., Ibid.

Also of note is his short examination of what happens when it spreads, as fashion without the context to the rest of the world: “Transcultural Flow of Demure Aesthetics: Examining Cultural Globalisation through Gothic & Lolita Fashion” [ https://www.academia.edu/407714/Transcultural_Flow_of_Demure_Aesthetics_Examining_Cultural_Globalisation_Through_Gothic_and_Lolita_Fashion]

Monden is interested in some of the shojo heroine types that don’t usually get coverage in crit-space. The thing about Alice is that Wonderland does not faze her. A normal person would freak out. The place is weird and dangerous but Alice spends most of her time either distanced or annoyed. The Alice figure becomes a liminal almost-super-girl, who is a spectator but not a participant in the “economics” of conventional female roles. She doesn’t have to be a child or a potential sex-prize, or responsible good-wife/ wise mother in training. She stands outside of these roles and their functional imperatives and therefore outside of mortal time. And she is ever ready to throw all the cards up into the air.

An entire slew of ageless hidden high school principals, bratty loli vampires and death god’s apostles, as well as the laconic female lead of the Ouran Host Club all trace their descent from Alice. I should have paid more attention to the ruffles. There was a hint of this in “Girliness Next to Godliness: Lolita Fandom as Sacred Criminality in the Novels of Takemoto Novala” by Brian Bergstrom, in  Mechademia 6: User Enhanced (2011)
[https://www.academia.edu/4453047/_Girliness_Next_to_Godliness_Lolita_Fandom_as_Sacred_Criminality_in_the_Novels_of_Takemoto_Novala_Mechademia_6_User_Enhanced_2011]

…but it gets lost in the fireworks:

“As the story ends, the protagonist imagines fulfilling Mishin’s request that she use her Hello Kitty guitar to bludgeon him to death on stage during Ryūnosuke’s memorial concert the next day:

I’ll do it. Even if your survival instinct kicks in as I start to hit you and you try to run away, even if you tell me you didn’t mean it, tell me to stop, tell me not to kill you, I’ll keep my word. I will beat you to death with my Hello Kitty guitar. I’ll keep hitting you in front of all those people without a second thought, until your skull is in pieces, until I’m bathed in your blood. With these hands, I’ll make you eternal.”
-Ibid Bergstrom

Another of my blind spots centers around the problematics of performance and performative analysis. I’m not a theater person, performance art is mostly a “meh!” to me (I have done the usual readings because of the Fine Arts thing, but still… whatever!”). Cosplay is fun enough, but let’s not get too obsessed over it – I am old enough to remember it as little more than the prelude to all-night scifi convention piss-ups. Maybe the new iteration radically changes something.

Oh, lookie, an essay on Western M2F crossplayers:

“Good crossplay reveals the pure love for an anime character […] that is at the heart of all cosplay, regardless of the gender of [the] cosplayer or the character being cosplayed. In my perspective, it takes a real man to dress like a 10-year-old girl.”

“Traditional societal perceptions of gender are no fun anyway. I can’t fire, earth, water or air bend so I Gender Bend.”
– Gender, Sexuality, and Cosplay: A Case Study of Male-to-Female Crossplay by Rachel Leng [http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13481274]

What? no coverage of F2M crossplayers? [ Later: the Fandom Unbound anthology mentioned below has a section on cosplay that ventues some interesting ideas about crossovers between female cosplayers, sepc. those into F2M crossplay and rotten girls – must review soon ] The more important theme that emerges from the essay is the notion that the internal codes of cosplaying provide a space wherein a certain degree of gender-play can occur for straight guys without getting into any of the more problematic issues of sexuality or their fundamental gender expression. The author references the Japanese kabuki tradition and offers a few tentative speculations about “carnival”-esque spaces;

“In many ways, cosplay performances demonstrate a form of 2.5 dimensional space where the boundary between reality and fiction is transgressed (Saito, 2007). Within this space of potentiality, crossplay epitomizes how cosplayers find pleasure in straddling layers between the fictive and real worlds to explore the virtual potential of sexuality. M2F crossplay thus problematizes how people see themselves as female or male, or how maleness and femaleness are attributed to others, but at the same time, presents itself as a high art form that distills the essence of cosplay fandom. Ultimately, what this paper suggests is that we should think of crossplay as more than an entertainment medium, as more than a mere act of parody. M2F crossplay deserves critical attention as an individual‟s artistic expression of performative fan identity with broader meanings for human action in relation to gender and sexuality.”
– Leng, ibid

The Kabuki reference deserved more consideration, but of course, these are western cos/cross players being considered. A wider “theatricality” POV might lead to an expanded mode of analysis. One of the classic dismissals of Japanese fen yaoi/BL practice, including its prodigious secondary production output, is that it is “just girls playing with dolls“.

“…as Francesca Coppa (2006) pointed out, even engaging in a textual practice like fan fiction is more like directing a theatrical production than authoring a text, as these stories “direct bodies in space” using fans’ shared knowledge of a canon text’s “sets and wardrobes, of the actors’ bodies, smiles, and movements.”
– Bound princes and monogamy warnings: Harry Potter, slash, and queer performance in LiveJournal communities” by Darlene Hampton [ http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/609/500 ]

The interests of the article’s author are clear and nailed to the mast, so a slight overload of queer theory rah-rah-rah is inevitable, (along with the usual later hedging of all bets by expanding the definition of “queer” so wide as to include everyone and everything but married Mormon missionaries) but the overall approach is interesting and could carry over to fannish secondary production (or transformative works, as the journal prefers) in general, including Japanese manifestations.

Right from the start, such an approach can pull a Captain Obvious and note that when a fan fic or dojin swipes a work’s characters, it almost always also swipes the scenery, location, background, setting and so forth. This matters, because it also can be messed with or left intact to heighten the feeling of appropriated authenticity. Another interesting tack comes from the performative nature of the anonymous creative interaction that develops as the work is group edited and discussed (perhaps less so in dojin production and more so in online fic editing) as well as in the presentation of individuals as actors within the online fan community.

4.44] Anonymous: Uh, there IS supposed to be a plot in here somewhere, right? Or is this just chapter after chapter of fucking? I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong about chapter after chapter of fucking. It’s just that I thought somewhere in here there would be a plot, much like what would happen if J.K. wrote HBP differently…as, I may mention, it is advertized [sic] as such in the header text… This DID get an award of some kind. Makes me wonder if it wasn’t just a popularity contest instead. Think I might stop reading here, giving this a definite thumbs-down. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

[4.45] SP responds in kind:

[4.46] It is not usually my policy to reply to rudely-worded anonymous comments. Yet, I have decided to reply here to save the annoyance of other such folks in the future. First, the story is clearly labeled as “smut” and contains quite a lot of graphic sex scenes. I think, overall, that is about half the story. If these offend or bore you, please go elsewhere. No sense wasting your time or bothering us with complaints about the amount of sex in the story. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

Someone is going to get a PhD if they can drag Japanese theater practice into an analysis of dojinshi plotting and/or “stage-ing” (those Hato-ish mise-en-clench scenes) and production rituals. Given the strong feedback loops between producer and fan/consumer in CJVC and the everything-refers-to-everything-else trope call-out overloads (crit speak: intertextuality) swiping a few tools from theater theory might also provide new insights and help illuminate some aspects of the ecology of manga, anime and game etc production going on in Japan today. Or we can go back a bit in time. See further on in this post for the Sabu & Ichi anime revival, watch a few and enjoy the faux sume-e ink-work conceit.

Another way of looking at Our Fave Stuff is to look at what falls just a bit beyond the pale. I know that there are serious otaku and fujoshi who also obsess over live-action daytime J-dramas (or K-dramas) but some things like Idols or Visual Kei  are thought of as too low to warrant serious consideration. The otaku-y stuff is where you run to, to escape the idols, the Visual Kei, the Oricon J-Pop machine fodder and the rest of the sad, mechanistic sold-out, commodified, exploitative pap that the corporate media cloud in Japan pushes on a numbed populace.

Interesting then how one of the big names in otaku-ology has co-authored a study on Idols.

Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture”, has its intro chapter available for perusal, see: “Introduction: The Mirror of Idols and Celebrity” by Patrick W. Galbraith and Jason G. Karlin
[https://www.academia.edu/4075854/Introduction_The_Mirror_of_Idols_and_Celebrity]

Echoes of the debased miserable industry practices surrounding fully commodified mass culture artifacts popped up before, for instance in the masterful “Interview with an ex-Visual Kei record executive” at the Tokyo Damage Report blog  [http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2010/03/01/interview-with-an-ex-visual-kei-record-executive/]  and the follow up: “visual kei fallout” post. [ http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2010/03/07/visual-kei-fallout/]

Otaku as well as Fujoshi are considered social pariahs? More likely they are considered troublesome because they resist obeying and spending like proper regimented Japanese “fans”. Sure they blow their money on weird fetishistic junk, but they are nowhere near as sheep-like as “proper” fans. They are experts, connoisseurs, fickle as heck and prone to ripping the shit off and making their own fun light pr0n out of it too. More study of the Galbraith/ Karlin book is indicated (must find copy cheap) but I suspect that the amount of secondary production/ transformative (and appropriative “parody” work) that goes on over AKB48 pales in comparison to what rotten girls do to basketball manga.

After reading the above introductory chapter and the TDR post on Visual Kei the antics of the Genshiken gang seem mild-mannered.

And while I am dredging up theory-ish readings, I must note that the 2012
Fandom Unbound, Otaku Culture in a Connected World“, edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and Izumi Tsuji, Yale University Press, 2012 [ http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npk9q ] finally found its way into my hot little mittens. This will probably need a post of two of its own, but looks fascinating, if only because English-language otaku-ology gets bubbled in by the un-availability of original Japanese research. I went hunting after it after reading a considered review by Dr. Nele Noppe in a recent TWC volume [http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/627/505] (see also her blog)

Read the intro here: [ http://web.mit.edu/condry/Public/jing-articles/Ito12FandomUnboundOtaku-Intro.pdf ]

That’s enough theory-ness, time for some fun!

“Kobayashi lives alone in an apartment, until one day, Tooru appeared and they ended up living together. Tooru looks down on humans as inferior and foolish. But having been saved by Kobayashi-san, she does everything she can to repay the debt and help her with various things, although not everything goes according to plan. A mythical everyday life comedy about a hard-working office lady living with a dragon girl.”

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon by Cool-Kyou-Sinnjya
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=98577
The mangaka, : https://www.mangaupdates.com/authors.html?id=17274

This one is under the protection of the gods of small things:
maid dragon

Take your usual quirky freeloader harem set-up, remove the average guy and sub in a harried woman engineer/ tech worker.  Like the guy lead she replaces she is a closet otaku; her only fun is talking about maids and loli charas with a buddy from work and getting pissed out of her gourd after work on weekends.  If she ever had a sexuality it is dormant. Her coworkers consider her an honorary male. She dresses like any other techie in the IT department.  Then a dragon gets a crush on her and moves in. The dragon can shape shift to almost-human female form so the freeloader ends up dressing as a maid, with an occasional alligator-ish tail hanging out behind her. Cooking and cleaning gags ensue. Not a lot of service; even after a few more shape-shifting female supernatural critters begin to sniff around at Kobayashi-san. The “now I’ll wash your back” joke is about as steamy as it gets and is really sweet. This isn’t after-thought yuri; it is more like after-thought josei-dragon-ai, but goes on to prove that you can just do a teeny bit of genderswap and make a tired old cliché fresh again.

Mono no aware:

“The series follows the adventures of Sabu, a young Edo bakufu investigator traveling with the blind master swordsman Ichi. In their travels, they assist the common people in solving mysteries and righting wrongs (usually committed by bandits or corrupt officials). Sabu is engaged to Midori, the daughter of his boss, who works as a police officer for the Tokugawa shogunate.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabu_to_Ichi_Torimono_Hikae

Forty five years later, it still holds up. Someone grabbed the DVD re-issue of the episodes and now it is being fan-subbed and made available “by fans and for fans” . Sabu to Ichi Torimono Hikae / Sabu & Ichi’s Arrest Warrant / 佐武と市捕物控 originally aired from Oct 3, 1968 to Sep 24, 1969. As with the famous manga that it was based upon, the attraction lies in the way the mangaka and the anime studio adapted edo era graphic conceits to 1960’s printing and animation constraints. The manga was always known for its intricate scenery panels. The anime uses a lot of ink-wash tricks and still-action staging, which was a real neat way of keeping production costs in check while pumping the “edo” atmosphere to 11. Even though the anime is in 4:3 and black and white, the grim life is hard and fleeting mood of the manga, as well as some of the bloody and violent true crime sensationalism and Gekiga  social commentary impulses come through.

How to adapt and how not to adapt:

Jitsu wa Watashi wa [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jitsu_wa_Watashi_wa]
has been turned into an anime and is up on Crunchyroll as “Actually, I Am
[http://www.crunchyroll.com/actually-i-am]

I am surprised; the animators did not butcher it. There is a bit more fanservice and rude hijinks, but it stays close to the good-heartedness of the orignal. The main character’s male friends get a bit more screen time then in the manga. The OP and ED music is meh, but I liek it!

What a cute couple!

Over at certain “less official” anime streaming sites, the anime adaptation of Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri is into five episodes and it is disappointing on so many levels. The manga isn’t afraid to stick its neo-colonialist, military fan-boy snout into the gore trough, as well as raiding the otaku prop and character cabinet. The anime, by contrast is half-assed even about this.

Plus they got rid of/ completely changed and moe-fied the tough female soldier in Itami’s brigade. I don’t like what they did to Loli Mercury’s chara design either.

Bleh! Fail!

I’ll still watch it, I have no critical faculties left and it is hot outside.

Or I’ll watch this

Super Poi Hyadain 1 HOUR VERSION

What the ????? 

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!