Per recommendation, I am reading
Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals by Hiroki Azuma (2001). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroki_Azuma
It is interesting to see where he is going; so far so good – he uses Jean Baudrillard’s simulacra usefully, and avoids many of the dry, pro-forma references to post-modernity that plague much contemporary critical theory. A bit too much “end of history” so far though – a product of the times I guess. As well, I prefer high (or low) late modernism to the idiot simplification “postmodernism” – grand narratives were never that important, or rather the Yuri rule kicks in: one good, two better, oh why not 3, 4, 5. . . Guess I like Baudrillard, think Lyotard is over-rated and enjoy a bit of D&G when I want to be pleasantly confused.
A side note on Baudrillard: I find resonance in the use of Jimbo to theorise on otaku culture. Read lots of Baudrillard – including his art magazine interviews and articles and older work, and you will recognise that he harbored a barely concealed taste for American social sci-fi of the 1960’s’ If you don’t believe me, ask Terry Eagleton. Baudrillard dropped P.K.Dick footnotes into his serious stuff long before the practice became fashionable!
Jimbo was a fan – and he is now used to explain otakudom.. this is touchingly sweet!
Nice that his work continues to redeem the Frankfurt school of its profound distrust of mass culture.
Further digression: Characteristic of many such fans is that the prior reading of secondary and/or tertiary sources inform the eventual reading of the primary source. Nothing wrong with that, but anyone who has been there will recognise small quirks, like his use of Levi-Straus.
OMT: Baudrillard’s work is at it’s best poetic, narrative, tangential and oblique.
That is why it survives – he also had good translators.
Sometimes they left the original alone – what can beat “le crystal se venge”
Back to Azuma:
The “animal” / “database” part of Azuma’s argument is interesting, but I am suspicious of overused metaphor – unless poetics is involved. A “Biking Restaurant” (Jp: Viking, smorgasborg, buffet) does not signal the end of the Big Mac, and a disenchantment with a grand narrative does not signal a disenchantment WITH narrative. It is easy to confuse and opening of possibilities, brought on by affluence with a decline of tradition and social cohesion. Grand narratives were fundamentally products born out of scarcity – most predated functional sewers and water filtration systems in European cities. “Heh! Dont shit in your drinking water!” , improved nutrition and decreases in infant mortality are pretty damn good narratives in themselves. Looks like “if it bleeds, it leads” works just as well in critical theory as it does in tabloid journalism. . .
Despite my arguments with parts of his thesis, his one looks like a keeper! Good Stuff!
(later: More than good stuff, it seems to be one of the pillar works in Otaku studies – with the countervailing arguments going to Gainax’s Okada Toshio and his various writings.
Mechademia 5 seems to have a pile of stuff on this, so I will have to plough through it)
Found some good blog articles: http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/
A quick ‘n nasty guide to the mechanics of the Yaoi sex scene:
http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/fandom/that-japanese-bl-sex-scene-page/ now archived at: http://web.archive.org/web/20081222062255/http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/the-western-bl-sex-scene/
Must get the working notes on Fujoshi(s) Yaoi, Yuri (compare, contrast) and “cultures of enthusiasm” into some coherent shape. There is also a lot of fun to be had with Barbie, G.I.Joe (be all that you can be! – the terror of mass narcissism as an economic engine), The Shipping News (Hi Annie – what are you doing to those cowboys?) and the odd role of social class in Yaoi and Yuri (scarier than nasty sex, don’t look!)
Best way I can figure to start so far is to ask: Is Fujoshi desire some new form of Queer?”