I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark

or, Genshiken as anime, some thoughts 5 years too late.

Well, that’s done: borrowed a copy of the two seasons of the Genshiken anime and ploughed through them like a dutiful fan. Then went and cross referenced blog reviews from 2007. Then, because this little mess is about desire and its odd manifestations in manga and anime, went though the blog reviews on the second season’s “certain episode”, then remembered to clear my browser cache when my email page, the New York times page and others started regaling me with gay-themed dating and vacation ads.

Oh The Joy of Cookies!

Ogiue! You Dawg! Did you show a doujin based on that to Sas ?!?
I am sorry, I am going back to proclaiming Re-l Mayer as my waifu.
Safer, all around…

No wait, that don’t work either: sailboat named after 10K drunk Aztec rabbit gods. Did ANYONE over in the research department look up what that silly gaijin Arthur Rimbaud’s Drunkboat was about?
Jeesh! This is what happens when you let goths play with nice things.

Which brings back the serious research problem of trying to figure out what is authentic fen-made/ fujoshi made Japanese yaoi, given that I do not read japanese, live in japan, and have japanese fujoshi acquaintance with piles of it lying around; would I ever summon the fortitude to plough through it. I am not mentioning any of this to she-who-up-with-me-puts; she is convinced that the whole anime/ manga thing is made as an export product for foreign fools like me.

QUERY: With all the Manga studies programs at Japanese Universities, is there not ONE fujoshi masters student who can do a simple literature survey, say 2 years of 4-5 BL/Yaoi magazines vs a random selection doujin on “shonen characters day” at 4 comikets and then run a stat compilation on themes, characters, tropes, etc, ???  Instant masters degree that the publishing industry would kiss ya (or arrange for 2 bishie boys to kiss each other for you) for. Any real-life Sue Hopkins out there?  Dammit we need hard data! Some limited versions of this kind of lit. search are already out there, and are a good model: see: Elegant Caucasians, Amorous Arabs, and Invisible Others: Signs and Images of Foreigners in Japanese BL Manga by Kazumi Nagaike

You can infer some points from Western slash fiction, but slash, popular as it is, is nowhere near the cultural and commercial phenomena in the west that BL/Yaoi is in Japan. Obviously the scanlated stuff that makes it over here is subject to a sorting bias, as well as translation bias. And it moves away from the fujoshi-produced variety, towards a commercialized product, which introduces a drift towards conventional, if not acceptably mainstream plot and structures. This effectively results in what we see being closer to naughty shoujo romance manga done with cartoon gay guys.

Whatever happened to Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi?

But first, a recap of general impressions on the two seasons:

Pretty damn close to the manga.

Not the greatest animation, but tolerable.

The “job hunt” themes are more realistic – having Sas go all “lost weekend” was a bit much – nice “beard” dude!

Kugayama is less of a cypher – but his character development only serves to heighten the sense that he lost something by becoming a sales rep and giving up drawing. His counsel helps Sas keep looking for the industry job of his dreams.

I don’t do Gundam, so I miss a lot.

Was that a Spirited Away train-wind noise in the dark halls of the club block?

Ohno is more frumpy otaku and less of a dish – but still plenty cute. We get to
see more of how she and Tanaka got together.

No mention of Ogiue’s great sin (of course, that comes later)

More Saki vs. athlete foot girl.

opening and closing credits. Where is Mai Yamane when you need her?

Obnoxious english voices for Angela and Sue! Are there no furreign wimmens in Japan to say 7 lines of dialogue? And what’s with “butterface’ Angela?

Sue is a bit thin in characterization.

And then there is the problem of perverse desire.

One gets the feeling that up to the point that Ogiue shows Saki (then Ohno) her sketchbook, the viewers are divided neatly between those who get the joke, and those who are just beginning to get an idea of how odd the whole BL/Yaoi/Fujoshi thing can be. The Yaoi episode then serves not only as a send up, but as an intro to the genre for civilians, all while skirting the overtly obscene, and while savagely lampooning some of the genre’s over-the-top devices.

The result is jarring. Funny, but jarring.

As Ogiue cycles through pairing possibilities, too many characters are introduced, and they do not fare well, save Kousaka and Saki (who drip evil louche), but of course, this is a send-up…

We can also assume that Shimoku-sensei gets the help of the studio writers in bringing off this pastiche, and several layers of cover, if the results wander too far from cannon BL/ Yaoi.

Several 2007 era comments loved the music.

Enough 2007 western fan-girls gushed.

A number of 2007 fan-boys were appalled.

Are Bl/Yaoi bishies that buffed and tanned? What of the pale rich vs tanned poor physical worker trope?

The class-war background is suitably over-the-top, but smells genre-true: “the rich are different from us” is almost as good as “nihilist world-class terrorist abuses babies” (cf. Full Metal Panic‘s Gates) as a justification for extreme behaviour.
Wealth and power imbalances in romance fiction, even androphillic romance fiction, go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back, (“Gilgamesh, a King at Urok..”) Yet my head spins trying to justify the wall full of models in Yaoi-Sas’s passion pit. I realise they are needed for the “plot” but I can’t decide if they are the best thing in the whole mess, or the most WRONG WRONG WRONG!!!

I see the desire, but I see only the faintest wisp of a perverse (and I mean that in a good way) imagining of lurv. Of course this is only…

Put in a Yuri context, one could imagine a send up of “The Well of Loneliness” done up as a fan-boy laff riot with moe characters.

I find it hard to see how this can develop into a doujin that Ogiue can reluctantly show to Sas, and have him make approving comments about.
Of course, this is only…

OR… Sas! YOU DAWG! He would have made nice nice noises about anything to get into her pantsu. “Love those stick figures eating
their own heads! Very sensitive! Gimme some sugar!”

Conclusions then can run across a continuum; from this-is-parody-of-form that bypasses the romance department to those-fujoshi-girls-are-lewd-as-hell and just want to jerk to bishie sadism – which leaves us nowhere, because this charge can be leveled at ALL pron. (except the works of Ken Kurogane yehawwwww!)

Or, the odd-ness of finding pure amoral violent smut in Yaoi/BL pron for women is the flip side of the odd-ness of finding powerfully over-the-top romance themes in Yuri pron for men. Guys have been known to like the latter, so why can’t gals enjoy the former? But can we really generalize from Yuri that is written by men, to para/ pseudo Yaoi that is also written by guys?

Hall of mirrors.. “But which of us is the real duck, Mr. Frischberg, and not just an illusion?”

When the night comes down on the Kanto plains…

What we can get from this is that sometime around 2006/ 2007 a few more folks in Japan and later, the rest of the world got a hint as to the existence of fujoshi desire, and a really odd example of it as their first and possibly only exposure to it. To some extent, it probably steered the genre in a teeny tiny way. Perhaps it made the genre a teeny tiny bit more popular. Now there are even magazines dedicated to it, though one mangaka complains that it is hard to find her works at 7-11 (yup, lotsa 7-11’s in Jp.)

Which lead back to the problem of trying to draw a line, or a curve, with only a few unreliable points.

While we are at it, “Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi” fails as a good description of ur-yaoi, as the term was already long established in other branches of Japanese literary criticism. This leaves us with “stop it!, (you) hurt/ pain my/this butt (as opposed to all others/ other parts)!” as the only viable descriptor. (I am trying to understand moon-speak, still fail.. sigh!).

I will have to find and deal with the english version of the Genshiken light-novel with its out-of-place paranormal plot, if only out of a sense of completeness. I have given up on finding a grey/ English translation of Yonensei and Gonensei, Perhaps it’s time to mess around with examples of more “conventional” desire in modern Japanese visual culture…

1 thought on “I do not feel the romance, I do not catch the spark

  1. Pingback: The possibility of global causality violation | HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES

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