“Sie mussen schlafen aber Ich muss tanzen”
What a fine construction is Hato as a character. Perhaps Kio Shimoku originally created him on a whim, to set a “trap” fox amidst a fujoshi henhouse, but bit by bit he has been purposely built up as a roiling mass of contradictions. At every turn, the simple back-story has been passed up for a more complicated one, to the point where he comes within millimeters of becoming fantastic and completely unbelievable, or worse – just plain dangerously sick in the head. Both of this extremes have so far been avoided.
Hato must not be allowed to pull a “Perfect Blue”
When Hato protests that he is “not gay!”, he does not only declare that his 2D interests are separate from his 3D desires, he also underlines the oft-repeated complaint from the Japanese gay male community (and some of the wider international audience) that yaoi/ bl is a weird concoction made of heterosexual female desire projected on imaginary male characters – a simulation of how males, nominally straight, would act if stricken by some madness that mixes conventions nominally ascribed to female romantic literature with extremes of violent male misbehaviour in the pursuit of lust.
This is not to say there are no crossovers within the field. BL and yaoi have a much bigger market share than plain boring old bara, at least from what I have been able to surmise from the sources freely available to lazy foreigner like myself, and the fact that BL/yaoi remains a heterosexual product is an essential part of Shimoku’s balancing act.
Of course the Hato character has been stuffing his senses with BL and yaoi dojinshi for a few years, and as Kaminaga, has pointed out, this has had to have had some effect. Her tastes and her goggles prescribe the obvious solution – a target lock on someone who accepts him for who he is, and that of course means Madarame.
We have been told by Shimoku that Hato’s initial encounter with gay or yaoi dojinshi took place long before the art club, when he was still doing judo in junior high. Then we have a gap in the back story and Hato emerges as already interested in yaoi (but not bara?) and no longer doing judo, when he borrows Kaminaga’s dojin in the art club. Once discovered something really bad happens and he is outed by Kono. After that, he never went back to the club and was ostracised as “the homo” for the rest of senior high, only to pop up in full Hato-chan get up as a first year university student.
Back at the art club he wanted to draw. By the time he lands in the Genshiken, he can draw yaoi smut scenes quite well – some deep psychological block keeping him from drawing is circumvented if he puts on a dress and goes about drawing in the style (and incidentally the favourite subject) of Kaminaga. But he remains blocked in the sense that he cannot ink out a full story, even though he is well-versed in the tropes of the genre.
He also spends all his disposable income on cross-dressing gear and fujoshi reading material. It is reasonable to assume that he is thoroughly immersed in both hobbies, and enjoys both of them far more than he is letting on, even to the Genshiken fujoshi tribe.
As mentioned much earlier, and noted by many others, he is not “just” cross-dressing as a woman, or a “girl”, or as a female character from anime/manga a la cross-play, but as a fujoshi. He has created a fujoshi persona modelled on the one uber-fujoshi who affected him the most. He definitely enjoys being Hato-chan, but he does it exclusively at Genshiken, or at comic-fest or club activities. It is linked to him doing fujoshi stuff, compartmentalized along with his hobby, a perfect containment field for his perverse interests. If pushed, It will not be unrealistic that he squirms at a fudanshi label. Fudanshi would be easy.
Lastly, we must add that he is not cross-dressing as a “trap”, because that genre is something else completely; something better handled by ero games and Kousaka. This point is more obvious in the english translation, because the boy-girl term in japan is simultaneously more and less than the peculiar english term. Nevertheless, the difference between what the Hato-chan fujoshi character is and the characters in manga and ero-games are is there and has been telegraphed to us poor slobs by Shimoku. (thanks to certain translators for making this fine distinction clear.)
If Hato goes after Madarame, he will have to shift his dressing style to fit the different archetype.
Hato has a compulsive character when it comes to becoming-fujoshi, absorbing y/BL, drawing, and previously judo before he got weird. This compulsion towards mastery and control allows him some safe space from the fallout of his contradictions.
Hato’s “fantasies” – as exclaimed to the girls of the Genshiken when he went into fugue state definitely involve or have been scripted onto poor Mada. I use the term fugue state for a reason: it is most likely to set in whenever something unpleasantly embarrassing in 3D life is about to pop up.
And of course, these fantasies betray his attempts at 3D friendship with Mada, recreating Ogiue’s original sin. Still this would be less of a problem if he only had more experience being a friend and having friends.
Hato appears to have no friends outside of the Genshiken. He has only one male friend, Madarame and he is going to mess that one up if gappel-san does not shut the fuck up immediately.
He is probably not very good at being a friend – he doesn’t know how to do it. He jumps in, interferes, assumes he know stuff, etc. Poor Madarame is publicly branded a sou-uke only because Hato needs to dissimulate in front of the rest of the Genshiken; he cannot reveal that he knows that Mada carries a torch only for Saki. And of course, everybody present already know this.
Madarame was at first uncomfortable with him when he was Hato-chan. More so in public. Recently that has lessened, as Mada now considers him as a male, even in drag, but one that is definitely bent. Still, “You sure you aren’t gay?” doesn’t seem to hurt as much from Mada as it would from the tribe. (Genshiken drinking game time!)
His concern for Madarame continuously fights with his stupid urges to ship him in some dojin production. Gappel/ Stand-chan wants to ship them both in 3D life.. Hato is vulnerable to Stand-chan when he is out of his protective Hato-chan armor.
Aside: One has to wonder how often does Stand-chan pop out? It must be really annoying to be sitting in economics class and have her hovering about. Hopefully she only pops out when around the Genshiken or around its members. When one considers the damage Milton Friedman did with his Ayn Rand obsession, the world, even a virtual manga-world might not survive another crazed economist.
His fujoshi creation is based on what he remembers of “Her”. There must be pieces missing. Will he find a new role model to fill in the blanks? Ogiue might provide a better example of balance, as long as she can hold her life together.
Then there is the problem of trust (with its obverse, the goggles busily looking for “holes”/ “openings” “survival instincts”) Ogiue and the rest of the fujoshi tribe do not fully trust him – they still consider him a guy, and as a guy with psychological quirks and a keen command of judo tricks, do not want him to be alone with anyone. And Hato always casts himself as the seme within his fantasies. This is also part of their fujoshi distrust of 3D males in general, which mirrors Mada’s discomfort with women, but there is much more to it than that. As I mentioned earlier, solid-world “lore”/prejudice is full of admonitions warning both straight and gay folks that transsexuals have inherent and pathological problems with truth-telling. And the fujoshi girls “know” that all male desire is violent.
Hato’s interactions with the tribe are simple on the surface: become the perfect fujoshi and do fujoshi things with fujoshis. He will not be developing any crushes. He desires nothing more than fitting in, enjoying his hobby, talking about the genre and perhaps expanding his ability to draw beyond yaoi-clench mise-en-scenes. He is as “harmless” as the fearsome gangster in Daespo Naughty Girls.
If any of the fujoshi girls ever would want a date with him, they would first have to ask Hato-chan if they could talk to Hato-kun after she leaves the clubroom and changes. I bet he would be a good conflicted character and freak out at such a request. Oh Doom and ruination of the charmed circle!
(another aside: I still think his “native” drawing style is interesting as all heck – what does Shimoku channel to get that?)
But Hato is still not-to-be-trusted, in a far greater way than Kuchiki is not to be trusted. To invoke the logic of Paranoia Agents, he is far more under the spell of his fantasies and the contradictions of his life that make up his desires; Here I go with the post-structuralists like Slavoj Zizek who claim that our desires are not an annunciation of our secret wants but a containment field for the contradictions inherent in those wants, made manifest in ridiculous, and yup inherently contradictory scripts.
Following on that insight, Hato is also stupidly romantic: “Things need time to develop”, rooting for Mada going after Saki, “still having a chance”, “did they fight for her?”, etc. He needs this romanticism to balance the rapey obsessional scripts of what sex by a male must be in order to conform to his fantasies.
What sets off Bl/y from regular gay pr0n is its over the top girly-romance conventions are posed against the violent acting out of sex by two characters seized by archetype. In a sense, there is ALWAYS a third person present in every yaoi sex scene, represented by the fujoshi voyeur, but embodied in the inexorable gaze of the law of seme x uke. And the law in this case demands absolute obedience to their respective roles.
interlude – all the children sing:
“”Within an hour the news had reached the media machine
A male caucasian with a gun had gone berserk in Queens
The area had been sealed off, the kids sent home from school
Fourteen people lying dead in a bar they called the Kicking Mule
Oh they pleaded to your sanity for the sake of those inside
“Throw out your gun, walk out slow just keep your hands held high”
But they pumped you full of rifle shells as you stepped out the door
Oh you danced like a puppet, like a marionette on the vengeance of the law””
I would dearly love to ask some hard-core Japanese fujoshi if their dojins ever include “realistic” and (this is important) humourous accounts of sex act failure. Suddenly one party can’t stay hard, the other stops squirming and moaning and yawns or starts laughing, someone gets the hiccups and /or farts, etc. Do the happy couple ever just give up and cuddle? This is the test of romance with straight couples, it would be the height of vanity to assume that it did not occur with gay couples, it is integral to real- solid- world love in all its glory, so why shouldn’t it take place among the oh-so-serious puppets of yaoi-land?
Whether the genre has any scripts for friendship, beyond the horrible ghost of it – friendzoning, is a fundamental question. Hato-as-character has to have absorbed the stupid conventions of the genre, and its obsessional scripts mesh well with his obsessional nature. Like Madarame who has welded a strange doomed Otaku-nobility over his shyness to deal with a painful longing for female love and a hopeless feeling that he will never get any, Hato’s fundamental flaw might well be that he is really, really, really bad at making friends, either male or female.
Oh, why not another interlude –
Becoming Hato-chan is a brute-force solution to a number of contradictory 3D problems, but by the logic of the narrative arc, the solution must present even more danger – the sorcerer’s apprentice(s) must always pay for their powers.
As for the goggles, they are supposed to be subversive, but in a far more profound way they impose only the violence of the law upon innocuous everyday events:
“”This link between sexualization and failure is of the same nature as the link between matter and space curvature in Einstein: matter is not a positive substance whose density curves space, it is nothing but the curvature of space. By analogy, one should also ‘desubstantialize’ sexuality: sexuality is not a kind of traumatic substantial Thing, which the subject cannot attain directly; it is nothing but the formal structure of failure which, in principle, can ‘contaminate’ any activity. So, again, when we are engaged in an activity which fails to attain its goal directly, and gets caught in a repetitive vicious cycle, this activity is automatically sexualized – a rather vulgar everyday example: if, instead of simply shaking my friend’s hand, I were to squeeze his palm repeatedly for no apparent reason, this repetitive gesture would undoubtedly be experienced by him or her as sexualized in an obscene way.””
-Zizek, A Plague of Fantasies, p91.
Continuing on, Zizek asks if not all perverse scripts are not fundamentally conservative:
“”The obverse of this inherent sexualization of power due to the ambiguity (reversibility) of the relation between the one who exerts power and the one subjected to it – to the failure of the direct symbolic exercise of power – is the fact that sexuality as such (an intersubjective sexual relationship) always involves a relationship of power: there is no neutral symmetrical sexual relationship/exchange, undistorted by power. The ultimate proof is the dismal failure of the ‘politically correct’ endeavour to free sexuality of power: to define the rules of ‘proper’ sexual rapport in which partners should indulge in sex only on account of their mutual, purely sexual, attraction, excluding any ‘pathological’ factor (power, financial coercion, etc.): if we subtract from sexual rapport the element of ‘asexual’ (physical, financial…) coercion, which distorts the ‘pure’ sexual attraction, we may lose sexual attraction itself In other words, the problem is that the very element which seems to bias and corrupt pure sexual rapport (one partner behaves violently towards the other; he forces his partner to accept him and indulge in sex with him because the partner is subordinated to him, financially dependent on him, etc), may function as the very phantasmic support of sexual attraction – in a way, sex as such is pathological…
But, again: does not the open display of the repetitive sexualized rituals of power sustain the power edifice, even (and especially) under the false pretence of subverting it? Under what conditions is the staging of the hidden obscene supplement of a power edifice effectively ‘subversive’?””
Thankfully, Zizek is going on about an abstract Lacanian ideal of fantasy driven sex. We are (thankfully) not yet at the point that all human couplings are devoid of their inherent charm and pleasure and rely solely upon two fundamentally alien monads imposing incomprehensible scripts on each other. I do however note that such a stark and inhuman view of human interaction pops up again and again within the mind’s eye of the totalizing imagination, one step removed from the hysterical power fantasies of the tyrant:
“At its heart, marriage in traditional Japan was
a matter of duty, not just love. Well within living
memory, arranged marriages (miai) predominated,
while “love matches” (renai kekkon) were anomalies.
Love matches did not exceed arranged pairings until
1970—yet by 2005, only six percent of all new marriages
fit the traditional mold. The collapse of arranged
marriage seems to have taken something with it.
Remarkably enough, there is a near perfect correlation
between the demise of arranged marriage in Japan
and the decline in postwar Japanese fertility.”
–Japan Shrinks Nicholas Eberstadt, Wilson Quarterly – Spring 2012
Ok; accusing a mild-mannered demographer of harbouring THEY LIVE notions of MARRY AND REPRODUCE social engineering urges sounds harsh, until one is confronted with the facts on the ground that make marriage and family formation such a real and persistent problematic for individuals within that society. Removing a bit of freedom for the masses always makes things easier, Just chain the peasants in their huts and sell off the babies, n’est-ce pas?
Oops! perhaps I was too affected be something I watched last night.
What becomes apparent with all this mirroring and doubling is that the process of creating a narrative, a fantasy about the Hato-character set lose in the “hen-house” of fujoshi desire is one of skilfully piling up contradictions that remain in suspension, much as the conflicted fantasies-as-wrappers-for-contradictions lead the poor characters in their wild puppet-dance.
As m. Goethe sed: “you may sleep, but I must dance!”
PS: Insomuch as trying to make sense of the initial shock that came from realizing that yaoi/Bl exists and plays such a powerful part in the lives of women, in japan and (in itself and with variants) around the world was one of the initial reasons for this blog, I was pleased to stumble for the second time upon Matt Thorn’s
WOW! – and he did it 10+ years ago! And he consults Japanese studies and even runs them! WOW! Ouch! Must be careful not to re-invent the wheel! His observations about the female (fujoshi) throngs at comiket during the late 1990’s was what I had in mind for the end link for the previous “Mermaids” post, but then I lost the source and had to sub in a more prosaic description of comiket attendance figures. The link back to his essay has now been restored, and oh yeah, (*DAMN!)