“Goddamnit, are you fucking blind?! Do I look like a French elite soldier?! Do I carry a sword with me?! Am I blond?! No, damnit! I am NOT a GIRL!” ~ Oscar Wilde, (via uncyclopedia) once again having to explain to -certain- anime fans that he has nothing to do with Rose of Versailles
A former classmate and friend; a woman who happens to like other women was recently talking to me about some of her artwork and out of nowhere, mentioned her “virtual dick”. I think I surprised her by casually mentioning that I had heard of stuff like that before from her tribe, and wondered how common it was. Pretty standard – used at once seriously and ironically of course, she replied, thereby confirming that Akiko Mizoguchi was not trolling her readers when she was talking about one of the odder aspects of her sisterhood’s fun with BL manga.
Thanks to a strong and vibrant fan culture, we have seen that large sections of the manga-versa are oddly gendered spaces, in the sense that they reflect the desires and preferences of communities of interest that are not necessarily classify-able as “mainstream”. Am I being too diplomatic? The manga-verse is full of pervy freaks! (and I mean this in the warmest way possible…) The folks at neojaponism have ventured that because of the inelastic demand of hard core sub-communities, fringe interest can skew the market during periods of economic hardship and market contraction, precipitating a “death spiral” of outsider taste that kills mainstream engagement and suppresses export opportunities.
Of course, from the enthusiasts’ point of view, they are busy saving their beloved sub-genres from utter annihilation: a sacred cause that often ends in exhortations to eschew piracy, scanlations and even used tankobons in favour of buying multiple new releases – voting with their hard earned disposable income while the riajuu purchases fall away.
Pervy manga, whether yaoi, yuri, bara, guro, loli, shota or worse (!) doesn’t export well and is pretty well a speciality product even in Japan. Scanlator interest might mirror this effect, spreading the weird stuff and skewing the sample of product available to westerners, but it contributes nadda to revenues. Now, it is true that genre manga also serves an important, sometimes lifesaving role for folks who find themselves alone, without friends and wondering if their particular “secret thing” has left them abject and isolated in the world, but dammit, you can’t monetize that kind of value. Western fanfiction has a subgenre called hurt-comfort – that I want no part of knowing too much about – but I am sure its mere existence helps those who need it a bit. Some brave souls will undoubtedly sooner or later take it in hand and try to steer it so that it doesn’t cause solid-world harm while providing a modicum of catharsis. Meanwhile, fan-fiction doesnt have to pay printing bills. And then of course, there is plain ole squick.
Perhaps the (now-ex) right-wing governor of Tokyo has a greater agenda in mind with his attempts at censorship (no… ). This does not bode well for an export driven “cool Japan” marketing strategy. Similar tendencies have been noted by neojaponism writers with regard to J-pop’s cult of cute but inept amateur (fan identification / moe/ pity) vs the more polished and entertaining K-pop competition.
“In Korea, Girls Generation were originally marketed to men. This may seem unbelievable, but Korean males have evidently have fallen prey to the weird fetish of enjoying attractive, slender, and sexy women in contemporary outfits and chic haircuts.” -neojaponism
BORING! If I want music I will turn on a radio!
How about some oyagi (middle age man) fetishism instead: (GAHHHHHHHHH!)
What hath the wimmens of japan wrought this time???
Behold Oyajina!, wherein a chemical spill turns all the high school girls in Tokyo into middle aged men. Something like yaoi (well more like BL or OY/L) ensues..
About this time it becomes obvious that a society with rigidly proscribed social roles is going to get a lot of “carnival” humour. No one is, or by the laws of karmic vengeance, should be, safe.
At first glance, this is so wrong in so many ways, it is impossible to imagine.
Yet for some reason, not matter how odd some interests appear at first glance, there is usually some responsible fan (or more often a fen) to take the genre in hand, advocate for it and provide a guide for newbies who happen to share an interest (and/ or a need) for such, in a safe space.
“…And then he came up towards me, swinging in towards my left-hand wing-tip. I could make out the black hulk of him against the dim white sheet of fog below. He held station alongside me for a few seconds, down moon of me, half invisible, then banked gently to the left. I followed, keeping formation with him, for he was obviously the shepherd sent up to bring me down, and he had the compass and the radio, not I…” – Forsyth
In this instance, I commend to those who want more oyagi, the very able proprietor of shinkeikaku.wordpress.com, where one dedicated and knowledgeable fen gets interested in any manga with middle aged guys in it. She is also a treasure trove of information about obscure online jp manga and the pc (or not) tricks needed to get it to work, as well as the location, purchase and shipping of obscure middle-age-guy-fetish manga.
It is damn hard to pull an “freak of the week” “Ewwwwww! too weird!” when confronted with such care and level-headed, even-handed enthusiasm.
If you accept Ohno as a believable character, you have to…
For me, I need to take a break from manga that has too much in the way of layered readings, and from the entire gender-theory glee squad. And I am left with my own big question: whither/ what is mainstream “guy” manga in Japan, and Korea?
Where does one go in the manga-verse for some manly (yup, hetero-normative) escapist adventure, laughs and reassuring tales of heroism and friendship? Something that while not exactly being goggle-proof (I doubt if such a beast exists), at least isn’t winking every 2nd panel at shippers.
Where indeed, especially since I am not going to stick my nose into conventional sport/ battle manga, I demand some humour, and I am a sucker for something out of the ordinary. Also the FMP franchise is pretty well wrapped up…
Behold my first recent find: Geito – Jieitai Karenochinite Kakutatakaeri AKA Gate – Thus the JSDF Fought There,, a cross between Stargate SG-1 and Dungeons and Dragons. Originally a series of web novels, it is now being redone as a manga. With a sometimes otaku hero, a recon brigade of JSDF stalwarts and 3 local females – including a 900 yr old (looks 14) goth loli death god’s priestess (yup, diminutive full goth loli outfit, oversize battle axe, taste for bloodshed, la la la..) our adventurers lay waste to tens of thousands of bloodthirsty sword-wielding medieval soldiers and the occasional fire-breathing dragon – using attack helicopters, field artillery, tanks and automatic weapons. They play Wagner too!
To be fair, the barbarous horde did emergeth out of the aforementioned gate in Tokyo’s Ginza and hath slaughtered a few hundred civilians before armed response could be brought to bear upon them, so a few chapters of modern heavy armament butchery/ revenge (can you say “highway of death”) be-eth a great way to get the story rolling…
What really makes this stuff fun is how well it can walk a tightrope between simple adventure fantasy and insane Japanese right-wing sound-truck mouth-foaming. Apparently the web novel original was rather more right-wing, and the otaku-freeter-JDSF reservist main character showed more of his earlier training as a “ranger”. Meanwhile, all the world powers, especially those evil neo-imperialist Chinese want a foothold in fantasy-land to exploit the natural resources and empty out the slums – even if everything has to be dragged through a far-gate (EET iz nawt a starrrr-gate, EEEt iz a Faaaar-Gate!) in the middle of the Ginza. Someone should warn Ampontan about this too!
So, does this little romp turn out to be a right-wing militaristic propaganda-fest that mirrors a rise in real-world in nationalistic sentiment and xenophobic fear in Japan? Or will our ex-special forces otaku hero simply fall for the 900 year old homicidal goth loli?
Short answer – YES!
But I’m betting on those garters and pantsu!
Exhibit #2: more proof of the validity of Neojaponism’s otaku death spiral theory, with the polished, mainstream Korean response to the lack of manly JP manga: a gritty, realistic and wonderfully illustrated tale of 2 years of South Korean national military service, served at a mountain rescue squad, in Hong Seong-su and Im Gang-hyeok’s PEAK.
%100 pure mountain climbing manhwa. No shipping here! no goggles! no sex! just mountain climbing with your crew. You slip up, you die. You get over-confident, you die. The wind shifts during a rescue.. You get the idea.
So what if the main character was a ballet dancer before his draft number came up, he’s definitely a straight one (lots of girlfriend-longing dream sequences tossed in for reassurance). If anything, what is going to seduce him towards unnatural passion is going to be that mountain. It will make him strong, and then it is going to try to kill him. Repeatedly.
And the art-work is effing amazing. And I don’t generally go ooooooh over manga/manhwa art. I eat manga to escape art dammit, but this one floored me.
A few days later: Grrrrrrrrr! The manhwa-gakas couldn’t leave well enough alone; no… they had to throw some goggle-bait into the characterization of the new squad leader. Effing Hell! Squad leader likes to go for 5am runs, and then get nekkid as the sun rises – gimme a break!
Try again: there is always the last boss of chill and turn off the brain – the goofy pit of shonen-manga-ness that is Gintama.
And there is a boatload of it to marathon through – seriously addictive, even if you know it is bad for your thought processes.
Once you buy the idiotic premise of the Gintama-verse – that a universe-load of different, dangerous MIB- style space aliens, rather than yankees landed in Edo in the 1800’s – then you can get away with murder – or at least serial outrages against propriety.
Excrement jokes, vomit jokes, fart jokes, toilet battles and an arranged marriage to a gorilla. Not even Lupin can get away with the stuff that Gintama flings about. Dialogue is heavy on non-sequiturs and quips – Here the manly alternative to being politely indirect is to act oblivious to anything annoying and to reply with nonsense. I have to try this at work!
Of course there are fight scenes – tons of fight scenes! These would be boring as all ifny, but for the fact that each one subverts the fight scene genre in some extreme way.
A mexican standoff/ samurai duel in an outhouse with sandpaper instead of toilet paper. It might be a parody of this.
I want to go on, but it is all a horrible blur
I “know” that any manly-man cultural product may be a synthetic creation, prone to dripping irony and bad faith, but I still feel in need of a fix. Like the hundreds of lousy bands that cover Queen’s “I’m in love with my car”, despite it having been an anthem of a band led by a gay icon, I embrace its lame, goofy shit-headed male-ness as a pean and antidote to frustrating complexity.
A musical interlude:
Of course, a bit of cursory google-fu shows that the wimmins are busy shipping Gintama nine ways to next Tuesday, even though its serial crudeness masks a charming, shy, very hetero-normative chastity that is played for every last drop of tension possible.
..The scarred ninja girl warrior who “sacrifices” herself for a night at the geisha house with our hero to reward him for saving her people (some sacrifice – she has a crush on him)… gets very drunk too fast and proceeds to try to bash him about the head with the sake bottle, then drink (and eat) him and his crew under the table. (crew appears like magic once the uncomfortable- for- both- of- them sexual tension is dispelled in a brawl). In the Gintama-verse, this qualifies as heavy romance – almost as good as giving her the second button from your school jacket. Or did she just give him her second button? Too confusing!
In any case, she wins the drinking contest, by going out on neighborhood patrol the morning after, while the gang is left sleeping off the night’s binge. Who can doubt that romance is in the air?
Sadly, past attempts to market Gintama to the west have proved unsatisfactory, as the jokes are so “in” that only hard-core japanophiles will get a quarter of them. As well, few commercial publishers care to fill up their translated manga with pages and pages and pages of footnotes, references and wiki-links.
The “death spiral” is slowed a bit, but not stopped.
Soon all that remains will be One-Piece.