As I read way too much manga online, I try to adopt M.J.Johnson’s earlier quoted dictum…
“You can say ‘Male pregnancy stories don’t do it for me’ if you like, but to say ‘Male pregnancy stories are stupid and childish and people should stop writing them’ is not only arrogant, it’s dangerous. All fantasies are legitimate or none are, and to discredit the male pregnancy fantasy is automatically to discredit your own fantasy of mutual empowerment and non-penetrative sex.”
…In a wider context, that is to say that if […] doesn’t work for me; Ok, but to condemn […] out of hand is to condemn all desires, including my own. The trick is to do so while still drawing a line, because some desires are just plain nasty, harmful, and criminally irresponsible, even within the realms of “fantasy is fantasy”.
As well, there is the ‘my boat” effect: This is the stuff I read and think about for enjoyment during my free time, and I know what I like. I think I know what I do not like. Of course I don’t know all of what I like, so I shouldn’t dismiss entire genres completely out of hand, on the other hand…
That said, IMHO, pour moi, [add a few more caveats here] …
…historical themes, fantasy realms, anything involving “virtual reality” or “I fell into a game”, including virtual girlfriends, %99.98 of all sports manga, tales of horror, guro/grotesque, cat girls, alien girl dropped on surprised boy, teacher crush and incest angst potboilers, delinquent high school/ or yakuza grinders, death- fights- on- islands, lets start a band/ be an idol/ become the world’s greatest chef epics and anything with small magic ponies are about as avoidsome for me as yaoi/bl (except that the rotten girls who produce the last are my fave pure radioactive sociology candy).
And then there is the little matter of vampires…
Short form of hate-on: “Protector” by Larry Niven.
I encourage those of you who have met Niven’s creation to now pause and think of them as a thought experiment: something that works like a vampire but is diametrically opposite to the vampire character. Those who haven’t yet, go get some.
They would be as gods except for their innate compulsion to always think things through to logical extremes and immediately carry out a scorched earth conclusion – and that they must protect their blood-kin at all costs.
Nowhere does Niven claim to have created “protectors” as an antidote to the maddening mush that is high church canon for vampiric tales, especially post-Rice bodice (and suit-coat) ripper, slash- influenced teen fan-fic derived potboilers. (whew!)
So, you live forever, heal fast, have amazing strength, and that allows you to act like a spoiled rich spiteful teenager forever, Uhuh? I await the giant meteor impact on the next page. Most vampiric characters are small malicious boring fools. I am not the first to note this; there are 20+ sub-variants of this effect on the TV tropes site, but again, I judge it hardly worth the powder to blow the genre to ifny. Does not work for me. You may find small malicious boring fool characters quite amusing and endearing.
A few writers have worked this problem to comedic effect. Jody Scott’s Sterling O’Blivion is a wonderful, funny creation. Who can forget their first guilt- laden- catholic- time- travelling- lesbian- dance- instructor vampire novel? Especially if she falls head over heels for an alien manatee who insists on shapeshifting into the semblance of Virginia Wolf to attract our plucky heroine’s attentions? It was gushed over by old-school euroethnic middle-aged male sci-fi writers when it first appeared (which was so odd that stick-in-the-mud boy decided that he had to read it, oh so, so long ago – maybe it is her fault that I developed a taste for yuri?), and has gone on to become a minor cult classic. Sadness: footnoting this just led me to news of Ms. Scott’s passing in 2006. In lieu of an elegy, see her web page archived here:
Vampires are of course as popular as french pastry in manga-land. Most are as stupid and obnoxious as the western product. The “Blood, the last Vampire” anime short was a groundbreaker, (the vampire as ur-BFG) but sequels degenerated into post-Rice mush. The live-action movie sucked. There is a bishie BL prequel to v2 out in manga format.
Blergghh! OOOps Doesn’t work for me…
Negima‘s goth-loli vampire was a slightly better creation, at least by the time she popped up to time-travel-ex-machina at the end of the epic. Her initial character grew considerably, aided by her reclusive, anti-social outlook played against the sad, defiant crush that drove her to support the boy magician – the son of her barely requited love. Still, she could have used her considerable knowledge, power, longevity and cynicism to become a capitalist dynast or even make some school friends years earlier, rather than hide in a bottle. How can one live so long without picking up even a shred of (dare I say it ) humanity?
Which leads to the very popular, initially engaging, extremely densely written and ultimately unsatisfying world of “Dance in the Vampire Bund“.
I should have known better. This is one of the drawbacks of hunting for something new. You think you have found an interesting exception to the category and then lots of somethings go wrong. Most of the time it is “workmanship”: the story falls apart, goes nowhere, reverts to all those tropes of the genre that I already know do not work for me.
And then you get the really ambitious ones that turn into a monumental train wreck, or worse a monumental train wreck made up of all the annoying bits of multiple avoided genres…
All while you realise that your train wreck is a tasty smorgasborg for the series’ fans.
from the wiki:
“The story revolves around Mina Tepeş, princess-ruler of all vampires, and her protector — Akira. Like other vampires, Mina has been in hiding with her people for many years. Seeking to end centuries of isolation, Mina gains permission to create a special district for vampires, “The Bund,” off the coast of Japan by paying off the entire national debt of the Japanese government. Mina then reveals to the world the existence of vampires and her desire for both races to live together. Tensions, however, run high as fearful humans and extremist vampire factions begin to interfere with Mina’s wish for peace with the human world.”
The main problem with Bund is that it tries to be all vampire stories, and a whole bunch of other genres, all at once, to everyone. So at any moment we are getting “Japanese society falling apart due to panic and suspicion” (The Martians Have Landed on Maple Street), The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne of Green Gables, a high school power struggle tale, suicide bomber terrorist threats, nanotech infection epidemics, geopolitical machinations by corrupt politicians, court chivalry romance, goth loli fanservice (Mina-hime is way too young, and her outfits way too skimpy – certain parts of the localised US anime had to be censored) werewolf bonding/ betrayal grinder and rotten girl fanservice vehicle with a furry yaoi rape scene.
It also has battling maids, Rasputin, elite commando strike teams, human and vampire riots, a South American drug-cartel running spoiled aristocrat vampire lord, a stripper with the heart of gold, a runaway nuclear reactor, black helicopters, a shotacon couple turned vampires, cute kids who save the day by navigating the hidden sewer tunnels under the city, and oh gawd, I lose track.
So far no done- as- an- Andrew- Lloyd- Webber- Musical episode. No Mecha or magical little ponies…
Who again is this thing written for?
“The manga series is serialized in Media Factory’s seinen manga magazine Comic Flapper”
Even more wiki:
“Seinen manga (青年漫画?) is a subset of manga that is generally targeted at a 18–30 year old male audience, but the audience can be older with some manga aimed at businessmen well into their 40s. In Japanese, the word Seinen means “young man” or “young men” and is not suggestive of sexual matters. (The female equivalent to seinen manga is josei manga.) It has a wide variety of art styles and more variation in subject matter, ranging from the avant- garde to the mundane and to the pornographic. Because of the emphasis on storyline and character development instead of action, some seinen series are often confused with shōjo, or girls’ manga. ”
Is this a separate genre from moe-blob fiction? Is this what turns Madarame’s crank? Is this closer to Saito Tamaki’s beautiful fighting girl stuff? Or it is just pure lolicon?
A few points of interest:
The plotting frequently relies on the obedience that the vampiric bite-er can compel of the bite-ee, a hardwired behaviour that forms an absolute hierarchy of deference that culminates with the princess herself. I am guessing that this resonates with the sempai/kouhai and sensei/ student deference patterns in real-life Japanese society. That these patterns are breaking down only makes the mythologized version more resonant. (This is a Baudrillard conceit on my part, plz ignore if jarring, I just like doing it)
The “hidden hand” secret society behind %90 of the upheavals in the story has even used this effect to sow global confusion with a nanotech “virus” that overstimulates the obedience compulsion in vampires, causing them to commit self-destructive terrorist acts in the belief that their regional vampire leaders are ordering them to do so. (An allegory of religious extremism? How quaint!)
A Vampire “Bund” or (never mentioned) Dejima! What a way to deal with the immigrant question!
Gaijin ways and bad behaviours are contagious. A vaccine might not always be available.
“The dance in the aristocratic court of the vampire princess“: These tropes begin to vex, but have enough of a resonance with the origins of the vampire mythos in euroethnic society to hold my attention. The origins of the Western vampire mythos owed a lot to taking the vestiges of a corrupt, venal, oppressive European aristocracy and essentializing them within a bogie. Nosferatu was always a post-french-revolution Sade-ian aristo, after the pure peasant girl and one step ahead of the Bastille day mob. Blood- sucking parasites all! Van Helsing was no Marx, but he might be a friend of Engels.
The court of the vampire loli princess is still an absolute monarchy, and has to be absolutely ruthless whenever the aristocratic ambience needs a boost. While necessary to the chivalry themes that are deployed surrounding the protagonist Akira, they also serve to set at least two strong friendship vs deference subplots in motion. There is also the entire succession/ marriage of the true-bloods sub-plot which sets the stage for much court intrigue and loli lust angst.
Oh, and we get to see the princess’s “true form” adult, voluptuous, armoured fighting girl (so not underage, therefore not really loli smut – she just “hides” as a half-nekkid prepubescent tyrant so she wont be married off to some regressive scumbag from the old vampire aristocracy.) Yeah, right…
With all her advanced medical resources and cynical realpolitik, the idea of keeping a dewer flask of liquid nitrogen, a turkey baster and some very sharp knives close at hand when her slimy true blooded suitors come calling somehow eludes her.
The concluding arc of the manga, with Mina and her doppelgänger plays the court chivalry and deference notes to extremes. I wonder if our heroine’s last trick will be to introduce a virus/ nanotech/ plot device that breaks the obedience compulsion in vampires and grants all of her subjects free will as she institutes a constitutional monarchy. So much for sequels.
As troubling as the too young and too skimpily clad vampire princess is the fujoshi fan-service that sneaks into the story line. I should have expected it when the schoolgirl friends, maids and the princess started to get interested in the fan-fiction written by the good-hearted (non-vampire) girl.
Fujoshi wink-wink-nudge-nudge should have no place in a guy’s manga, but the author and the publisher know that rotten girls troll these magazines for pairing fodder. Here is iron-clad proof that at least one mangaka is ready to exploit this effect.
Not only did the ship-your-male-aquaintances trope pop up. Before you can say “childhood crush” we are introduced to a very effeminate, sometimes cross- dressing werewolf pack buddy of Akira, one who went through a traumatic rite-of-passage with him, and who has extreme ideas of how to demonstrate the strength of the bond forged during that time. Even princess Mina gets jealous until it dawns on her that wolf is a dude!
This would be no problem, even when the mangaka tossed in a gratuitous yaoi-rape scene wherein effeminate wolf sacrifices himself to calm down a berserk-mode werewolf, one of the four buddies damaged horribly during the survival test/ rite of passage.
This is what gets the rotten girls off?
It went a bit like this, only with more taut bishie thigh, ass, screaming and clawing..
Wasn’t it nice of me to spare you the details? Wow, I didn’t freak out in disgust. I might have a few years ago. Award myself 2 “adult maturity points” and keep reading. (lose one point for subbing in the furry pic – couldn’t resist)
But worse is to come: What really, really, really pissed me off was that a few chapters later it is revealed that gay- wolf- boy has been allied with the nameless conspiracy and is murderously sabotaging and killing off all manner of allies and friends because he is gay, and if only the princess can have Akira, then anyone else who looks up to him should die, die, die – including himself, preferably by Akira’s vengeful hand.
Uh Huh! The faggot did it, motivated by psychotic faggot-lust, with some faggotty death urge tossed in.
Ya can’t trust them… they just do that stuff.
Rotten girl tropes of motivation for extreme behaviour merge with mean-spirited old-school homophobia. Ok, the mangaka is a guy, so this is not a ‘true” fujoshi-made bl/y artifact, but it gave me the same angry sinking feeling that I got when I realised that every single goddamn P.D. James mystery could be solved early on by finding the “artsy” character. Find the hidden freak, they did it. Throw away the book, change the channel on the Beeb tellie version on PBS Mystery. They will murder again and again indiscriminately to cover their tracks, driven by artsy (often gay or lesbian) psycho-ness while the detective gets more and more depressed.
That, like Bund is just lazy writing that hides behind a nasty inflexible way of looking at people.
Even a middle age straight boy of euroethnic extraction can get riled up in a politically correct way if the alternative is stupid brain-dead fascist shyte.
Meanwhile in the real world, Vladimir Putin’s Russia has decided that all that Western gay marriage stuff is seriously undermining the country (by doing what? letting a few people snuggle their way?). The Duma has now passed strict laws against anything that can be considered “gay propaganda”. I presume that means that a lot of scanlated fujoshi manga is going to have to vanish from rusky servers and a few of New Russia’s rotten girls will end up in the slammer along with Pussy Riot’s singer. Will yuri be exempt? Does Putin, like the book of Leviticus, Queen Victoria and Saito Tamaki believe that lesbianism is inconsequential?
Don’t try to smuggle any Anne Rice books into Moscow.
Moscow does not believe in yaoi.
Both the meta-fictional world and the real world betray similar urges towards the cynical uses of bigotry.
I might drop by “the Bund” again in half a year to see if my hunches on the plot-mess plays out. Even psycho gay-wolf boy, thought dead, has re-appeared: will he sacrifice himself to atone for his past sins, or will he murder and betray again? Maybe he will just find another pretty wolf-boy, settle down and declare that evil hidden conspiracy nanotech made him do it. Perhaps a few mecha will be dropped into the mess; so we can have werewolf special forces elite commandos (they carry SG1 issue P90’s) piloting mechas against Chinese vampire bio-engineered tentacle raping 50 foot high slime monsters. (though we already have had a tentacle rape creature in one fight scene…)
Followed by a giant meteor impact, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant meltdown, with Japan sinking and everyone having to cross-dress to survive, but only through the magical power of friendship.
Contrast Bund to a the remix of tried and true sword and sorcery tropes in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wikis/Maoyu) As mentioned, I avoid sword and sorcery stories, but the allegorical device of naming all the characters after their roles, plus the first battle scene in the court of the Demon Lord hooked me.
The Demon Lord is a voluptuous, bookish demon lady economist and historian. She looks great with or without reading glasses. She wants only peace and prosperity for both demons and humans. She plans to end the perpetual wars between humans and demons with applied agricultural science, potatoes, mercantilist economics, and the help of the hero (named Hero) who shows up to battle her and gets an economics lecture and a marriage proposal of sorts (Hero is a bit dense about romance, he hasn’t quite figured out the whole deal yet – surprise: she’s sweet on him!).
It reminds me of all the 1970’s era “rise of civilization” mainframe computer games like Sumer, and of H.B.Piper’s Lord Kalvan (aka Gunpowder God). Maoyuu plays to its strengths as allegory of rationality vs the harsh realities behind the romanticism of sword and sorcery feudalism. It does one thing, and does it well.
Nozomu Tamaki I am wise to your tricks! Pull your socks up and finish off this manga off properly!
Oh wait.. non-vampirised human girl wakes up in the school infirmary! It was all a dream!
Another category field breach:
I like the drawing style and cynical humour of the relationships in Rendou Kurosaki’s Houkago Play. I know that he (?) also writes ecchi stuff, both in yuri and yaoi -land. I generally try to avoid yaoi, –hey it’s just me- but I had to look up his oneshot “ON” because I had read everything else of his that was scanlated.
I do not know how to process it.
I had the benefit of the aggregator site’s “yaoi” warning; its original readers in a josei mag must have wondered at least for a few pages whether one of the couple was male or female. Soon enough all becomes clear, and depressed young gay kid is letting the slightly older “beatnik” character come in his face. I guess the depiction of gay secks isn’t too shocking. Then the couple cuddles while they struggle to express how they feel. Neither can express themselves well out loud.
I was overcome with a real strong feeling of “hey young gay kid, don’t throw yourself off a bridge! It will get better, somehow…”
Yeah, they are just fictions, but my sympathy buttons were pushed.
I award myself 2 more adult maturity points.
This doesn’t look like what bara is supposed to be, doesn’t have the ritualised pairing characteristics and ass-rape of canon yaoi, and lacks the happy ever after of yuri’s “story A“. And it is by a male mangaka. I am guessing it would be completely at home in some gay-positive western publication aimed at troubled teens, but Japan ain’t supposed to give a whit about real LGBTQ folks.
Is this moe for a certain subset of the tribes of rotten girls or do most hate it?
One of my senior advisors at the editorial desk, Bill Occam is grumbling at me that if seinen magazine staff know that rotten girl readers check seinen magazines for bishie material, then josei magazine staff can expect that closeted young male Japanese gay guys probably troll through josei magazines looking for a yaoi/bl fix, and it does well for sales to toss a sympathetic affirmational cookie in their direction now and again.
At least genre innovation is alive and well in the pages of manga magazines. A correspondent reports that one of the big yuri series for LFB’s (popular with western wimmins too), one which I have avoided because the characters look too young –hey it’s just me– features clumsy sex fail comedy. I have often wondered why such an inescapable part of human intimacy is missing from manga-land.
Non-idealised funny/ sad mediocre bonking is the last frontier! Considering how much of it exists in the real world, it might be a revolutionary thing to advance social scripts on how to deal with it.
It made Dennis Arcand’s Declin a hit
So category field breach can go either way I guess.
Which leads me to an AWSOME THOUGHT EXPERIMENT!
How would Genshiken read/ look like if done by Aoi Hanna/ Wandering Son’s Takako Shimura?
… Pause for dramatic effect…
Hmmmmm…. Redrawers and typesetters needed.