Through All Your Houses Wandering

While waiting for Genshiken ch 93, I find a bit of background on Madarame’s latest otaku fixation and consider the proper terminologies.

The small universe of bloggers I check up on have, with one exception been rather silent on the double whammy ret-shading presented in not one but two hot spring/ onsen episodes/ chapters. Basically, Hato is now quite fully man-crushed on Madarame, even if he is not quite sure about larger issues. In ep 13 of the Nidaime anime. Madarame hasn’t been crushed on quite yet, (…forever!) so he is characteristically supportive. Manga Madarame is of course absent with a fractured wrist, but the rest of the crew have no doubts, and Hato is forced to agree that yup, he’s beginning to feel something and needs time to cool his head.

Going home, with the inevitable meet-up with Her (ok, ok, Kaminaga), right around Christmas still leaves me with hope for A Genshiken Carol with three spirits, but I ain’t holding my breath (much); followed by a New Years Eve at the temple mini arc. (Want! The first New Years Eve mini-arc was one of the things that hooked me on Genshiken, Want!)

But meanwhile, found a few neat things:


We all kind of get the whole trap-character Josou ero-game thing that Madarame re-acquainted himself with due to Kousaka’s new job, but here is an extensive write-up on it at the Girl Cartoons blog: “Josou, a discussion – Part 3: Josou Sanmyaku and the otokonoko’s will to power”  ( link dead see below) The whole 5 part series of posts is really quite well done, but some outre links at the ends of the posts (I’m guessing) got post 1 scrubbed. Fortunately a mirror survives:

Update: The entire five part essay series on the Girl Cartoons blog site seems to be scrubbed. Fortunately, it was scraped by The Archive and cached versions survive. In view of the obscurity of the subject and the detail of the five essays on the josou/otokonoko genre, as fantasy displacement and extreme “imagined other/ other sexuality”, I append links to the cached versions:

Josou, a discussion – Part 1: Josou, fetishism and gender identity

Josou, a discussion – Part 2: What is the appeal of pontificating on the appeal of traps?

Josou, a discussion – Part 3: Josou Sanmyaku and the otokonoko’s will to power.

Josou, a discussion – Part 4: Otokonoko as surrogate victim

Josou, a discussion – Part 5: Boku no Pico as progenitor of the otokonoko


So Madarame might be moving from lolicon to josou-con. Per the essays above is the fantasy is fantasy issues that come up for real-life otokonoko genre fans. Reading all that stuff might … Naw… Expect some Genshiken in-joke references to rorikon wo naosu houhou) or”How to Cure a Lolicon”. Interestingly enough, one of the points of the above essays is that (simplification time) the boy readers come for the cheap thrills and stay for the novelty feels/ gender tourism. I have advanced a similar notion as yuri has “grown up” and I see from the essay that the Girl Cartoons blogger finds echoes of this in Galbraith on Shoujo, though it probably goes back as far as Rachel Matt Thorn. The josou/ otokonoko phenom though is still firmly grounded in the ‘ero” sphere, which lead to certain problems:

What started this was a link to a discussion of how Hato’s character comes off to a real life trans person found at:

Which is the second such appraisal of Genshiken’s Hato from a trans person I have found on the net, the other being a much earlier review of how an early model manga Hato was still sympathetic, in contrast to other obnoxious treatments. The reviewer at anime is dead sums up:

“The big issue with Genshiken Nidaime and its take on gender issues is that it tries to attempt a realistic and positive portrayal of a crossdresser, without really having any apparent knowledge of gender issues or why many even crossdress in the first place.

[…  ]

The first explanation is that Hato essentially only crossdresses so that they can read BL, due to a bad experience with a previous club who reacted poorly when finding out that Hato as a male was into BL. That’s a bit off-putting since it implies that people crossdress due to trauma, which certainly isn’t true in most cases. Then later it’s implied that Hato may do it because they’re gay, which is bad since sexuality doesn’t really have anything to do with crossdressing. And then the third and probably most sensible (i.e. least problematic since it’s technically a valid reason,)  Madarame rationalizes Hato’s crossdressing as just another otaku hobby and obsession. The way Nidaime tries to explain Hato’s crossdressing isn’t the most ideal, though to its credit it at least tries to do so in a way that doesn’t outright dismiss Hato’s identity.”

An earlier blogger’s view from a trans perspective:

“In the second installment of the manga, Genshiken Nidaime, we meet Hato-san, a girl who is later discovered to “really be” a boy.  As the series is ongoing, it is still unclear what Hato’s “true” gender identity is (transsexual, transvestite, other, ) but this is a plus, because in truth, Hato hirself isn’t sure what hir true identity is.  Hato is learning and exploring hir gender otherness as we watch, and the struggle is particularly interesting because hir sexual identity is mixed in with hir social identity of “fujoshi/fudanshi” (a “rotten” person, referring to someone engrossed in slash literature,) and hir sexuality (gay, straight, or other?) Hato is so many “others,” it’s distressing.  So far, Hato’s story has been treated with interesting realism and tact, though there are characters, as always, that repeatedly try to “convince him” to just live as his assigned birth sex.”

Well, I should know better than to lurk-post after 10:00pm, but I commented, and probably went on too long – and whatever Hato’s character construction points I advanced, the parts that are irksome or worse for those who have skin in the game involve the presentation and sympathetic treatment of the character. Fair Dinkum mate!

But what gave me even more pause was a link found to another blog considering such matters in further depth. Like the Fandom Matters post above, which got into condemning some of the more obnoxious treatments and depictions of trans characters in Japanese visual culture, the post at A Certain Blogging Tobiichi makes a strong and poignant case on how the casual terminology used as genre shorthand can really hurt and offend. “Dehumanization: The Term ‘Trap” at gives some background on the term, misty origins and how nasty it can be.

Primum non nocere 

No one wants to be bully, even an an accidental one, so I can see that I probably should stop casually throwing the term “trap” around my posts. Even if it refers only to characters in manga and anime, only a few I’ve seen actually try any “trapping”, and most cut to a quick reveal and do the otaku-flavoured otokonoko/ josou thing of claiming to be a completely separate, possibly ideal female-ish creation. (which doesn’t make them less obnoxious, but situates them in a male otaku practice) Hence Kuchiki’s desperation to blurt out the “can’t be a girl” line that gets him swatted. So the term is imprecise to the genre trope as well as being hurtful.

Handling the Obnoxious Stereotypical Trap Character (the OSTF?) is the easiest part of a language retooling effort. We can reserve “trap” with caveats for a nasty portrayal of a crossdressed young male character out to “trap”. But what then does one call Hato?

Crossdresser works,, but leaves too much out to “type” the character.

trans (as a noun) is a bit clunky and perhaps should be reserved for characters where issues of personal, felt gender being different from birth ( cis-) gender are being highlighted. The Girl Cartoons essays go through the permutations quite clinically and with a certain thoroughness.

Otokonoko sounds useful, until one realizes that it is an otaku portmanteau/ pun, like fujoshi and comes with a loaded history:

cue the TV tropes block quote:

“Otokonoko is a Japanese genre of romantic and/or erotic stories for men, focusing on Attractive Bent-Gender male Crossdressers. The name is a pun. The word “otokonoko” normally means “boy” (literally “male child”), but swapping the “ko” meaning “child” for a different “ko” meaning “girl” gives a compound that Japanese sites like to translate as “male maiden”. It is sometimes called ‘”josou” (“women’s clothes”), a more generic term for male crossdressers.
Otokonoko features both girl-on-crossdresser and guy-on-crossdresser stories (it’s one of the few places where you will find m/f stories and m/m stories side-by-side in the same magazine). The target audience is men who crossdress (or are interested), and men who have a fetish for crossdressers, and the art styles and tropes are typically those of male-oriented romance / ecchi / hentai material. There is also a significant Periphery Demographic of female readers. (Although guy-on-guy otokonoko is often mistaken for Boys Love Genre, anything targeted to women is not otokonoko.)
Although cute crossdressers in romantic situations have been an occasional theme in shonen and seinen since the ’80s, otokonoko did not start as an identified genre until about 2004. Most works created before this are not usually considered part of the genre, although some have been grandfathered in.
An otokonoko character must be anatomically male (no Hermaphrodites or Gender Benders) but look convincingly like an attractive girl. Most identify as male, but even when the character identifies as female, few works try to deal with actual Transgender issues in anything like a realistic way. Since otokonoko is mainly an otaku thing, otokonoko are quite likely to wear Sailor Fuku, Meido, Miko, Cat Girl or Naughty Nurse Outfits as well as “ordinary” female clothes. Some non-fiction magazines exist to provide advice and help with crossdressing for men who identify as otokonoko in Real Life and who crossdress to achieve the look (or want to). Most otokonoko is technically seinen, although some is shounen. Works aimed at a female audience are never this, so don’t list shoujo, josei or boys’ love. ”

The Girl Cartoons view is more to the point:

“Otokonoko quote above: The term is a pun on the word 男の子 (otoko no ko), meaning “male child”, with the character representing “child” exchanged for the homophonous character for “daughter/young girl”. It is for the most part connotationally and denotationally parallel to the English fandom term “trap”, minus the immediate implication of deception—of “being trapped”—in the English term. A history of the term’s usage via Google Trends dates its coinage to around the year 2009.

[… later discussing a rather nasty ero work..]

…When the protagonist’s biological sex is revealed, he is verbally abused by the two men, being called a “tranny” (okamayarou) and a pervert for becoming aroused given the situation. When he uses the word “otokonoko”, which is of course an otaku-coined neologism, he is mocked and ignored. The protagonist represents not just broadly the victimization of the non-masculine by a masculine society, but the victimization of the male Josou fan himself by a heteronormative and anti-queer society.”
Josou, a discussion – Part 4: Otokonoko as surrogate victim (link died, see above)

So the term is not only an otaku-ism but carries baggage with it. The game Madarame plays is a otokonoko game full of josou characters, but Hato is not an otokonoko or josou character because of his professed limited reasons for crossdressing.

Similarly, Josou as term for a young m to f crossdresser shares the above baggage.

From Kabuki one can lift the terms onnagata (“female-role”) or oyama. These might be useable, but I assume they also already carry too much historical baggage. Works fine for the lad in Kunisaki Izumo no Jijō, but less well for Tripeace, Usotsuki Lily and Hato, all of which I previously characterized as “trap-lite” or one who crossdresses convincingly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with personal gender or sexuality issues.

Of course this kind of plot fig-leaf is probably -or soon will be-  as annoying to real world trans folk as the fujoshi habit of deploying the “I don’t like guys, I only like you” line is to some members of the gay community, but for now it is a stock character trope. As previously mentioned, it usually comes with some small “super power” or at least some heightened personal awareness.

From Takarazuka Revue we get musumeyaku (娘役, literally “daughter’s role”) as opposed to otokoyaku (男役 , literally “male role”). Apparently the fans have also come up with the term onnayaku (女役): literally, “Woman Role-Player”; an unofficial term used by fans to refer to the musumeyaku, as the word musume means “daughter” while the word onna means “woman”, and therefore implies a greater level of equality with the male -gendered actresses who are called otokoyaku (otoko means “man”) Some fans have begun using the word onnayaku to refer to the older female-gendered actresses who are more experienced and well-known than the younger girls.– liberally lifted from the wiki entry. 

Not quite Hato yet, give him 5 years…

Wait, got it.. otomeyaku. That should parse out as acting (or presenting) in a maiden’s role.  That’s a good Hato-fit; although fujoshi-yaku could be coined just for him, and him alone. A cursory google-search doesn’t get any hits on these as trope terms. A fresh neologism! Yum!

(Later: not so fast buddy boy: already used by western Takarazuka fans, pops up in yuricon forum entries among others.. Yup Erica-sensei’s gang got there first, again! -Awwww-)

Next time: Ch 93! After the Festival – No fantasy for you, Mada and Rika butts in!  Hooray! The raws iz out…

Can't get no...

Can’t get no…

Much Later: While searching for Hato Kenjiro’s Genshiken-verse pen name (Takeya Mikako grrr.. always forget it) I stumbled upon a site; an exhaustive compilation/ bibliography of extant Transgender characters/  motifs in manga, comics, books and , well… everything… Jana’s TG Lists; transgender in media. Since 31 January 2004. Current to December 2015 , at least.
See:  Old/ backup site:

So, there are folks who care deeply about these matters and are there for those who need them. The project looks very powerful.

10 thoughts on “Through All Your Houses Wandering

  1. A little philology fer ya, since, until recently, these terms were far more precise:

    The musume in musumeyaku has roughly the same meaning as when you refer to an unmarried woman in her 20s/30s as o-jou-san. Since jou is being appended to yaku, which is a kun’yomi, it makes more sense to use the kun’yomi of jou which is musume.

    Otome would, at the time these terms were first used, have skewed much much younger. In fact, prior to the late 19th century the characters used to write shoujo 少女 could just as easily be read otome. This is not unrelated to the older pairing of oto-me and oto-ko as pubescent female and male respectively. Of course, otoko is used far more generically now.

    This use of onna is really only possible now that the word fujin is no longer common. As recently as, say, the immediately postwar, onna would have been understood as completely generic, however, with the ways in which other woman words have subsumed otherwise fairly discreet age categories, it’s come to have the sense, outside of compounds at least (onna no ko still means “girl”), of an older-ish woman, generally married.

    There’s also the connotation of otome as virgin that you have to account for.

    • Thanks for visiting, and for the philology tips! My Japanese is so limited as to make me cry in frustration, so when I venture into terms they are inevitably treated as fandom including western fandom deals with them. Nice to see I got the Otome right though: The Genshiken tribe is loaded with angsty otaku and fujoshi virgins playing with pr0ny stuff and trying to figure out life, pairing and -gasp- love.

  2. Great article! I personally could literally not watch Genshiken Nidaime because of how pissed off I got from watching it because of the way Hato’s character was written and treated, something I’ve gotten into a lot of discussions about since then with other transgender folk that I know. I’m currently writing a post specifically about transgender characters and their history in anime along with positive and negative portrayals so it’s nice to see others keeping the discussion going with articles like this as well.

    • Thank you for dropping by. Your article was powerful and what tipped me over the edge to writing this post. Drop a line when you get the big historical survey post done, I’ll link to it. Hope the link to the fandommatters post helps your research. My foray into neologisms at the end is because other senior Genshiken bloggers have wondered about what English terms to use for Hato’s character-type, while others have found themselves unreasonably flustered by the anime’s subs referring to Hato-as-chan as “her”. (huh? To the point of I can’t watch it anymore from a 180 degree to your disapproval.)
      I had noted that the anime sanded off a lot of the “liminality” of Hato-in-the-manga. The josou genre essays links were an eye-opener because it looks like that genre was being mined extensively by the anime studio. In went as many otokonoko-genre references as possible, out went all of Hato’s inner negotiations. I am not gonna suggest that Kio Shimoku give up writing outside “his voice”, but he has been on shakier ground since the Genshiken went from male Otaku to fujoshi and fujoshi-yaku membership. I hope that folks who sand the Anime also consider the much more nuanced manga in detail.

      (and now I shall go on a bit too long…)

      I would be really interested in your take on the sub-genre of “crossdresses for nothing to do with sexuality” genre which seems to be all over the manga-verse. Like I know the urge in narrative goes back beyond As You Like It in the west, and that Japan has Kabuki, but the continued popularity of the idea of the crossdressed character as gender-role critique vs exploitative sexuality hijinx seems to hint at larger issues in Japanese society (-or I should stop trying to do pop sociology). What to do with Tripeace (how does a weak guy stand with a Saito Tamaki-ish Beautiful Fighting Girl?) and Usotsuki Lily? (A Shojou audience reading about a guy who can’t stand how annoying he is supposed to be as a guy, but still wants a shojou-genre girlfriend and a shojou-genre romance ??????? ) … let alone Kuragehime? (nope, can’t handle that one – fantasy rich crossdressing guy teaching frumpy fujoshis how to present as female ????? ).
      Or you may have more important fish to fry …
      In any case, thanks and best regards.. /M

      • I often get frustrated at stories that toss in cross-dressing for seemingly no other reason than to A: Make it a plot-twist, B: Make it a joke, or C: Make it a sexy concept. I will be touching upon the “involuntary trans” trope as well in my article, where characters only pretend to be another gender for some contrived reason that has no relation to their actual feelings/personality/sexuality.

        As for Hato in Genshiken Nidaime (the anime, i’ve not read the manga). Snice the first episode he presents herself as a girl (which is why I’m using female pronouns for her) and not as a boy dressed like a girl. Whether or not she’s doing it for sexuality or actually being transgender is beside the point to me. Even if Hato is only dressing like a girl for a hobby, if she presents herself as a girl, then that’s what I’ll treat her as. Anything else would be exclusion. Of course, I’m only speaking from the brief time I spent with the anime before I had to stop.

        As for terms or labels to use. I never like using labels to begin with, as they almost never actually serve a good purpose. I feel that labels, positive or negative, almost always tend to causes generalization and hurt the character in question from having a unique identity. As such, I would not try to find a term at all.

        I’m not yet sure when my post will be done, I have a lot of actual research and stuff I need to do by watching A LOT of anime and stuff before I can finish writing it, but I’m aiming for 2 weeks from now at the most. I will let you know when it’s done.

  3. Hi;

    I know this is an older post, so you may not be following its comments. But anyway: I tripped over this post looking for sites discussing otokonoko culture, and while I think it’s interesting, I’m a bit confused as to why you reject the term “otokonoko” to describe Hato. (I’m going to refer to Hato as “he” because he appears to identify as a man; he’s comfortable being seen as a crossdressing boy once it’s clear that his new friends won’t reject him for being a male BL fan – or for crossdressing.)

    The term is frequently applied to attractive crossdressing male characters in pop culture works, but it is also used in a real-world context. In Japan there is currently a subculture of men who enjoy crossdressing either sporadically or regularly and self-refer as otokonoko (for instance, see this article on an autobiographical book and this one on a hot springs tour); these men are frequently otaku and see their crossdressing as being inspired by crossplay or by crossdressing characters in anime and other pop culture. Otokonoko men typically identify as (cis) male and heterosexual (although there are exceptions), and their subculture is largely separate from other male-crossdressing populations that arise from either commercialized crossdressing (such as “okama bars”) or LGBT subcultures; they use “otokonoko” in preference to other, older terms describing crossdressing men in part to emphasize this difference. Note that in the ero doujin work discussed by girl catoons that you quote, the character self-describes as “otokonoko” and is upset at being called “okamayarou”. (“Okama” being an offensive term for, variously, a gay, effeminate, crossdressing or transgendered man, or a transsexual woman.)

    As a fictional construction, Hato almost certainly reflects the popularity of otokonoko characters in current otaku-oriented fiction, but also as an individual within the story, Hato seems to be an attempt to depict the type of otaku who is drawn to the otokonoko subculture in real life. Although it appears that Hato does not self-identify as an otokonoko, he is aware of the term and knows it could be applied to him; at one point, when he’s explaining himself to another character, he says (loose translation) “I’m the type that is called otokonoko”. Several of the other characters also refer to him as an otokonoko at various points during the series, including Kukichi just after Hato gets outed as a boy. (The Kodansha English edition of the manga translates otokonoko as “girl-boy” and the Crunchyroll subtitles for the anime uses something similar that I forget.)

    Hato is an otaku embedded in otaku culture, in a series about otaku, who is crosdressing for reasons that, so far, are closely connected to his otaku-dom (whether as a means to enjoy BL as a man, or as a “hobby” as Madarame suggests). It’s not clear what term Hato might prefer if he were asked what he would want to be called, but until that is resolved I don’t see anything incorrect with calling him an otokonoko.

    Also, since you seem to be surprised by Usotsuki Lily: I literally cannot count how many shoujo romances there are in which the male lead habitually crossdresses. There’s at least 5 just in English translation (Tenshi Ja Nai, Penguin Revolution, W Juliet, Nosatsu Junkie, Ai Ore), and hundreds in Japanese. Girls like boys in skirts. 🙂

    • Hi! Thanks for dropping by and reading, and for the comments with good background resources – I read a fair bit off the aggregator sites, but my intake is by no means comprehensive..

      I’ll go at your points in reverse order,,

      Skirts.. yup works in real life too, an acquaintance got himself well-married after art school by affecting kilts and Indonesian variants. WIN for him!,

      As for Uso Lily, I know it isn’t unique, but the over-the-top-shojou-ness of-it, 4th wall breaking, fantasy safe space and gentle preachiness won me over.. An follow-up is due too.. Our hero and heroine consummated in a very too cute 16th birthday melodrama Dawwwwwwwwww! Still, I must peruse your recs…

      As for Hato… I thank you for the rough xlate in that he self-identifies as an otokonoko. If he participated more in that fan-culture, that would nail him there for me, but of course he doesn’t. Shimoku sensei is doing his best to keep him neither -nor, carving out his own unique invention … In another post I half – jokingly referred to a hypothetical example of a guy who only cross-dresses to hang out with the women at the knitting circle, but can really really knit well when he does (I sh*t you not, I have a Japanese friend who was mildly surprised when her knitting circle acquired a member somewhat like this, no testimony on super knitting powers, or whether the presentation is reserved only for the circle, but real real life.. wow!) In any case, If not for the Stands, the self-shipping and the Mada crush I would have used the term fujoshi-yaku.

      Playing (or Butlerian presenting) the maiden’s role sounded useful. I just felt an existing Japanese otaku term was already a bit loaded – the girl cartoon post bit you mentioned was the kicker, in that the term was otaku-ized. I have heard of dollers and crossplayers, but the existence of an otaku crossdressing tribe that frames their interest as a pure hobby is a new one on me.. must research! Many thanks for the tip!

      And continuing the reverse order dealio, I question whether Hato is written as being fully accepted by the fujoshi social without the continued full “presentation”. Time and time again he is written as being scared and disturbed at the idea of being seen by them as a male, and the only reason written and written again is his experience in high school. He is going to get his “charmed circle” if he has to burn the whole world or himself. in the process.

      And the main reason I keep giving a rats ass about any of it, is that I think Kio Shimoku is weaving a complex narrative about his fave thing: how to develop complex narratives. Hato’s super drawing powers, the stands, his inability to draw a story, etc! The “problems of creativeness” Add to this how among all otaku-ish folks, male and female, the fujoshi as a tribe excels in fannish production. Only cosplayers come close to them.

      But now I am going on.. Once again thanks for the tips and hope some of the other posts are of interest! Cheers!

      • Glad you found my comment useful. 🙂

        You said:
        “I question whether Hato is written as being fully accepted by the fujoshi social without the continued full “presentation”. Time and time again he is written as being scared and disturbed at the idea of being seen by them as a male, and the only reason written and written again is his experience in high school.”

        It seems to me that the Genshiken is prepared to accept him as a garden-variety fudanshi; it’s Hato himself who is, as you said, scared of being seen by them as a male. (And frankly, his high-school experience sounds traumatic enough to plausibly make him paranoid about a repeat.)

        Re the “charmed circle”: one of the things I’ve seen RL otokonoko (and non-otokonoko men who identify as feminine) talk about is the desire to socialize with women as “one of the girls”; they want peers with whom they can share their feminine interests, or to hang out with people whose interests and personalities align with their own (which they believe “typical” men’s don’t). I wonder what would happen to Hato if he had other fudanshi (or otokonoko) friends; perhaps he would become more comfortable being a somewhat-feminine man rather than a stealth “girl”.

        I agree that Genshiken is (and always has been) more complex than it seems on the surface, and I really like Kio’s handling of Hato as a guy who is a little confused about who he is and what he wants out of life. I’m reading through your other posts and I’m seeing a lot of good stuff, keep it up! 🙂

        • Please enjoy the rest of my blog, it does tend to wander about a bit and shift focus between soft analysis, “the playset” and trying to second-guess Kio Shimoku’s plotting antics, but the mess that it is enables me to keep writing it. Per your insight, I have always wondered if the “androgynous Hato” won’t be the final “resolved” version, who ascends to the post of Genshiken president. Of course Shimoku has already thrown up a hurdle to that with Hato meeting up with the high-school fujoshi girls and having his extreme acceptance strategy confirmed. From the next few chapter raws it looks like he is back to full crossdressing fujoshi mode, and convinced that he has to at least make an honest effort to confess his feelings to Madarame. And Sue has decided to move closer to the battlefield. Hmmmmmmmm… Now if Shimoku would write Hato-chan as suddenly adopting a long, straight, black haired wig and thick glasses.. Hmmmmmmm….

  4. Pingback: The squeee heard ’round the world | HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.