Destroy everything you touch

On Moe and too much fan-service

After an epic post on smut, as manifested in old-school-male-gaze V 1.0 “Yuri” it seems productive to continue on to the roots of the “condition” or problem or “peculiar institution” characteristic of so much of Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture: excessive fanservice.

Otaku-gaze titilation, burlesque, sleaze, creepy creepy creepy, lewd, ecchi hentai stuff as far as the eye can see. So much in fact that it is too damn easy to get used to it and begin to edit it out while reading. Which is a shame, for reasons beyond the annoying objectification of characters (outside of BL/yaoi land overwhelmingly female and written as young, possibly much too young).

It is getting in the way.

Why bother? Respect and maturity is one reason. A better product is another. World domination makes convincing third

Much must be untangled first, starting with moe.

“Particularly if you like series with gentlemen in them. Day two seemed to be dominated by gigantic doujin communities for a smaller number of popular propeties, and despite a spirited showing by Touhou and KanColle, BL had the weight of numbers thanks to Attack on Titan (my word Levi, you have a lot of boyfriends), Yowamushi Pedal and the series with an oni-looking main character whose name I’m struggling to find.

It’s difficult to understand the sheer scale of BL and how thoroughly a female space it is until you see it. It’s certainly illuminating from a male perspective, particularly if you want to see what men being objectified by women *really* looks like. And you can understand how a male-dominated approach to lesbians in fiction could be alienating to women. But it’s not the other side of the coin to Yuri – it’s the other side of the coin to moe. (Erica again: Yes, absolutely)

– Jye N’s 2014 Winter Comiket Report!, January 2nd, 2015 http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/01/02/event-jye-ns-2014-winter-comiket-report/

Aside from the “Wow, would have liked to see that” description of Yaoi day at Comiket (upon which I have hung a few previous posts – Sirens, etc., on), there was the interesting aside in the direction of the “asymmetry’ effect in the way male and female fandoms imagine the other sex and queer variants thereof for fun and curiosity. I mean it is slippery, right? Yaoi and BL are supposed to be the female flip-side to Yuri; imagined m-m pairings and imagined f-f pairings for the respective other sides of the boulevard. But both Erica-sensei and her correspondent Jye, as well as Kio Shimoku situate Yaoi and BL as the flip-side of (lolicon) moe (Hi Mada!). That would leave Yuri as either the flip-side of Bara or the flip-side of nothing dammit, get your flip-siding outta here!

This works and does not work, much like one of those Escher staircase prints, as a trick of perspective. Since this trick pops up in a lot of the theoretical literature, it might be worth another look.

Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl (BFG) and the Hiroki Azuma’s response both addressed a kind of moe aimed at the gaze of the male otaku. We can posit the BFG as an extreme variant of the moe girl, with seifuku’d high school girls, lolis, old-school shoujo-ai, siscon, maids, cat girls etc ad nauseum as variants of the same impulse. Basically the (male) otaku impulse to erase adult female agency, (ability, position, education, desire, everything) in favour of pre-agency, pre- any- worldly- experience “pure” female-oid characters.

There will be fan-service.

Recall as well that Dr Saito Tamaki is adamant that a libidinous charge must run through the narrative, lest it fail to enchant/ cathect/ re-cathect the mundane real world of the consumer of these tales.

But wait: the fujoshi tribes were fast to adopt and re-purpose the idea of moe too – they too have their own versions of it, which includes bishie, hunk, shota, even oyagi weirdness, plus elaborate pairing typologies (evolved perhaps from the dating classified ad descriptions in 1970’s – 1980 gay magazines?). Moe is no absolute guidepost, unless we audience-segregate and/or gaze-segregate our definitions of moe.

In an earlier post I reviewed Galbraith’s essay on moe, noting the deft update of Bronisław Malinowski’s concept of the phatic object as a focal point for fan enthusiasm, practice and identity. All very good for sociology papers – In practice Moe moe moe(!) now runs as shorthand for a form of abstracted desire manifested as interest for a character that is somehow conceptually removed from normal categories of desire allowed/ prescribed to the moe-fying subject. Moe somehow serves as a point of stopping short before an acknowledgement of full desire

So a rotten girl can see/ have moe for a pairing of hunky guys, a shota character and…, or even imagine that one inanimate object would have the hots for another in a manner that “is so moe” or that sparks a feeling of moe in the observer. Similarly the general issue guy otaku can get all moe for maids, robot girls, lolis, other underage female-ish characters, otokonoko, improbable “lesbians”, tsunderes, yanderes, miko, teenage female pilots of giant robots in too-tight-fitting costumes, high school girls, (and high school girls piloting giant robots in sailor suits), mini skirted magical girls, improbable young “nuns” and even girl-gang members.

But they do not get all moe for adult female characters or BL-ish guys.

Hmmmm The BL-guys thing is easy to understand, but why no adult females?

There is one type of adult female that can be moe-ed a tiny bit: The perpetually 29-year-old sexy high-school teacher lady who is in a desperate funk and/or crazed mood because she cannot find a husband.

Meanwhile across the boulevard, the fujoshi is not going to consider a shoujo D’awwwww girl & boy couple as “moe”, unless perhaps the girl likes to dress like a guy (Hey, its a hobby). Rotten girls are at least a bit more varied in their tastes; some reportedly find old guys interesting, though I must wonder if they are considered so alone or only in the context of half a potential pairing.

Similarly, a female BL/yaoi enthusiast, even one who may desire women in real life would most likely not find female characters worthy of moe. Hence the reported “Die in a ditch” effect that banishes the presence of almost all females from fujoshi fantasies.

There is desire in the moe gaze.

It is just abruptly pulled over to the side of the road before it can crash into its target.

“Humor is characteristic of an interrupted defense mechanism.
No sane being interrupts a defense mechanism.”

– Nessus the puppeteer from Ringworld by Larry Niven.

Moe is interrupted desire. Moe is the kitsch shadow of desire.

“Moe causes two feelings to develop in otaku hearts in quick succession. The first feeling says: ‘How nice to see the big-eyed girl character leaning toward me, the reader!’
The second feeling says: ‘How nice to be moved, together with all my otaku brethren, by the big-eyed girl character leaning toward us, the readers!!’ ”
― The Unbearable Moe-ness of Moe

Pity Genshiken’s Madarame; real women are scary. Or not scary enough in the right way.

Moe is also problematic, as it is the main alibi and excuse for shoddy product design and the omnipresent, wearying overload of same old, same old fanservice in CJVC. It wasn’t just the death of sci-fi heroic adventure themes that changed manga and anime in the mid aughts. The moe-blob and her attendant over-the-top creepy presentation is probably one of the main impediments to successfully exporting more Cool Japan cultural product.

Consider the licensing of manga and anime to the rest of the world. Ghibli exports well because it doesn’t fanservice out. Otaku might go Moe, moe moe at strong Ghibli girl characters but the characters are written to serve the story and themselves – not to pander. Ghibli properties quickly become world renown classics.

This part of the equation struck me upon stumbling across the manga Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (The City still turns) and then watching the anime. I am annoyed. The genki main character is a teenage girl who aspires to be a mystery writer. Aside from this ambition she is happy go lucky, forgetful, lazy and often a catalyst for minor disasters. She has a circle of friends and works at a laughable excuse for a maid cafe; a run-down diner owned by a grumpy granny who dreamed up the maid angle on a whim, sewed the uniforms, but can’t even be bothered to do more then tape a piece of paper with the word “maid” on the cafe sign. So: an anti-maid cafe and curry lunch joint. All the other teen characters are conscientious though quirky and the adults of the business district are all set in their ways and ready to act as the chorus as either odd things happen or are instigated by our plucky heroine.

Now watch the anime: right off the opening sequence has our young heroine flashing thigh, butt and garter while donning her maid outfit. Facepalm. I like a bit of garter as much as the next guy, even 2D garter-flash, but the effect in this case is wrong and jarring. She is by no means written as being “sexy”. She has zero interest in relationships and none of the story-lines touch in any way on any awakening desire in her. Although her best friend is her rival for the attentions of a boy, she is oblivious to his shy interest in her. Nothing here, move along. There is a ghost story, a ridiculous UFO tale, a high school band with her friends, nice pleasant stuff. No onsen episodes, shower scenes, boob compare grabs, nadda. She walks the pet tanuki that her family has adopted as a dog.

Most of Soredemo is about the teens beginning to enter into the adult work-world social that is the little business district: are their future lives set out for them, or can they find their own way? The perpetually annoyed beat cop comments on our heroine that “she won’t stop being a nuisance until she gets married and settles down.” The boy will invariably follow his father as a fishmonger. The rebel girl wants to be a guitar hero rock star. Only the perpetually 29 year-old proprietor of the antique store offers a compromise escape route: she is secretly a published mystery author, her pen-name’s books are the main inspiration to our heroine, who has yet to stumble upon the secret identity. Meanwhile, our heroine’s own writing efforts are beyond dismal, but of course she is too clueless to realize it.

It could have made a fine export property.

So why the damn garter thigh/ flank shot every intro segment? Followed by a goofy maid cafe dance guaranteed to establish the main character as a “clumsy maid” character – which is never worked up in the episodes?

There goes the series as potential gift to the nieces, unless I want to get out Adobe Premiere and fix it myself.

The animation studio did not trust the property, so they “salted” the intro to try to draw otaku. Next we’ll put a “yuri”-esque shower scene into the opening credits of Aria the Natural and fuck that up too.

Facepalm.

Anything that has terra-forming and Cordwainer Smith sci-fi references in it will get me to watch 3 episodes. Add Cait Sith and a fox wedding and I am easily charmed. No service is needed.

“Currently, however, the most conspicuous Japanese culture of otaku and yankii represents value sets with little connection to affluent consumers elsewhere. Most men around the world are not wracked by such deep status insecurity that they want to live in a world where chesty two-dimensional 12 year-old girls grovel at their feet and call them big brother. The average university student in Paris is likely to read Murakami Haruki and may listen to a Japanese DJ but not wear silky long cocktail dresses or fake eyelashes from a brand created by a 23 year-old former divorcee hostess with two kids. Overseas consumers remain affluent, educated, and open to Japanese culture, but Japan’s pop culture complex — by increasingly catering to marginal groups (or ignoring global tastes, which is another problem altogether) — is less likely to create products relevant for them.
[…]
Japanese companies now face a true crisis: Appealing to the most powerful consumers in Japan will lead them away from tastes and values that can be easily exported overseas. AKB48 may be opening vanity branches in Taiwan and Jakarta, but will the world inherently be interested in an idol group meant to please a small group of men’s reactionary attitudes towards women and desire for songs that ignore the last twenty years of musical change? And as we’ve seen with the success of K-Pop in Japan, companies cannot automatically protect the domestic market against invasion. When the mainstream consumers do see something they like, that reflects their values in a way that otaku and gyaru content does not, they pounce. But until they reawaken as a consistent consumer force or rebuild cultural online to be less centered around product purchase, we are likely to stay within the current situation — where marginal subcultures rule the school.

-The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Five: The Difficulty of Exporting Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/02/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-five/

The kicker is set out in Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures

” Marginal groups’ up their voting power in the consumer vacuum

The end result is that the otaku and yankii have an almost inelastic demand for their favorite goods. They must consume, no matter the economic or personal financial situation. They may move to cheaper goods, but they will always be buying something. Otherwise they lose their identity. While normal consumers curb consumption in the light of falling wages, the marginal otaku and yankii keep buying. And that means the markets built around these subcultures are relatively stable in size.

So as the total market shrinks, the marginal groups — in their stability — are no longer minor segments but now form a respectable plurality in the market. In other words, if otaku or yankii all throw their support through a specific cultural item, that item will end up being the most supported within the wider market.

The clearest example of this is AKB48. With the letters AKB in their name, this group of girls was unequivocally marketed towards older males based in the Akihabara otaku culture. Compared to past mass market groups such as Speed, the girls are intentionally chosen and styled to look like elementary schoolgirls and lyrically address older men with direct sexual references. (See the “cat-eared brothel” video for “Heavy Rotation” and the unambiguous “love knows no age” lyrics for “Seifuku ga jama wo suru.”)

The mass idol group regularly has an “election” (sousenkyo) where fans try to vote their favorite girl to Number One. Buying certain AKB48 CD singles gives the fan a vote in the AKB48 election, which thus incentivizes otaku to buy multiple copies of the CD to increase their “political” power. The CD is thus no longer a means of listening to music but a way to influence the future of AKB48. This has created a legion of fans who buy dozens and hundreds of the same AKB48 CD or even 5500 copies. There are now doubts about that story’s authenticity but it basically was an exaggeration of an existing principle. Regardless, the marketing strategy of AKB48 does encourage the purchase of multiple goods, thus amplifying the buying power of nerds beyond their small numbers. This means as a consumer bloc, the AKB48 otaku fans can rival the non-otaku consumer base.

This otaku bloc strength, as well as other niche’s dedicated buying, can be seen through the music charts. In 2010 only three artists made the Oricon best-selling singles market — AKB48 and a Johnny’s Jimusho group Arashi. (At this stage, you can almost argue that music fans of Johnny’s groups are themselves a conspicuous cult rather than a mass market phenomenon.) Only two artists taking the entire singles market is unprecedented in Japanese musical history. In the previous decade, the average number of artists in the top ten was 8.2. The best explanation is that mainstream consumers stopped buying music, even single song downloads, so the favorite acts of marginal subcultures now appear to be the most popular.

Otaku and gyaru: winners by default”

The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/01/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-four/

Note that Japanese animation and manga were not the only vernacular genres ever to suffer a distortion due to a sales and distribution slump. The histories of North American vernacular media in the 20th century are full of these effects. Yet the latest shift for Japanese visual culture was extreme and remarkable. Some commentators saw it but read it wrong; as in the “Lament of the Ota-king” for an earlier age of grand sci-fi and giant robot adventures, almost anticipating a “gamer-gate”reaction.

What is all this unmanly moe-blob stuff? It must be linked to:

  • the decline of grand narratives.
  • the rise of the libidinized BFG and or the database of modular moe-blobs.
  • the magical girl as feminist trojan horse.
  • a descent into ecchi smut.
  • the rise of dojinshi culture as a cheap farm team for publishers, and the corresponding influence of…
  • the rise in Shoujo-ish libidnized offshoots (female participation and production still makes up the bulk of Comiket and dojin culture)
  • The normalization of otaku/ geek culture, failure to launch adults, economic stagnation, the end of adolescence/ adolescence without end in Japanese society, decline of marriage, infantilization, herbivore men…
  • Add a few of your own…
  • And so it goes…

More to the point, there is plenty of diaspora research on how fanservice, especially the loli stuff can really sink the export prospects for a Japanese franchise, especially if it looks like it strays into the sights of other countries’ anti-child exploitation legislation. Fantasy is fantasy will not save your bookstore proprietor from a bust and experienced outlanders make it a point to box up their Comiket haul and send the packet back by sea mail lest they have to explain their hobbies to airport customs officers. Queer folk long had to adopt such strategies, now it is everyone’s turn. You never know what can set off a nasty incident.

This does not make for a viable export market.

It does explain the continued appeal of grey-sourced versions, even in the face of legitimate sources. Do you really want your credit card number on that purchase?

Even when licensed, a censorship/ scrubbing protocol starts up in tandem with the localization efforts and we are back to the problem of bad dubbing, excessive re-cutting and story-line redaction that has plagued Japanese visual culture exports for the last 50 years. The interesting, the socialy progressive, the quirky and the unique are excised along with the more obnoxious stuff. Only mild service is left as a bit of an “Oh those wacky Japanese” tease for the outlander fans.

Perhaps Shintaro Ishihara was onto something, even as he was going about it WRONG!

A current example:

Ken Akamatsu’s UQ Holder is (later: WAS – he be back to his old tricks of magically blowing the clothing off too-young nubile heroines) a far more export-savvy product than Negima. The teen girl posse after a 10 to 11 year old magic boy harem is gone, as is the excessive penchant for making the girls’clothing vanish, disintegrate, fall off or suffer artful disarrangement every third page. Both female characters who will be enlisted to provide service shots are powerful adult authority figures with agency; the service is still there but at least it is on the level of western female superheroes who get their uniforms shredded and still fight on. Even the onsen scenes are restrained to a Genshiken level. Any service-grade yuri-esque longings are presented more as hero worship and the one character who could have been an otokonoko/ trans* stereotype is upgraded to indeterminate and asexual, thereby bypassing the usual comedies of identity for a more poignant “what will I be?” characterization. The main character is going to be an impulsive teen battle training good natured fool for a while, so desire need not poke its nose into the tent. Evangeline AK McDowell, Negima’s fearsome anti-social loli mage, the Dark Gospel has been turned into step-mom.

This series has (had) export potential.

In contrast, the Negima properties – especially the two anime seasons/series betray their roots as ecchi riffs on a Harry Potter impulse, loaded to the boards with harem fanservice. Even the manga takes forever to get off the ground – until Evangeline is socialized and recruited into the magical world campaign the thing just flails around looking for another excuse for a pantsu shot and a big magical battle.

Exportable for sure, but only to a niche market.

Contrast these to Blue Exorcist. The writer is a woman, the service is negligible. The female characters while secondary have power, ability, back-stories and agency – even the weakest of them can be formidable when roused to battle. The plotting is a more durable template of finding each team member’s strengths, becoming friends and learning to cooperate in the face of ever-more monstrous threats. Blue exorcist does not traffic in fanservice or even much teen romance. It does not suffer from the lack.

This series has export potential.

Mouretsu Space Pirates manages to keep school uniform skirt lengths to a modest range. Adult women wear pants and carry impressive arsenals in their car’s trunks. The girls can pilot an interplanetary sail-ship and apply the Kzinti lesson when threatened. Even the hacker scenes have a tiny nod towards tech realism in them, though what mercenary hacker would fall that easily for a honey-pot?

This series has export potential.

Longer skirts for high school uniforms in general, Please, if only out of economic concerns! Besides, otaku boys can learn to fetishize anything. Long school uniform skirts? Hawt!

At this point however, service in the genres seems to be a structural problem. The male fans expect it, as does the spin-off merchandise market. And then there is the alibi problem alluded to in my previous post. Fanservice and smut situate any narrative comfortably within a safe male space. We seem to need this.

Drop some ecchi bits into the package and we guys can read shoujo-ish story lines in comfort.

We may be sneered at as otaku pervs, but boys will be boys, men will be perpetually boys and as long as there are a few pantsu shots or relatively restrained clench scenes, entry level salaryman cadres can even read josei-level complicated emotionally driven stories. If the reading material is called out, they can brush the magazine aside and complain that they thought there would be more “Hawt whatever” in the work. Or giant robots, or both.

We would even settle for a level-up battle grinder, or ronin swordmen. Just give us some cover.

Because we men-folk are traditionally supposed to be a bit slow on the emotional and social interaction stuff and because interest in such is even more suspect than interest in other guys, this camouflage netting is ubiquitous. It will be hard to give up.

“…Therefore, the condition of the moe-blob female-oid exists, but as a symptom of male readership, created to ensure our ontological consistency.”

Thanks mister Žižek.

I can read all the Takemiya Jin stuff I want and fall back to the easily defensible position of an old school guy looking for yuri fanservice. I can enjoy story lines that would normally be unavailable to me. I am a fan, even as I note that the aspirational nature of her story A plots have recently made her characters far too wise and level-headed for their situations. Recover from your trauma with the support of your friends, face your fears, deploy some empathy towards the other, see past injuries in a new light, talk it over with the other parties and reach a mutually satisfactory point from which all can move on from. Please pull the other one, it has bells on it. Or worse, the power level of working this complicated interpersonal stuff out is so far beyond my understanding that it reads as “alien”. (that why they do alien things,, because…) This lacks a certain dramatic flair, but these are short aspirational learn-to-solve-problems pieces, not (Bitter-) Sweet Blue Flowers.

The best us guys can manage in an emotionally fraught situation is either a bender, a fistfight or a cold refusal to ever talk or even look at the offending party again. Or all three. That’s what we do. Anything else is Richard III, Cardinal Richelieu or Mephistopheles.

Great Ghu! No wonder we are trampling around in the Lily garden.

Worse, if a shounen action adventure grinder ever began to show emotional complexity and sensitivity beyond say, the catatonic trauma and hysteria of Evangelion, the rotten girls would ship it clear through to next month. Above all the devil and the salaryman cannot abide to be mocked – especially by the women-folk who are far more worldly on such matters. Te-heee: basketball star A and basketball star B are having long talks on the high school roof again, squeeeeee! Sez B to A: “They are laughing at us again, I knew we should have just duked it out behind the gym.” “Nawwww, they like that too… “. Jeeeesh!”

And yet we guys hunger for a glimpse of the insights offered by complex emotionally driven stories. Stumbling across a josei genre character story collection titled “HER”, (which I am at a loss to find again, drat!) because it was cross-listed in the yuri section gave me the pleasure of reading a short chapter where a slightly angsty teen girl starts to pester a wise old (old as in wrinkled 60-ish) woman photographer who still enjoys the affection of younger (30-ish?) adult women. When asked the inevitable “how, why” question by the teen, the wise woman simply tells her that intimacy with men would feel not just out of her sexuality, but out of her species. (Woof!) I immediately harkened back to the testimony of one of Dr. Mizoguchi’s correspondents who declared that sex with guys feels like having a cardboard lover.

Cardboard.

Un-desire explained as easily as desire.

Otherwise the tale presents a number of “time will change your perspective, to yourself be true, those aren’t very good friends then, are they?” nostrums for mildly angsty teens.

Nothing too shocking here. All nicely reassuring and good hearted. A good read.

Wait a second! There wasn’t any fanservice. Maybe I didn’t need it after all?

Which brings us to the issue of quality. If you can pad a weak or poorly written story with plenty of moe and ecchi fanservice, then filling running time and chapter pages gets way too easy while the writing gets lazy. Both Negima! and Negima? anime were pretty damn pointless without the service and soon even the service grew to uncomfortable creepy levels. This stuff is not healthy. The Shaft take on “Holy Mary Watches Over Us“, Maria?Holic was a toxic brew of creep-ery and cookie cutter fetishes done small and squeaky. Plus it decided to expand its paraphilia range and threw an obnoxious trap character in as antagonist, just for added spite. Admittedly it was built to only do this, but the mind can only take so much lame bullying, smirking lite smut before it rebels.

Even with far milder examples of the harem genre, the service begins to get in the way, unless managed for exclusively for pure burlesque. Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa is a goofy, good-hearted high school o’ weirdlings comedy with a pile of secret super-powered students tropes cranked to 11 for laughs. At first it looks like a harem, but the other girls never had a chance. Normal boring guy gets a crush on the silent cool beauty girl in class only to discover that she is a bubbly good-natured half-shinso vampire who 1) would never drink anyone’s blood unless she was married to them – and then only a teeny bit, 2) keeps quiet and eats by herself because of her snaggle teeth and hick/ Kansai accent and 3) will have to leave the school if her secret gets out. Buddy boy was smitten; now he is 10x more smitten. Still he can’t get up the courage to confess and when ever he comes close, something ridiculous happens to stop it. From then on weird characters are continuously added into the mix – it seems the school is some kind of nature preserve for powerful weirdlings, most of whom are of course high-school age girls. Buddy boy has a few riajuu male friends too, but he is now leery of hanging out with them too much because he can’t keep a secret to save his life.

The series is silly to extremes, dropping every Aliens, Time Travelers and Espers trope it can find into its pages along with a sex-shifting werewolf, an ageless demon child principal (not loli, just a low-grade pain in the ass demon) a naive fallen angel, an 18 foot high vampire monster dad who has is the scariest “meet dad” father a young swain could ever face and a homeroom teacher of the perpetually 29 and single variety who used to be a fearsome girl gang leader. There is a small degree of fanservice: the werewolf, when not a Johnny rotten-looking punk-rocker admirer of teacher (admirer – he lets slip that she is too old for him to consider as hawt, which earns him a thrashing from hell hath no fury teach) is a cynical sexy tease girl who is mostly put in place to provide fanservice and to serve as a foil to the shy vampire girl’s modesty. She also cheerleads the couple and drives some of the more outlandish plot devices in the story forward. Happy couple have yet to smooch. Boy has yet to straight-out confess. Vampire girl is embarrassed and worried that she will be pulled out of high-school. All of their friends are rooting for them and trying to get the two to clue in; even two of the other girls who consider themselves rivals have decided to help out. The riajuu guys have settled on the idea that buddy boy’s big secret is his undeclared crush on the girl. Happy high school hijinx ensue.

My point? It could probably do with even less fanservice. What is deployed is more for low teen sex comedy, nosebleeds, mild rivalry, meddling well-wishers, the whole nine yards.

It is refreshing. I don’t have to worry about turning a page and seeing squick. I could take the tankubon through customs. (I do buy some of the stuff I like – one day I will be able to read it, one day…) It has a good heart, even if it is a pile of cliches looking for a reason to keep rolling down a well-worn path.

The mangaka gets the point about the gratuitous service; hangs a lampshade on it in fact. A recent story arc added one more character; the time-travelling grand-daughter of someone, who has to stop sex-shifting were-girl or her mom (seen only in cheesecake pose silhouette as “The Charismatic Pervert”) from taking over the world in the future and turning Japan into a totalitarian pervert empire of enforced depravity. If time-travel prude girl hits an improperly attired female with her magic sword any risque pantsu or worse are turned into cycling shorts. Shirt buttons do themselves up and stay done up. Hooray!

And sex, or any real intimacy is banished to the realm of happily married adulthood.

Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa has export potential.

A Crusade for Modesty!

Against this runs the perpetual argument that Japanese cultural producers care not a fig for foreign markets and care to learn to understand these even less. This is not surprising, as Japan prides itself on being a high late-modernist mass-culture society. It expropriates the forms of others’ cultural artifacts, but the substance is bent to internal ends – just as we do. It will not do third-world tourism pandering: Tourists who venture to its shores are visiting an advanced culture and should expect to adapt to Japanese priorities; such as carrying wads of cash, having their credit cards rendered useless, their mobile phones inert (or prohibitively expensive to use), free wifi unavailable, their driving skills made inadequate and please keep your hands off the door handles on our taxis – they open and close themselves. And don’t get your shoe caught between the train door and the platform edge, thank you!

The nuance behind the reasons for the moe outbreak go even further than the internal economies of cheap serially replaceable and disposable formulaic output for a domestic market, or the demand for sexy figurines and pencil sets, or even simple structural inertia in the production chain.

So about changing the way we do manga and anime and games so that a hypothetical future export market is happier: right, yup we’re on that, sooner or later, fuck you very much for your opinion.

You still here?

Perhaps the moe disease is insidious and what the western gamer-gate guys were secretly, if inarticulately scared spitless of. Let the moe habit in and the next thing you know Halo will be full of ship-able bishies and miniskirted lolis. There goes all the machine guns and vicarious testosterone. Considering that the plot lines of shooter game side-products make the execrable Paul Verhoeven Starship Troopers movie read like high European existential (bent to neo-fascist ends) literature, a take-over wouldn’t be that hard.

Here’s an exercise. Download a Chris Hedges “War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” video jeremiad of sufficient length from youtube. Extract the sound and measure the length. Now cut the title sequence off the Halo Nightfall OAV, measure from the ending back, cut, re-splice and drop the Hedges talk over as commentary.

Cardboard.

Drop any other commentary over it, the thing is so thin that you can detourner it six ways from next Tuesday. That makes it weak and foolish… and vulnerable. One day someone is going to do a Chris Marker on it and then we will have something for the ages. In the meantime, maybe an AMV?

Moe and its attendant cheesy fanservice habits offer better fantasies of power, security and privilege than any first person shooter fests, even if the latter come with the promise of battlefield action and drama.

Moe is a Disease That Gives Us Meaning?

But even these pale soon enough as well.

At this point, perhaps only demographics and changing tastes in an aging population can turn the tide. I am feeling a bit old lately. While I could probably figure out Snapchat if so inclined, I cannot wrap my head or my attention span around such recent big things as Kill La Kill, Attack on Titan (ok idiot giant adults eat children, Lawd said Abraham, la la la) A certain Spinning Penguin Drum (yeh it repeats; seriality is the differance in repetition, la la la…) or even attack of the yuri bears. (you guys are just throwing pasta at the wall!) It just doesn’t work for moi, that’s just me. I can put up with all manner of weird crap – heck I watched all of Gasaraki, Ergo Proxy and The Big O,  but I gave up halfway through Evangelion. On Tonight: A collapsing gotterdammerung of narcissistic fantasies and American College Football! Ooops I forgot to set my PVR.

Perhaps only sneaking over for Josei-level V2/ True Ancestor Yuri with adult-ish characters, concerns, authentic, sympathetic and aspirational depictions of queer sexualities and mature interpersonal character dynamics will raise up the otaku soul. Perhaps it is already saved and the need for a new otaku, like Baudrillard’s messiah has been proclaimed a day late, a buck short and there no longer really is any need for him.

Everyone has already moved on.

Perhaps we outlander fans will catch on sooner or later too.

But I’m not holding my breath.

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4 thoughts on “Destroy everything you touch

  1. Not a comment on this specifically, but something to think about.

    1) I think you really need to read Fujimoto Yukari. Her “fan studies” work (I use that term loosely here) makes reference to a history of Japanese visual culture and gender relations that is lost on Azuma and Saito–the former especially. Women and girls, historically, in Japan have been both sexually and politically disenfranchised. Fujimoto makes the point that the female readership’s appropriation of homosexual narrative themes is closely tied to this disenfranchisement.

    2) Bishoujo-as-commodity were as thoroughly marketed to young girls as to boys/men throughout the entire history of shoujo zasshi; this much is evident from things like fashion spreads, posters, and what not included alongside the manga. Because of that and the widespread commodification of images of young women (e.g. gurabia idols, ditzy bimbos on panel shows, hyper-vigilant leering over women even in news broadcasts), I’m not sure you can claim a flipside to moe. Sexualized images of men are just not as ubiquitous, so I have to agree with Fujimoto that girls obsessing over BL has to be far more transgressive sexually/politically than men and boys obsessing over cute girls, since there is no commensurate broader sexualization of boys and men.

    • Thank you for dropping by! I have been following your book’s progression as it rolls out, congrats!!! …and thanks for taking the time to consider my stuff. (grin!) I will go on a hunt for Fujimoto Yukari essays that I can read or synopses. I do try to build the assumption of insane high levels of societal sexism into my “analysis”, but It is hard to go from theory to gut-feel. Take Sailor Moon, Jeesh, I KNOW if was built for girls, I KNOW, from readings, especially impassioned defenses of it from women that (at least in its original form, before it was bowdlerized by export markets) that it had all kinds of progressive-ish things in it. But It just “looks” too lolicon for me to seriously consider. So yeah, Asymmetry as the Tamaki-kei call it. Flip-siding moe, even with fujoshi moe is still wildly out of balance within fan communities because the general clutter of commodified, hyper-porny images of female-oids is always there on the guy’s side to tip the scale. A few posts back, I quoted a presentation by a Japanese film theorist who pretty well nailed Azuma for erasing female desire as he turned all (male) otaku desire into grazing. I think that is a clean hit, and a severe one for “the database” (which to me always gets an echo of a certain Blonde singing about the automat, but thats beside….). So be assured, I do not discount the fujoshi impulse, I still think that it quietly “built” a lot of the infrastructure for current fan practice around manga and anime in Japan; parallel yet separate in evolution from western slash (which is ridiculously diffuse, centered more on tv properties, and so less influential) and one of the main reasons why this blog to exist. I just struggle to find sources I can read (Hi I’m mr. illiterate, in Japan, sigh!) For these last 2 posts, I had to go back to Akiko Mizoguchi’s PhD thesis again… Sometimes I think that most of what I do is all just wild fan-speculation with some theory trappings (hence my self-mocking theory-moe tag) At least I haven’t made too many dead wrong guesses that can be nailed – ANN just posted the Kio Shimoku interview: they didn’t ask my question but from his very guarded answers, I see I am on the right path, at least for Genshiken. Wheeee!

      Something else interesting just popped up as well on Academia.edu: https://www.academia.edu/4162389/BL_Literacy_Subversion_Resuscitation_and_Transformation_of_the_Father_s_Text
      Only one page into it, no groaners yet…

      And while I am passing around links, https://www.academia.edu/10441962/My_Little_Japan_Can_t_Be_This_Tolerant_Deviant_Sexualities_in_the_Anime_Industry
      is an interesting draft on that thing oreimo (or whatever), but with sloppy background(!)(newer ‘ket figures, please) and a failure to ack and use the similar argument from neojaponism (quoted this post) looks like a work in progress

      But I go on.. Thanks for the tip on Fujimoto Yukari (must not mix her up with the immunologist of the same name) I hope I can find an xlation of “Shojo Manga ga utsusu kokoro no katachi” I will however be shuttering this thing for a month soon because it is time to ESCAPE THE CANADIAN WINTER for Japan… Cherry Blossoms! Wheeee!

      OH WAIT, LOOKIE WHAT JUST POPPED UP! http://owlectomy.dreamwidth.org/114796.html

      Gotta run, the game’s afoot! Cheers & Congrats again… /M

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