What, and give up show business?

Wherein I get tangential and subjective (again) while considering the not-quite intersections of real life, work, fiction and fandom. Not too much about Genshiken this time. Caution: weird digressions on leaving town, sewer clearing and car repair ensue.

15 years ago I was dreaming of being a band manager of a post-punk novelty band, trapped in Hong Kong and pursued by angry gangsters. All because I really, really needed to get out the town I lived in.

Lately, my aspirations are less fanciful. Most of this week’s IRL worries involve getting my newest (used) car working well enough to pass the stringent and expensive requirements set upon folks who wish to clog a certain Canadian province’s roads. Because it is overcast, chilly and damp outside, the last thing I want to be doing today is trying to find a way to soak the brush and armature area of a ten year-old Chrysler product’s electric window motor with non-flammable electronic contact cleaner.

I really should man up, suit up, do an EVA, spend an hour getting to the stupid window motor and see if I can fix the thing. Clear that route, then deal with the ever-growing pile of other stuff. Tomorrow’s mundane concerns will be equally annoying and equally mundane. My ankle is killing me.

In this town, you need a car to get around. I am still in withdrawal from my Japan visit; the great food, the efficient and affordable public transportation, the ocean beach, the good weather, and of course spending time with….

She-who-up-with-me-puts regularly chides me that I will never leave Dover Beach Ontario.(1) There are far worse places in the world to live. The trouble is that there are also a few far better places and I have seen some of them. Funding an escape to one of these requires finding a lot of something that is cheap that a lot of people didn’t realise they wanted, figuring out how to get folks to want some, how to deliver conveniently and inserting myself into the process…   Doing so in Japan would be ideal.

Meanwhile, the manly arts of driveway car maintenance provide their own satisfactions and discontents. Mucking about with that won’t-stay-fixed car in the driveway is not per se, a gendered experience. Rather, it is one of those things, like radical home plumbing adventures, that folks just fall into out of necessity and hubris and as such more prone to finding a fit with stereotypical male folly. In other words; sensible folk generally don’t go there. Sensible folk pay a professional, work off the credit card balance and get on with their lives.

“…No wonder that Erica Jong, in the famous discussion of different European lavatories at the beginning of her half-forgotten Fear of Flying, mockingly claims: ‘German toilets are really the key to the horrors of the Third Reich. People who can build toilets like this are capable of anything’.
[…}
The reference to lavatories enables us not only to discern the same triad in the most intimate domain of performing the excremental function, but also to generate the underlying mechanism of this triad in the three different attitudes towards excremental excess: ambiguous contemplative fascination; the hasty attempt to get rid of the unpleasant excess as fast as possible; the pragmatic approach to treat the excess as an ordinary object to be disposed of in an appropriate way. So it is easy for an academic to claim at a round table that we live in a post- ideological universe – the moment he visits the restroom after the heated discussion, he is again knee-deep in ideology.
The ideological investment of such references to utility is attested by their dialogical character: the Anglo-Saxon lavatory acquires its meaning only through its differential relation to French and German lavatories. We have such a multitude of lavatory types because there is a traumatic excess which each of them tries to accommodate – according to Lacan, one of the features which distinguishes man from the animals is precisely that with humans the disposal of shit becomes a problem.” 
– Slavoj Zizek. A Plague of Lavatories

Similarly, it is not inconceivable that the friend who called me up for help could have been a middle-aged woman rather than a middle-aged guy whose house’s sewer pipes clogged up with roots, far beyond the patience and abilities of Mr. Rooter to deal with for less than $3000. There is no reason why only a guy could jump into a big battered van and go down to the equipment rental shop and fork out $55 for an overnight rental of the “electric eel” sewer auger kit. I will hear no sexist jibes that suggest that a woman would try to get some male sucker to do it all for them.

It would not destroy the structure of the symbolic order of the universe if I was to then spend 9 hours helping a female friend, rather than a male friend, ream out the mess of shit-crusted roots from the sewer pipes under the house while standing in 2 inches of backed up black-water in a poorly lit basement. Especially if that friend did most of the muscle-work, my back being not up to heavy lifting of late.

But really, this is the kind of bone-headed foolishness that guys almost exclusively, get themselves into. We love this kind of thing. We really do. Ok, we don’t really love it; we love being able to overcome it. A challenge! An adventure! Besides, who has $3000 to dig up and replace the pipes?

I hope I grow out of this soon.

As a bonus, I got to assemble and test the rusty sump-pump get-up that I had scored at a yard sale six month earlier in case my basement decides that it also needs to become a tree root nutrient reservoir. (trees, grrrrrrr, kill them all, use them for firewood, let the deity sort them out). Worked well! Yeeehaw!

As previously mentioned, most folks are smart enough to steer clear of such a mess. On the other hand, I helped when I could and my friend helped me back. Old dudes gotta watch each other’s backs. Some stuff I can do solo, but it is still good to be able to borrow his van. Used it to run around getting the parts to put my ride in order. I just saved $250 I didn’t have to spare, by doing my rear brake drums and pads. And I know they are done right too. Tested them five ways to next Tuesday. Same thing with the turn signal assembly: $30 vs $200. And the used tires instead of the new ones. But that -grrrrrrr- door window. It’s not the $80 switch. It turns out that it is the $150 plus labour motor and track assembly. Apparently toothpaste makes a fine polishing compound to clean up a messy motor commutator. Extra fine grade sandpaper? Are you kidding? Do you want what is left of the graphite brushes to wear away in a week?

I'll fix you, my pretty !!!

This is the boring, mundane stuff of daily life between short-term freelance work. Deal with it or bicycle more. I was able to afford a house in this town, in this part of town while freelancing. So what if my car gets stolen out of my driveway every two years? Don’t get me started on insurance companies! Steal this one suckers – it has the transponder chip ignition key! (that costs $80 to duplicate, grrrr!)

I remember, some years ago standing in a cold, muddy February rain storm with a jack, a lug-wrench and the intense company of a very butch young woman. We were attempting to change a flat tire on an overloaded old car belonging to a damsel in distress. Said damsel had suddenly decided to flee her abusive (druggie pip-squeak) boyfriend, had loaded up a late-70’s vintage Ford land-whale with her worldly possessions and would soon escape to rural Quebec to live in a trailer, in the woods, with wolves. (I shit ye not). I was there because I counted myself as her friend, even though we hadn’t spoken much in the last year. While I had previously entertained designs on her (the damsel, not the dyke – D. was/is way kewl, but I ain’t that stupid), I had realised that her personal life was far too complicated and melodramatic for me and that she would continue to need this in her relationships.  We worked well together, she got me a job where she worked, we car pooled for a year and a half. When late for work, she would speed down the highway muttering in french and occasionally let out a snarky comment like “today is a good day to die! ” To which I would reply “that’s an excuse for clocking in late…”

A friend. I can have women friends, I am an adult now.

Also: “This is a job for a man!”

Or not.

My companion in cold wet futility was completely and utterly smitten with said damsel. I admired her for it. She was of course a bit prickly until she figured out that I wasn’t a rival for the affections of… I figured out enough to keep my mouth shut about her chances. Once that was out-of-the-way she poured her heart out as we both struggled in the mud and rain to get the flat tire off and the spare onto the land-whale without killing ourselves. Neither of us could have changed that tire alone. I must confess to a bit of insensitivity by suggesting at the time that we wouldn’t have to do this if the damsel would only get over her melodramatic fear of the pip-squeak and apply the tire iron to his kneecaps (damsel was bigger and stronger than pip-squeak). This led to an angry few minutes of education surrounding abusive situations women can find themselves in. I had no idea you could hide a knife like that. Fair enough. None of her friends or family felt like intervening in the drama and applying any small bit of moral correction to the pip-squeak either. A complicated situation. Just help her get out-of-town. I think we both ended up bellowing out bits of “Tangled up in Blue” to keep our teeth from chattering.

The relentless pursuit of guy moments. It’s not just for guys. I probably should stop gendering these kinds of folly.

Everyone should get to enjoy a bit of pointless bloody minded monomania that risks their health and extremities every once in a while.

Masculinity is something that must be hysterically re-enacted over and over and over again. Call it agency, but do not underestimate the value of the mundane, dirty, futile, miserable bits. Let’s see James Bond spend 9 hours running a fucking sewer auger in a low ceiling’d dank basement while covered in black slime. C’mon Lupin, don’t fob off the tire changing onto Jigen.

Back in the old days, if you were a nerd-boy living in a working-class town and you needed some manly street cred, you got into trying to keep a low-budget four-wheeled money sucking nightmare on the road. Two words: American Motors. Bonus if you were trying to work through your poor manual dexterity and you really, really needed a car to get around.

Unfortunately, an aptitude for this kind of madness will not get you out of a lunch-bucket town. The only way to get out of this gravity well is to pack up and leave it all behind, even if that means that a couple of cold, wet fools are left behind to wave you off.

All this as preamble to the thoughts that are flying by as I am watching Shirobako, reading the back entries of The Lobster Dance blog and chasing down some of the links referenced therein.

Shirobako_loosing it web

First Shirobako, as recommended by Ogiue Maniax. A fascinating self-referential homage to the anime industry from the POV of our plucky, overwhelmed heroine, the newbie production assistant at an anime studio. A few points stand out: no office romance (hoorah!) and the contrast between her and her counterpart, the gormless lad. He is there to highlight how his clueless way of interacting with the creative talent is good for nothing but causing expensive delays and friction within the studio. Most of his errors involve attempts to shore up his ego as he repeatedly fails to do his job and/ or makes things worse by inserting himself as “player” into situations where he should be efficiently submerging his ego, praising, wheedling, begging and apologizing to the talent and keeping complex workflows going. I get it already, can we lose the fool? He’s boring.

SHirobako goomba gets yelled at web

After 13 episodes, a new sour young male jerk shows up. He doesn’t even try to do his job, he shirks, he broods, he snarks. A real pooch-screwing, teeth sucking asshat. What is with Japanese companies? Males can’t get fired? Later we find that he started out idealistic, efficiently submerged his ego, praised, wheedled, begged and apologized to the talent but the complex workflows didn’t keep going and he was scapegoated for it. Boo Hoo; even though part of me can sympathise.

Come to think of it, the only other asshat in the story is the irresponsible agent for the mangaka behind the property that the studio is adapting from eps. 14 onwards. What is with these guys? Is Shirobako some form of stealth Japanese feminist statement?

Our plucky young production assistant seems to be firmly fitted into her gendered role within the studio. She even gets promoted to “Production Desk” aka overstressed coordinator of everything.There is the strong suggestion that the stern CAO started out as a production assistant and worked her way up too, keeping everything on schedule and ticking over smoothly behind the scenes. As well as the strong suggestion that Yuka-sama does not miss the madness. One of the neat character tricks you can do when you make all your 20-something female characters act like conscientious high-school students is to drop an older ‘international woman of mystery” into the mix. Secret ninja fighting reflexes? Tokyo drift style driving skills? The long-set-aside chops to do every job in the studio competently? No problem, “…please remember to date and put your name on any food items you place in the lunch room fridge“.

shirobako okitsu yuka webFor all the conscientious young women and anime moeblobs in the show, only Yuka-sama is hawt!

Most of the older guys are responsible and pull their weight, except when they throw a mandatory creative-type tantrum, sulk-session or ritually suffer a block. At least none of them wears a beret. (which would have to be Basque, not military style) I swear that I was once at a genuine meatspace Japanese onsen when a TV crew came through to shoot a scene; the director was dressed like a pimp from a 70’s black-sploitation movie. Creative types in Japan are expected to signal their eccentricities – like wearing a uniform.

SHIROBAKO_go team web

The other thing that stands out is how much the folks behind Shirobako manage to pack into each 24 minute episode.  Even as a pale reflection of the industry, the intimation of how much fricking low-to-middle pay work is involved in making an anime series is scary. Car repair or plumbing might be an easier way to put food on the table. I spent a few years working with community newspapers and remember the weekly production crunches with dread awe. I wonder how the hell I could ever do something that weird, low paid and stressful again.

As the only other self-referential anime about making an anime I can remember is the screwed down way-too-tight angry and bitter studio in Paranoia Agents, Shirobako’s treatment is a hymn of praise, a religious offering.

Yet there is a recurring note of sadness and anxiety in the storyline. Drawing chops may be a gift from the gods of talent, but the Shirobako characters all still worry whether or not they can keep drawing so that they can “keep eating”. It is as if, as with certain manly home and car repair skills…

…One might have been better off not knowing how to do them.

Which leads me to a further tangential thought: what if fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality – but just too boring, is taken as a challenge, rather than a complaint and an excuse for low-budget self-indulgent trope overloads?

Shirobako might be about the sacred ritual of making an anime, but at its core, it is about normal, boring, day after day, stressful, deadline screwed wurk.

Put another way, I have long been curious about the complaint that one senior blogger holds with the state of Yuri manga and anime: Why  can’t  more Yuri manga show adult women who happen to like other women getting on with their everyday lives together, doing mundane things, as a couple?

Well, heck, I didn’t even know what I wuz missing! As a middle age pale-skinned euroethnic cis-gendered straight boy, I needed a clue from an adult lesbian expert reviewer to realise that I have completely overlooked the absence of stories that feature any happy 30-40-50 year old couples, het or otherwise doing interesting things and not turning into two solitudes who share a mortgage and nominal responsibilities for offspring raising. I am not pulling a “Ha! that don’t exist for us so-called privileged straight folks, what makes you think you are special enough to rate…” thing. We do have sitcoms, I guess. I never really noticed my blind spot until…

Zoe and Wash in Firefly? Hmmmm, bad example…

I am a leaf in the wind, watch me fly…”

Like mundane adult work situations, ongoing mundane, domestic adult relationships seem not to be the stuff of escapist fiction. Duhhhhh!

But the situation in Japan is closer to the complaints of late 1950’s America. Hubby goes off to 15 hours of commute-work-commute, followed by nine hours of eat-sleep-repeat, wife stays home and raises the kids, hangs out with the other okusama. Communication ceases. No wonder he plot-lines of Japanese anime and manga are full of single parents and absent parents. The net effect is the same in the story line, but the tweak reads as a bit more poignant.

And then there is the side-story. Everyone dreams of quitting the grind and following their dreams by working at or running a simple artisan-ish  boutique business. Become a pastry chef. Open a soba noodle restaurant. Build custom surfboards. Something hands-on, direct, and soul-satisfying in its immediacy. While on the subject of Japanese pop culture artifacts, I commend to you the recent movie “Wood Job!“. Hollywood doesn’t do stuff like this any more – their loss. You should hunt it down and have a relax.

wood job rect promo

Back to escapist fiction and escaping Hong Kong triads:

Long ago but not so far away, I had friends who were musically talented enough to form a noise band that was pretty well-known and loved regionally, but would never “go anywhere”. If they had lived in a big city like Toronto, perhaps they would have had a chance – then again … As it was the turn of the millennia, computers and music were still a bit of a new thing. Getting a CD produced was still an involved and expensive procedure for a local band. Home computers did not come with CD burners. Commercial music CD production was still an esoteric, arcane industry.

At the same time however, there were the beginnings of the idea that those newfangled mp3 files and the interwebz might do something big and nasty to music as we knew, loved and paid for it. And then there was commercial piracy. Civilian newspapers would run at least one business section article a month about China, Hong Kong, Russia, commercial knockoffs and international intellectual property disputes. Many pictures of road paving equipment rolling over piles of bootleg music cds ensued.

My nefarious plan for domination of the indie music markets of the far east was simple and made for many late night drinking bullshit sessions. Get a list of Hong Kong/ China/ Taiwan CD fab plants, then mock-up an album design with the tunes and some bogus letterhead representing ourselves as a top-secret special projects division of a major media company. Send out the rough package with requests for design and production quotes for 500K and 1.5M pieces. Stress the need for absolute confidentiality. Then close the post office box and evaporate.

This was 1999, or 2000 right? Google was not as ubiquitous or as omniscient as it was later to become.

“…Fuck that! They’ll just pirate our CD!”

We want them to pirate our CD!”

“…They should pirate it, end up with 1.5 unsellable million CDs and then release them to the remainder market all across the fricking UNIVERSE! The band’s CD in every third world market across time and space, available for the local cost of a plastic comb!”

“Instant fame, fortune and name recognition across world, through pirate marketing!”

“World Tours! Free plane tickets! Gigs all over the world! Sushi plates and Tsingtao beer backstage! Trust your (new, self-appointed) manager!”

”… Uh, I imagine whoever takes the time and cash to get their factory to crank out a shit-tonne of un-sellable bootleg music CDs is not going to be too happy when they find out that they have been had..”

“…They could get… very angry…”

So much for a wonderful, exciting dream. I am sure it had a better than even chance of working back then. No chance now. Oh well.. Fantasy is fantasy and reality, if jacked about with too much, can get dangerous and stupid much too fast. If I needed to get out-of-town, I could have just packed up my stuff and left.

Just do it!

When the band decided to go on a cross-country tour, they broke up before they had a chance to even leave town from the dread of the challenge. I ended up with their decaying tour van in my driveway. Stray cats wintered in it and next spring I sold it off to a guy who collected big old full-sized white Chrysler vans. He showed up with friends, and two big old full-sized white Chrysler vans, and they towed it off; a small parade of big old full-sized, etc., just for me.

So reality has its charms, but it seems like it is tough to make interesting manga and anime from it.

I wish I could read Japanese. Genshiken chapter 111 looks like Kio Shimoku snookered me again. All that time and effort spent trying to figure out what would happen, what kind of strange critter Hato is.

I wonder why I bothered. For all the fan speculation, it may turn out that Hato is just a guy with an odd hobby. In any case, Japanese fans are used to all manner of imaginarily excessive paraphilias. Hato can turn into Godzilla and attempt to rape a freight train and few would bat an eyebrow, at least in the sense of questioning his new-found sexual awakening.

No more car repair today, while I enjoy the back posts at The Lobster Dance. The proprietor seems to have a lot more on the ball with the gender and sexuality issues surrounding fandom, western fanfiction and CJVC than your average anime blog (including this one), so perhaps I can divert my attention a bit longer. One linked post caught my eye, as an update to the “Why fanfic? why Slash?” question addressed by MJJ some 15 years ago:

From; “A guide to fanfiction for people who can’t stop getting it wrong” by Gavia Baker-White and Aja Romano on the Daily Dot. Note that the majority of fannish fiction is presumed to involve slash-ish enthusiasms.

 Block-quote warning light is ON!

“The popularity of slash fanfic invariably seems like a weird kink or a total mystery to outsiders, but there are actually a number of factors at play. Yes, many people like to read male/male erotica because they find it hot, but there’s also the obvious fact that pop culture is completely obsessed with male/male relationships already. As in, Kirk/Spock, Holmes/Watson, every buddy cop drama ever, and the vast majority of popular sci-fi/fantasy fiction and superhero movies.

In a male-dominated field that regularly focuses on close relationships between men while sidelining the women, it’s not a huge leap to turn that homoerotic closeness into romance—particularly if you want to see more LGBT representation in popular culture but are thwarted at every turn. Take the TV show Supernatural, for example. Its fans are often derided for being slash-obsessed, but the fact is that Supernatural itself is dedicated to two male/male relationships: Sam and Dean Winchester, and Dean and the angel Castiel. Female characters are routinely introduced as damsels, love interests, or sexy villains, and are then killed off to make way for the intense, obsessive loyalty and love expressed between these three dudes. Slash fanfiction is simply an extension of what viewers are already seeing onscreen.

One of the most obvious yet overlooked reasons for writing slash is that people who enjoy romance enjoy the emotional catharsis of a love that can overcome obstacles. There are few bigger obstacles in life than the social obstacles that gay and lesbian men and women have to overcome to achieve self-acceptance, community acceptance, and real and meaningful relationships. This is the reason that many straight men and women enjoy reading queer romance, be it slash or original fiction.

While gay men will often claim that slash is a way of fetishizing and objectifying them, that’s not really what’s going on here. Again, the majority of slash writers are women raised in societies that constantly reinforce the paradox that if they say no to sex, they’re frigid, but if they say yes, they’re a slut. Add to that the way women’s bodies are routinely objectified while they’re told that sex is shameful, and it becomes very hard for many women to explore their sexuality. For many women and girls, exploring sexuality through male characters provides a safe, shame-free distance, while enabling them to simultaneously soften male characters and imbue them with emotions and characteristics that many real men find it difficult to show because of masculine stereotypes.

Slash’s Japanese cultural counterpart is yaoi, which shamelessly depicts its gay male characters as masculine/feminine archetypes (often regressive) so that young women can identify with the smaller, more overtly feminized uke character. Even though yaoi is about male romance, like slash it’s written by women and is commonly acknowledged as an expression of feminine desire and sexuality. By the same token, slash allows many women to insert themselves into the emotional experience of a relationship.

On top of all this, many slashers claim that they prefer to ship male characters because the vast majority of female characters that exist in media lack agency. They’re used as props for the main male cast, or are fridged, or otherwise debilitated to build up male characters in narratives.

If you’re a fan who wants to write your favorite characters going on adventures and falling in love, but you’re faced with a vast sea of media populated by women who just don’t get to have as much fun or be as complex as their male counterparts, then who would you rather ship Captain Kirk with—Yeoman Rand or Spock? Most slashers are going to ship the two most complex characters together. And for most media, that means the dudes.

http://www.dailydot.com/geek/complete-guide-to-fanfiction/

Which is kind of sideways to the Takarazuka review that I have to whomp up some time soon… But it still begs the larger question: Do we need to imagine that  the universe is in danger of being blown up while Kirk and Spock are making embarrassed glances at each other? Or even Kirk and Ensign Mary Sue?

What of the small stories of daily life? Do they belong outside, or in another fandom two blocks over?  What can re-enchant our existence? Can we learn mindfulness by proxy?

Perhaps, these are part of the contradictions of living at the dawn of a post-scarcity, information-rich global society. We want our fantastic, escapist fiction, but we also want our fictions to represent aspirational stories that relate to our mundane existence. And plenty of us want the socialization, the camaraderie that comes from sharing our experiences and our knowledge. Currently we expect these to be different genres, different kinds of stories for different situations and different people. And there used to be a shortage of stories, folks couldn’t get theirs told and some were more important than others. This is changing.

Car repair enthusiasts are fans too: in certain areas they are way ahead of the curve.

spaceship broken web

This week I have watched a ton of YouTube videos that folks have posted on how they repaired their cranky minivans. They are fascinating!  Almost as diverting as Shirobako. And they helped me save a whole lot on garage bills. (Update: the garage ok’d my work! I cleared the inspection route and won the magic certificates! I rejoice!) Meanwhile, the “I did it this way and it worked!” charm of some guy talking at a camera about his car troubles, for all the other unknown folks out there who might be facing a similar problem some time and somewhere in the future is strangely compelling.

“Real-life” aka “reality” stories on cable and the web tend towards the manipulative and sensational, at least in the West. Put a bunch of fools together and have them yell at and backstab each other. In Japan, it is calmer, but all about consumption; a group of office ladies going to spas, eat great food and then do the “sugoi! sy-ko!” chorus. I think we will easily get past this temporary failure of imagination sooner than the suits and creative types who gate-keep realise.

Have you ever wanted to build a jet bike?

Also – Why doesn’t Japan have its own version of This Old House?

In any case, my friend and I should have had the Go-pro going during his sewer auger marathon. Document Everything! Come to think of it,  my last basement flood sewer root vengeance quest was in some ways even worse, so I could have been a youtube sewer auger-dom pioneer.

We're all in it together!

Protip: use the spade bit first. If you can’t get any more lengths in, pull the whole mess out, cut the tangle of shit-roots off the first length, take all the lengths apart, then start feeding them in, one at a time, again. Do not force the auger! If a section breaks off in the pipe you are truly and well screwed. Do not force the auger!

Repeat as needed, even if it takes nine hours. When you finally get it clear, go in with the cutter bit, while running a hose to wash the detritus through the pipe. Then back it all out for the last time, mark how many lengths were needed on the wall next to the clean-out, hose it all off, pack it away and catch a 4am all-night breakfast so you can get the kit back to the rental place for the 7am discount.

Copper sulphate is available at county feed stores. Buy some, pour the powder into an old sock and use some cord to hang it in the clean-out. You don’t want it to be in the way of the water flow. It can just absorb ambient moisture and drip a few times every day to remind the roots from that tree that there are better places to find a meal. Recharge the sock every six months. If the water heater got submerged, get the pilot going and wait 2 days for the heat of the itty bitty pilot light to dry the innards out. Consider getting a patio block and raising the water heater for next time. There will be a next time. As a gentleman adventurer, my cholera and hep vaccinations are up to date – your mileage may vary, void where prohibited.

As for escapes; there is no need to dream up weird scams that will get plenty of folks angry with you, unless of course you have a hate-on for global capitalism or something.

mystery-mansion

It is possible to find entire houses for sale in Japan within an hour’s commute to Tokyo for under CA$60K. I have seen the listings. I would need help from someone in Japan to buy one of these white elephants. Japanese folks resist selling to outlanders. These houses are usually 25-30 years old and 8 blocks up a 50 degree angled slope hanging off the side of a hill. The road to them only goes for the first 3 blocks; the rest of the way is a narrow winding sidewalk, which makes parking, let alone grocery shopping or moving “challenging”. Then there are the propane tanks for the stove and the hot water… At least I wouldn’t need a car, so I wouldn’t be trying to fix another minivan in my non-existent driveway, let alone scramble to pay for it, upkeep, gas and insurance. A pack mule might be an option. Urbanised Japan is very sensible about wasting money and precious urban real estate on wide roads and big cars. Back here in urban Canada, I am having a real hate-on for the widths or our streets. All that spread-out costs a fortune, and for what?

There are alternatives in urban Japan to the affordable house on the precipice. There are also nice 40-year-old vacant shacks under the main commuter line tracks, but these go for a lot more. And the towns that these are in are a bit off the beaten path. Not exactly growth areas. The main commuter line might run through them, but it doesn’t stop at their station. You have to transfer 2 or 3 stations up the line. At least the internet is very, very fast.

Next problem; how to pay for one?

Back to the dignity of work, in manga and anime:

When you think about it casually and exclude the fantastic (hanging around between bouts of piloting giant war robots or trying to be the best athlete, team, curry chef, etc.,) the choices are restricted. There are “ronin“, usually some form of private detective or small-time fixer on either side of the law, and the occasional miraculous doctor. There is also the mangaka/ auteur but their work socials are much smaller, due to the “cottage industry” means of production. Add a few quirky restaurants where very little food seems to be served, the occasional kombini and the need to direct traffic around construction sites and you pretty well have all of working life as reflected in CJVC. Quiet bookstores too, one cannot forget those.

One other example sticks in memory: The idea that being a single woman raising a child under 1930’s-ish impoverished circumstances in Japan might be such a torment as to provide atonement and redemption for Lucifer (herself).While not poking sharp sticks at religiosity, LucuLucu spends most of its pages trying to cook and do the laundry using a wood-burning stove, a hand pump for water and a washboard. In the gaze of the male viewer, these scenes are nostalgic, almost comforting, nurturing, wholesome. When she finally wins her “rematch” it is by default, with the unstated premise that the whole deity thing will just be a lot more drudgery.

Which cannot be dismissed as an argument against the narrativization of everyday work experience. Who wants to read about never-ending domestic toil?

Perhaps more folks than we imagined. LucuLucu  had a pretty good run. The supernatural bits spiced it up enough and the moral inversion was cute. So there are no small stories, only small storytellers? The mundane is the greatest adventure of all. We are just re-learning how to tell its tales.

(1) A mythical post-industrial town in south-western Ontario, best known as an exporter of frustrated, impoverished creative people. World’s 453rd largest producer of “mehhhh! 

LATER: If you can’t wait for 111 try here for a summary — Warning spoilers. The earlier think piece on the whole Mada harem is also very good. I really never thought of hato’s levelling up as competition with Angela and Keiko.. Hmmmm..

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