BREAKING: Rumour has it that the Genshiken is winding down
and will cease in 2 more chapters (ch 127).
Great sadness overtakes me.
Now back to the post I finished 15 hours ago:
there are no ethical feels under late-stage capitalism.
— tumblr simulator @TumblrSimulator
“”Men have had to do fearful things to themselves before the self, the identical, purposive, and virile nature of man was formed and something of that recurs in every childhood. The strain of holding the I together adheres to the I, in all stages; and the temptation to lose it has always been there (along) with the blind determination to maintain it.””
— The Dialectic of Enlightenment, p32, Theodor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer First English translation: John Cumming (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972) see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic_of_Enlightenment (1)
The harem is over, the fujoshi Genshiken is gearing up for the new year. Hato will soon be well and truly a sempai if only the club can attract any new members besides Risa Yoshitake. One gets the strong impression that the only fealty Risa will ever acknowledge is to her dread lord and older sister Rika. Still she is interested in Hato as kun, even if those interests are sketchy. I still harbor a faint hope that Ohno will cajole them into doing Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask cross-play, preferably during club recruiting days and the stuco be damned.
As well, Hato might soon have consider some modest form of out-ery. If not on campus for club recruiting days, then elsewhere; the Hatos have a rather tense wedding in the offing as well. Within the confines of the clubroom, Hato Kenjiro is now fully inscribed as a fudanshi/ rotten boy/ rotten (someone’s) brother. Around the Genshiken he can put aside the worry that he will be dropped back to “intruding male” status. Still a crossdresser, presumed to be interested in 2D male same-sex romance (and schmex) and still presenting as / ‘being a girl’ but having taken a vow of exclusive never-to-be-consummated 3D Mada-sexuality according to the sacred rituals of the cult he has worked so hard to join.
Looked at from an odd angle, Madarame conferred this new improved and approved status upon him as part of the bargain that resolved the harem crisis within the Genshiken. As a consolation prize for rejection, it seems to have taken. The rest of the tribe has not downgraded Hato within the club to creepy- guy- we- can’t- figure- out- and- do- not- know- how- to- fit- into- our- female- isolationist- fan- social. There is even a drinking party to mark the transition, although Rika’s maneuverings and Merei’s acknowledgement of the situation leave no doubt that “he” is considered a possible (nominally) heterosexual love interest for Yajima Merei… Whenever she feels ready to captivate the Hato continuum with her 4-koma-comedy-fu. Note that Hato v2.2 (tipsy variant) does not hesitate to bend their female presentation by offering to don the shorts lest Merei and Rika succumb to further temptation when the soon-to-be sophomore drinking party ends in everyone falling asleep blotto again.
Next time try frilly bloomers he said, with a posed look.
The Hato continuum has not fallen apart from the knowledge that the girls snuck a peek at someone’s packed panchu, even if the knowledge is slightly more embarrassing than the full-monty smooth-smooth reveal of their male self. Hato (tipsy variant) seems to be enjoying the attention.
So, yuppers, it is a good bet that Kio Shimoku got his hands on, or at least is familiar with the previously mentioned Japanese fan-made studies examining fudanshi (2) and has situated Hato within the %20+/- of the male %10 of Japanese BL fans that self-report as nominally heterosexual, asexual and/ or petrified of the idea of 3D male:male physicality… Which is pretty much how Hato was originally drawn – it is just better elaborated now that 3+ (reader-)years of harem suspense has been worked through.
Kid, you’ve earned yourself a promotion. Sign the re-enlistment papers.(3)
Must raise you high among the run of men
It remains a testament to the sneaky and well-honed skills of Kio Shimoku that the great harem train wreck has solved very little, except for moving any potential Genshiken hookups off stage for a (the remaining) few chapters.
‘Real’ or in-verse ‘3D’ minority sexualities and gender expressions are still considered too strange and unfamiliar for comfortable consideration, but it looks like ‘fudanshi’ is a good enough substitute for ‘gay‘ ‘trans‘ ‘bi‘ and/ or ‘queer‘. For some diaspora fans and probably a few Japanese readers, this is heartbreaking. For myself, I find it an evasion that points out the limits of how much realism one can stick into a slice-of-life comedy manga before it breaks unspoken rules of Japanese editorial conservatism. Their big printing presses; they don’t run on paper and ink, they run on money. No bucks, no Buck Rogers. Still, one has to give the mangaka his due: the evasion has been pulled off with a modicum of style and perhaps enough subtlety to squeak by the Japanese fan. But the question persists:
“OTAKU AS QUEER?
If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.
Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”[emph mine]
If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.
Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queer-but-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.”
–Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, （October 17, 2007, University of Rochester）http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf
For contrast, once again, please consider the Tumblr blogger Wildgoosery’s epic HatoMada shipping manifesto and/or 19-post shrine starting at: http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/146945645973/the-hatomada-project-part-1
Wildgoosery has, in the parlance of policy politics litigated their argument brilliantly. Depending on your particular point of view, you may choose to quibble but their argument remains powerful, coherent, and extremely, yet entertainingly well put. And, hooo boy, was I reminded of a lotta things that I missed/ ignored, even as I am reminded of more than a few quibbles I have with the inexorable ending proposed. Wildgoosery’s manifesto plainly and simply calls out for the legitimacy of the feelings, same-sex, guy-guy, gay feelings, between Hato and Madarame, tentative as they may be. (4)
If it were only that easy. From another fan of the BL genre, one who also is ready to take the tropes of the genre to task:
“The majority of the stories produced in this popularized and mainstream “boys’ love” genre contain tropes such as (1) rape as an expression of love; (2) one or both of the protagonists maintaining that they are straight even after they are homosexually involved; (3) the top/bottom roles in sex corresponding to the masculine/feminine appearance of the protagonists; (4) the roles never reversing; and (5) sex always involving anal intercourse, as I have shown in detail elsewhere. These tropes have become staples, I argue, in order to achieve “heterosexual romance” narratives for heterosexual female readers across the bodies of two male (same-sex) protagonists, and in order to present their romance as an “impossible”- and therefore a “precious”- one.”
–A. Mizoguchi 2003
I must be careful not to use unfair juxtapositions. Wildgoosery’s nailed to the mast pairing advocates for ‘Sparkling, Fluffy BL’ (a term cribbed from a scan-group) rather than ‘A Cruel God Rules Over Us‘ sturm und drang yaoish BL. While western slash communities liek their hawt as much as any well-behaved group of pr0n enthusiasts, when putting on the nominal public face of the movement, they try to present concerns for equality, respect, and consent as important in their stories. Large subsections of it have evolved into a curious form of aspirational social activist vernacular literature. For the most part, Japanese rotten tribes have yet to consider such extra features.
Given all that, it should be easy enough to fan-fiction up something that slips around the aforementioned problematic tropes, while at the same time having fun with them. As I have poisoned my mind with stacks of pronish net-doujinshi and fanfiction, including (an admittedly small sampling of) the dreaded m-m stuff, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch. One should try to make it politically correct and respectful as all heck too. No erasing ‘real’ gay desire; they just are not quite ready to fully assume an out gay identity yet. They are about to invent sex! Wouldn’t they want their new exciting thing to be ‘special’ and unique? Who wouldn’t? (5)
Mada: It’s no good. I am still nervous around women.
Hato: It’s no good for me either. I am still hung up on you.
Mada: You are kind of cute.
Hato: Well, duhhh… I work hard at it…
Whoa! Hold it right there! That was too effing easy. Before you know it an insidious brainwashing effect from exposure to slashy Tumblr shipping manifesto shrines can take hold and the results will not be pretty.
Must… stop… NOW!
Best to leave Genshiken slash to those who love it and are much better at it. Akiko Mizoguchi’s final admonition in the above quote is however, worth further consideration. Of course heterosexual female BL and slash writers ‘project’ their desires, their dark fantasies and their highest aspirations upon the screen of fictional ‘gay’ male bodies. What further distortions would be introduced if heterosexual males were to project theirs as well?
Besides the simple crudities of 4chan banter about ‘traps‘, what would happen if straight boys started writing slash?
Laugh all you want, then gaze again at Kio Shimoku’s fearsome project. He’s nowhere there yet; he’s off by a country mile but you can get a better idea of the minefield that lies ahead. No wonder he didn’t slam Mada and Hato together. Anyone can write “And so Madarame and Hato become lovers“. Then what?
Kio Shimoku CAN do relationship manga; or rather he can do the slow, painful, wistful unravelling of young heterosexual relationships, as he so eloquently demonstrated with Yonensei (四年生) and Gonensei (五年生). I wish some nefarious fan-lators would finally take on his earliest full project Heat Haze/ Kagerou Nikki(陽炎日記) (1995) (disambiguation; there are other manga with the same simple term as title)
He sure looks like he has no problem doing straight, young Japanese university student seriously dramatic relationship-py stuff. But if he decided that he would try a full metal newbie male-male love story, would he ‘merely’ map his previous straight narrative conventions onto two guy characters, all while dancing around the conventions of BL? Where would he get the Japanese two gay guys realistic stuff from? Medieval Japanese tales of monks and acolytes? Damn! (6)
I knew this societal oppression/ prejudice shit would have consequences, he said with a posed look.
We so seldom speak of love
Fortunately for (and by) Shimoku-sensei, love, sexuality and even gender presentation are the least of Hato Kenjiro’s problems. The poor fool is an incurable, raging ROMANTIC. Males do that madness in very clumsy and dangerous ways. (We know! intone the rotten girl chorus; That’s what makes BL so much FUN!)
I am edging around the larger, older (and patriarchal-y inscribed) sense of the term; the urge to heroically/ insanely demand that the self and the world (or at least your patch of it) reshapes itself to one’s wild and crazy ideas that call for ‘something more‘, something fuller, something that matches ‘the shape of one’s heart‘ and the narratives of one’s fancies. Unfortunately this invariably involves other sentient beings and functioning social structures that happen to get in the way.
I take my desires for reality…
I know not if males are biologically/ structurally more prone to the ailment, but male socialization is mostly useless in preparing dudes for even the lightest brushes with it, let alone the onset of full-blown romanticism as a chronic condition. As madness and weakness it is to be avoided, feared and guarded against. So much so that it is never discussed, except in hushed tones around the campfires of men. It is as if as little as whispering of it can call down the madness upon one’s head. When it strikes, male strength and privilege can easily cause the afflicted to act violently unpredictable; a danger to others and themselves. Murders takes place, wars start.
because I believe in the reality of my desires…
The classical Greeks feared ‘romantic’ love and ‘romantic’ misbehaviour. They knew it was nothing but trouble. Crimes of passion. Women are supposed to be better at dealing with it/ better socialized to dealing with it, and historical sexism kept all but a few of them away from situations where a nasty case of romanticism could destroy a noble house, turn neighbor against neighbor, start wars and topple dynasties – all for the sake of ‘mere’ fancy. It is of course this very madness that are played with in the venerable tropes of fujoshi story-spinning. As an extra bonus, no women, even fictional ones, have to suffer as the guys go haywire on each other. That’s Entertainment!
…Then they take you
It was always assumed that a light dose of romance fever in a woman’s teenage years inoculated her against later outbreaks and bolsters the practical, even instrumental outlook that her historic role demanded. BL and rude yaoi is, after all a shoujo romance variant: a damn fine one for the women who made it, support it and keep it strong.
Their Boat (7)
It does so many fun things elegantly and with deft economy. As well, it confuses and annoys most guys sufficiently that we’ll keep our butt-insky “I have opinions! Drop everything and listen while deferring to Meeeeeeee! Then change everything so that it goes my way!” snouts well away from the fun. (yes, I could have used the terminology, but lets drag the mechanics of the effect out into the daylight, just as a reminder. Note as well how Hato went to extremes to avoid this.)
Another nifty thing about BL from the POV of the rotten audience: all the “feels” emotional relationship-py maintenance work/ heavy lifting is stuck onto some storybook guy, rather than an analogue of who gets stuck with it in real life. It must be soothing to see male-ish critters get stuck carrying the bucket, even if in often ridiculous fictive circumstances.
Hato, the previously suspect crossdresser, now the crossdressing fudanshi and eventually, in an alternate, equally fictive future, the gender-non-conforming BL ero-mangaka seeks out these complications because he (she, ze) believes in BL not just as a genre but as a solution to what their heart(s) finds lacking in the world. Whether it is the romantic melodrama or the nekkid cartoon dudes jumping each other while doing romantic melodrama, BL has a lock on Hato’s very soul. It, and the spectre of a future Hato Ero Mangaka Sensei that can create BL is Hato’s first, true and only love.
Mada would change for Saki but Hato would not and could not change for Mada. Hato couldn’t even ease off on the throttle. We are not talking massive life-altering change here either. Dressing better and getting a job was all that Madarame managed in Saki’s honor. Hato couldn’t even find a way to spend some guy-Hato time with Mada hesitantly talking over the confusing situation that they found themselves in. Sure Hato upped the nadeshiko levels on their “presentation”, but was that for Madarame, or to do their part within the harem scenario as gift to the tribe?
Face to face with Madarame about to confess, Hato just had to blurt out that any real-life snuggling must involve BL-ish kink-eries between Mada and them because after all is said and done, the schmexy fantasy is more important than the reality of the intimate presence of the one you love. (Or I miss Kio Shimoku’s brilliant insight that this would be exactly the kind of idiot mistake a guy would make, even one presenting as a girl, when in intimate “negotiation” with their intended? No matter…) Mada, being a nerdy guy was of course unable to give an emotionally savvy response, ( and the parallelism between this unforced error and Mada’s minutes earlier “forbidden” misstep should not be forgot, even if separated by chapters) even if it would have just been a restatement of “fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality” (You better chose which one you have feelings for, fool!) In the end no so such admonition was needed. Hato had long ago decided.
At that moment Hato could not wiggle out of their fujoshi costume/ straitjacket. If the fujoshi costume by some stretch of the imagination IS Hato’s ‘true’ emergent trans* identity, then it is an extremely limited one. The two-note nadeshiko/ full- metal rotten girl persona that is always ON leaves no room for down time, for messy, personal, awww fuck it, lounge around in sleepwear and eat kombini junk food out of styrofoam Sunday afternoons. No room either for raw emotionalism when one’s heart is broken, in fact no room at all for the shape of a human heart.
Hato cannot even mourn the loss of his and her love.
To expect high levels of ethical behaviour in young adult hookups is madness and to impose a higher standard on the hookups of young adults who have minority sexualities and /or gender expressions is plain old-fashioned prejudice: however to expect such from characters in an aspirational slice-of-life light comedy manga written by one who is outside of these concerns is understandable and can even be argued as necessary.
A digression with a parallelism:
Kio Shimoku has shown us otaku and fujoshi living spaces. He has even shown us the messy not-so-passion(ate) pit that Keiko retreats to after a hard night of soothing rumpled salarymen. The glimpses we have seen of Hato’s digs, packing- tape- barred closet aside, are too damn clean and well-ordered.
There is something horribly wrong, wrong, WRONG about this.
Go off to live at University, don’t get laid and keep your room neat and tidy. Poor Hato! Please don’t shatter on us!
The Genshiken is about fans and geeks and Hato’s fanning is as legitimate as anyone elses. Shouldn’t Hato have the right to dial it back if needed?
Is Hato a narcissistic, neurotic, unstable little psycho?
By no means; Hato is (written as) a young, most of the time guy trying to work through some rather challenging desires and identity issues. Exploring the messiness is part of the ride. At least he(and she) is far less of a tedious jerk then Holden Caulfield. (Gehhhhhhh). And he (and she) are fearsomely consistent.
Direct Interface – A Cure for Cancer
Hato Kenjiro, before he found that doujin in the locker room should have been on track for a happy riajuu life. He clearly wasn’t. Follow in your big brother’s footsteps as a Judo champ. Grow up, get married and plod towards the grave performing a happy small town life. Instead; there he is in the high school art club, already well-versed in BL fan-lore trying to insinuate himself into a fujoshi social. That well and truly exploded in his face but from a larger perspective, he was ready for it. Even treachery was preferable to his zombie life. Perhaps the ostracism he faced after spurred him to seek a University degree, if only to get out-of-town. Perhaps he already knew that he had to whatever the case.
“Her surname means ‘axe in a tree'” http://bakemonogatari.wikia.com/wiki/Yotsugi_Ononoki
Consider another dead-then-reborn to the world character: Nisio Isin’s cruel jest in Tsukimonogatari, Yotsugi Ononoki. [http://myanimelist.net/anime/28025/Tsukimonogatari] Familiar of Yozuru Kagenui, Ononoki is a tsukumogami made from of the corpse of a 100-year-old woman. As if she was a farm implement that had magically developed a life/ an afterlife. Not a ghost or zombie; a human life treated as the spirit of a sword or sickle or a teapot, reborn as an enigmatically cute but extremely dangerous young girlish… something. She remains the ‘mere’ tool as she was condemned to be throughout her long life. Read the fan-translations of the light novels and see the fate that she narrowly escapes.
“Yeah, I killed him. I’m a monster. Don’t turn into a monster.”
— Yotsugi Ononoki
Hato does not have the wisdom of a re-animated edo era Japanese woman’s hard and full life to moderate hir desperate fancies. Original Hato was disenchanted, almost dead to the world. Now the Hatos want to be a creator; they aspire to a minor form of divinity if only to honor the kami / sensei who created them. This desire involves sexuality and gender expression but such concerns are secondary to what he, she and ze are built to be, built to desire and built to desire to create.
Dying is easy, comedy is hard.
Yajima Merei should be careful, very careful. She may now know how to get Hato to look at her, but the gaze drips with transactional need for her comedic storytelling mojo rather than any personal, physical or emotional longing. Or worse, the personal, emotional and physical longing is there, but it remains a bubbling incoherent mess trapped beneath the surface of give me how to do that! Poor Hato. If they cannot learn friendship, how can they ever hope to feel love?
Fortunately, the lad is suggestible. And obsessive.
Perhaps not from yaoi smut, but friendship, like love and overblown romance are learned and societally mediated human behaviours, complete with their own rich narratives. Somewhat like playing a guitar; you have to study, watch, listen and practice if you want to carry a tune.
Unfortunately BL/yaoi narratives are short on male friendship, they so fetishize it as to upgrade it to schmex at every chance they get. And women are glaringly absent in the genre. Tales of female friendship won’t help Hato either; I don’t see him getting any useful inspiration from Anne of Green Gables. A more knowledgeable senior blogger holds Sailor Moon in high esteem. It couldn’t hurt (unless Ohno found out). And as for love?
In an earlier post I joked that he should be (written as) marathonning anything by Takemiya Jin [http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/06/02/interview-with-yuri-manga-artist-takemiya-jin/] Takarazuka theatre? Nope. Time to throw out your books. The Hatos need (to be written as having) more 3D-verse friends and more experience at friendship. I wonder if it is harder to write a character who is ‘bad’ or inexperienced at friendship than one that effortlessly makes and keeps friends?
One year into the fujoshi Genshiken, a small portion of the pressure on Hato the now-official fudanshi has been lifted. The Hatos might be able to relax and see what they can be when they have the chance to be a little less constrained and a little more themselves.
Love will wait a while longer.
(1) While not my fave translation thereof, this may be of interest while the link works.
More of my earlier grindings on this one (I once affixed a blown up copy of it to the door of a classroom in art school – how Germanic!) can be found here:
(2) Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.
The 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
See also: https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.ca&sl=ja&u=http://picnic.to/~taimatsu/index.htm&usg=ALkJrhhoWTTK5M2pzzo0fAcy12Xjt_wJ7Q
For both studies, sample sizes ran to 100-110 respondents.
(3) cf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War Go read it if you somehow have not yet had the pleasure. (And yuppers, many of my titles and headings are oblique refs to ancient scifi novels and/or movies. It’s a hobby… )
(4) Oh heck. Mentioning the “quibbles” makes me feel… uncomfortable. Once again; the worst thing that their creator did to these two is that they were never really given the chance to become friends.
(5) They are of course wrong. Redacted
(6) The solution is simple and obvious, but the resulting fan-fiction ends up reading like yuri with bishie guy bodies.
A BIT LATER:
Dr. Maniax mentioned (in tweets) a short bonus section in the Japanese Genshiken Vol 20 tankobon, which was supposedly racy, so like a rabid fanboy I hunted the dark nether recesses of the intertubes until it fell into my clutches. It’s a bath scene with the girls, but if I read it right, they somehow, at the end, forget (or something else happened) that Hato is there too. Ok, some mixed onsen bath hijinks?
More interesting is one page of the ch120 volume extras. It looks like a page of Mada and Hato talking, after they went off the second time at the temple. Holy missing 18 minutes of tape, Mr President!
Something about BL is all I can get. ANYONE CARE TO CLEAR UP THIS MYSTERY?