Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23
Rakuen Le Paradis, Vol 24, June 30, 2017
WARNING: Spoilers ensue. Methodical, theory-sodden clinical speculation on cartoon man-sex scenes and grating 4chan excerpts below the cut line.
On the surface, there should not be much of any big deal that two manga characters get written as having cartoon sex. After all, they are represented as adults and nudge nudge wink wink, if their continuity from a previous incarnation under a different publishing house is considered, they have been interested in trying -something- with each other for years. That they are both male, although one presents some manner of gender fluidity shouldn’t be that big a deal either. This is the 21st century. Whatever; play safe.
In chapter 22 of Spotted Flower, Kio Shimoku has his Alternate Universe (AU, could be a continuation) looks-like-an-older-Madarame and looks-like-an-older-and-transitioning-Hato finally succumb to their long suppressed -what-? Longings? Love? Curiosity? Fantasies? They end up in a clench and from then on, it’s an Ogiue doujinshi moment: “My characters are making love!”
So much to consider here. What a surprise. What a shocker! What an opportunity. Unfortunately, the chapter in question is so far only available to us diaspora fans as e-book format purchase of the Japanese Rakuen Le Paradis magazine issue, [ Kindle version here, get legal:
https://www.amazon.co.jp/…Le+Paradis ] grey-sourced postings of images of the same and one European language scanlation. Same for the next chapter, wherein (lets adopt a senior blogger’s convention and dispense with the looks-like-an-older, the alt- and the not- prefixes and adopt the [!] exclamation point prefix) !Hato Kenjiro may or may not share some or all of the details with their manager and lover !Yajima Merei. The latter then may or may not decline to feel betrayed and instead go full metal fujoshi on the news. Or doesn’t. You try pointing a smartphone’s Google Translate app at a laptop screen and see how much sense you can get out of the words; especially when these are vernacular terms used for describing intimacy, romance and relationships.
The urge to do some pop literary criticism is overwhelming. What is Kio Shimoku sensei up to? Can we adduce themes, strategies, impulses and the rest of the whole critique-y ball-o-wax? I’ll get to that, I promise. More interesting as first and second stops are the reactions of the Genshiken fandom(s) and some of the odder characteristics of the presentation of the intimacy.
Never underestimate Kio Shimoku.
A reaction from Amazon.co.jp review:
5 stars Madara Mezu Uke
Anyway, Mr. Kidio’s “Spotted Flower” is a shocking development. It certainly was a collective reception, but it is a deployment that this husband does with this husband. It is a two-talk composition of 28 pages and 4 pages, but the punch line of the second talk was the best. Information on the release of the book at the end of September is also included, and I am very much looking forward to it.
–Contributor BT_BOMBERTHE BEST 500 REVIEWERS, June 29, 2017
Google Translate is, at times opaque.
The ‘western-anglosphere’ male-gaze fandom caught wind of the two new chapters some time around July 5 or 6. Scans circulated and debate on 4chan’s /a board started up. Predictably, many anon did not liek.
>your wife gives birth
>ex boyfriend visits her in the hospital along with all their other friends and family
>acts like a normal person and talks to him
>you get jealous
>wife still in hospital with baby
>this tranny that you both know from college comes to your house
>you try to fuck
>can’t get hard
>tranny fucks you in the ass right next to your newborn’s crib
>stinking up the master bedroom to the point where the tranny needs to clean it with Lysol and shit
>tranny goes home and nonchalantly tells their girlfriend about cheating on her and fucking you in the ass
>yet you still wonder if you had an affair or not
>Does Kio Shimoku have MPD? Genshiken Nidaime and Gonensei were bad enough.”
More fan reaction from 4chan’s /a board:
July 7 thread
http://boards.4chan.org/a/thread/159470443/Previously on Not Genshiken (dead)
Note how the thread discussions play out based not only on the original undersatanding of the chapters from the Japanese language “raws” but that errors and ommissions in the summaries are not questioned or corrected. For starters when !Hato shows up at the husband and wife’s apartment, while I can’t make out whether or not it is a surprise visit; or who invited or inveigled their way over or in; what is apparent is that the outfit that !Hato is wearing is some form of cosplay. I can guess that the character it represents is somehow considered young, innocent, “virginal” because the conversation between !Mada and !Hato turns to the issue of neither of them being virgins any more. They talk some more and then embrace.
Only one panel at the beginning gives a hint that !Mada might have been drinking before !Hato showed up.
Moving along to next misapprehension, specifically:
>you try to fuck
>can’t get hard
>tranny fucks you in the ass right next to your newborn’s crib
The character Hato Kenjiro (and !Hato) has been written as having held fantasies of ‘taking” Madarame as a sou-uke or ultimate bottom. It seems that the some of the enraged fandom has internalized and amplified these same fantasies, even against the evidence of their own eyes. Please examine the pages in question. Whatever reasons !Mada had for a reluctance to try “doggy style” anal sex with !Hato, the subsequent cowgirl/ boy/ otokonoko/ transwoman pose is impossible without a maximum degree of !Madarame ardor. It is also, a ridiculous position for butt-sex and deployed only to mirror the wife’s (!Saki’s) manner of taking her husband on their honeymoon — presented previously in the Vol1 extras.
If you really want to quibble, I think one or both noticed the other’s excitement during the initial clench scene.
The prosecution and the defence must therefore stipulate consensual, mutual anal intercourse between both characters. The transcript shall be amended to:
>you fuck your tranny friend in the ass next to your newborn’s crib.
>tranny then fucks you in the ass right next to your newborn’s crib.
It sure looks like !Mada got his bit of happy first. Only then does !Hato declare that ze would really like to make hir dream from university days a reality. If the European language scans are any indication, the moment is also an occasion for !Hato to make a classic, if abbreviated Song-of-the-heart-of-the-wind-and-trees-of-Thomas declaration of eternal body and soul love to !Mada.
Pay attention, this is not nit-picking, or a cudgel directed at a segment of the fandom.
This is the heart of the matter.
From a pure story-telling perspective, the negative fan gloss picks up on and amplifies the potential for homo-panic within the scene. Madarame and/or !/ not-/ alt- Madarame has fallen from his role as senior uber-otaku avatar into “faggotry“. And not just with another guy. With an otokonoko, a fictionalised, fetishized female presenting male homosexual, yes, c’mon say it, those obnoxious, hateful words; “tranny” and “trap”.
He should then be impotent and “beta as fuck“. Then, as some of thread posters ventured, it will turn out that !Kousaka, the wife’s ex-boyfriend is really the father of her child and !Mada is also a “cuck“. Oh my! Kio-sensei has refrained from depicting any fellatio. What a lapse. !Mada has missed out on being a “cocksucking beta cuck” as well.
Read those threads. You can cut the rage, betrayal and disappointment with a knife.
If this was 6 years ago, I too would have been stricken with somewhat similar feelings (though I would have avoided spazzing about it on 4chan). This blog, the research it impelled, the limited exposure to the fantasies of fujoshis and the even more limited exposure to the made-by-gay- guys-for-gay-guys product as well as the safely denatured studies, academic talk-talk, theoretical go-out-on-a limb and the painstaking sociology and testimony from fans of all persuasions and proclivities, as well as the testimonies of the real people, whose lives these little cartoons are shadows of, have damped down the knee-jerk reactions that my tribe were born into and grew up in the midst of – and of which I too carried a full measure of. Abjection, otherness, fear, shame, vulnerability, violence, scapegoating, unperson-ing. When I was young, I knew what it meant to be called a “fag” to your face. It was like being called “jew” in the middle of Nazi Germany. Police and courts gave get out of jail free cards to thugs who offered the “he-came-onto-me‘ defence. Was anyone back then really afraid of honest-to-goodness gay people? We were all afraid of our thuggish peers and the brittle constructions that surrounded our manhood.
See also: American black inner city c.a. 1970-1990’s use of the epithet “punk”
Things have changed a tiny bit in the better neighborhoods. There is still much work to be done.
If you are not a mythical “Social Justice Warrior”, even if you are a Chicago School of Economics utilitarian anti-humanist HR manager (about to be pushed off a train platform to die and be reincarnated as a war-loli-magical-weapon-platform) you must still eventually admit that a complex technological democratic mass society cannot tolerate this kind of stupid lumpenproletariat criminality. It leads to lawlessness, corruption, stagnation and eventually to civil war, societal breakdown and barbarism. Pure Mad Max time. No new good jobs, medicines, tech toys, clean running water, easy to get food, electricity and/or mildly competent dentists.
I don’t give a fuck what kind of worms are in your head but if you let them slip while working the tech support line, you will offend a customer and endanger the contract. Beware the impulse to coddle or fetishize incompetence.
So endeth the Epistle of Saint Tanya.
That wont change one single mind. Even if one or more of the posting anons could have instead offered that they were unconvinced about the set-up, character motivation and the rest, they didn’t.
Try this on for size instead: All that homo-panic, posturing, fag cuck suck ass-fuck muck wuk wuk male hysteria is like honey for the fujoshi impulse. Why do you think they commit their narrative violence on straight male characters and find gay male characters too boring? “I’m not gay its only you” is all fine and cute, but to have one screeching rage-filled man-child fall smitten with another after all their homophobic ranting and bashing turned out to be a projection of their deepest fears and desires…
Whew! Sooooo hot! Steamy!
Stop throwing raw meat at the fen. It’s kind of gross.
I understand when one’s fears and the feeling of being overwhelmed by social change gets loose on an anonymous image board; when discussing the “downfall” of a character and/or your disappointment with a series that you once felt spoke to you.
If one manages to put such “panic” feelings aside, it’s a lot easier to see how we got played. Polite version: how a master story-teller just pulled off a narrative flourish. It is supposed to induce whiplash. Feature, not bug. You wanna ur widdle hapwy ending alla da time? Why such a big deal? Someone sell you a lying President or something?
>>Feels like the author got assblasted that everyone kept yelling for Madarame and Saki and they kept hating on Hato, so he went into a scorched earth kinda fit and turned Not-Madarame into a cheater, so he can now point to it and say “see? why would you want Madarame and Saki to hook up? See how it turned out, even though I didn’t have to write it that way?”.
On the subject of pandering to fujoshi:
>>Absolutely not true. Fujos didn’t give a single shit about Nidaime. There was zero fujo fanart, no fujoposting on Twitter and most people on 2ch threads were male. I was pretty into Nidaime before it went to shit and browsed Nip sites to read discussions, there were no fujos.
>>You browsed the wrong sites then
>> Where are the right sites then? Do you have an actual source for this or “Nidaime had a fujoshit fanbase” was you talking out of your ass?
>>Those are the 2ch general Kio threads I used to browse back then, no fujoposting there.
>>Really? You sure of that?
>>Amazing that Hato managed to kill 2 separate series “”
–4chan /a discussion threads
Kio-sensei meant to do it and meant to do it this way, for his reasons. I doubt however they are as simple as suggested above. Regrettably I am a bit short on western “fujo”, Aka slash, BL-fan, HatoMadaHato shipper reactions to chapter 22. Last year’s Tumblr contingent has moved on from their disappointment with Nidaime‘s ending. I suspect they may be loath to revisit the scene of their dashed hopes. My own lame attempt to gauge their reactions to this newest turn was marred by a clumsy beer-fueled late-night post that read like an admonition directed at them, rather than a sigh of sympathetic regret for what the two characters were written into trying. Kio-sensei’s illusion field is strong. You read about !Mada and !Hato (and their precessors) and exclaim with disbelief when they fall into dramatically self-destructive behaviour. If you don’t watch how you express this, you make fail big. (gehhhhhhhhh!)
What did you two fools just do? Oh My!
Warning, warning. Pull up, pull up! Characters; written. Not real. Warning!
What a ride.
“They wanted each other, in the worst way…’
Well, that came close. But before I get into a further examination of sneaky author tricks, what else can be gleaned from looking at the work in front of us? Not having accessible dialog text is an opportunity to look harder. Kio-sensei is an artist first, an author second. The pictures do the heavy lifting.
The clench scene: the three-panel progression from hug to ass-grab is tender.
One would think they would kissu more, some, at all. No spit-swapping? The absence recalls sex-worker “service”. Perhaps someone forgot to floss?
!Mada spending some time nuzzling the back of !Hato’s neck is a call-out. Per the Sue wrestling match in Nidaime (ch86), Hato and therefore !Hato goes bonkers for this.
I already mentioned the other missing foreplay. What we are given a glimpse of is a bit odd. Where are you putting your hand, !Mada?
Once again: a correction and an oblique sop to the paleo-otaku fans: !Mada most assuredly could get it up and as his wife mentioned, being an otaku has in no way affected his virility. Doggy style scared him temporarily — perhaps because that is supposedly his wife’s fave position. He’s good with girl-on-top. Still spineless and wishy-washy, but more than adequately functional. Hooray for Otakus. All that frustration over moe-bait pays off. It’s those steroid-eating body builder types who will disappoint their wives. Unfortunately that means that !Mada was really into it with !Hato. reversible and versatile. Was it that !Hato was “on top” for both rounds that stings?
!Mada! Take off your glasses. They get bent and can poke and scrape your partner. Oh, you wanted to see everything completely clearly then? Hmmmm. Symbolism.
I saw luv but I didn’t see glove. Tssk Tsk! Tsk! Both of you! Also: how did they manage without a tub of magic yaoi lotion?
Why did Kio-sensei go out of his way to re-invent the BL schmex scene? Reports as to the formalism within the genre are 10 to 15 years out of date for diaspora fans, but it looked before as if Hato and Ogiue (per second cours, Genshiken anime episode 5, 2007) were very big on tradition. This is another of those Fujoshi / BL things that annoy the heck out of IRL gay folks. The exaggerated parody of male:female role bonking that the yaoi bishies used to strictly adhere to sacrificed practicality for symbolism. In male-gaze yuri, a similar effect happens with “tribadism”. Not very functional, but very symbolic for the audience. Even Korean doujinshis do a better job of (clinically) depicting how a MadaHato butt-sex session could reasonably transpire.
In the absence of the full BL fantasy clip from Genshiken 2 Ep5, here’s a cheesy AMV made from it and some Gundam clips.
Cue the two main “western” fan primers (see also this blog’s bibliography section) from the early 2000’s:
A typology of how sex progresses in a yaoi sex scene: “That Japanese BL Scene Page“
blog now defunct, see the archive.org backup at:
…which turns out just to be a reworking of an earlier article at the long defunct Aestheticism fan site, “Yaoi Field Guide (what comes of reading too many djs and BBGs)” archived here:
Rather than what c.a. 2000, etc., fangirls got wrong about gay male sex, consider these as a rough map of their wayward hearts. This is what the fen wanted to see. Recall herr Doktor Freud’s Big Question? Here’s the answer for at least some of them. A time-tested baseline for a good pr0ny man-sex fantasy made by and for women. One could spend weeks tearing it down to the metal. Or one could watch it being sent up over the moon in that Genshiken anime episode.
Kio-sensei goes out of his way not to draw his version of m:m intimacy this way.
Objectively speaking, it is a very disenchanted BL sex scene.
Would real guys who want each other go at it like this? Who knows? That’s way beside the point. The point is that both old-school het-guy otakus and HatoMadaHato shipping fangirls are going to be sufficiently thrown by the proceedings as to let the slight-of-hand slip by. Jarring. Something wrong. In the marriage bed next to the baby crib. This didn’t go off quite right. Suffering continues.
Sneaky sneaky Kio-sensei. Put down the hammer.
“There is a big secret about sex: most people don’t like it.”
— L.Bersani (1987)
This leads to a common complaint from the other side of the avenue. Apparently depicting your “gay” in too straight and/or too vanilla a manner is considered by some as a waste of time and/or a betrayal and/or a buzz kill. “If I want music, I’ll turn on the radio!” The reason why these shadows of IRL minority sexuality/ gender expression romance and intimacy end up in stories is because the “desert of the real” so oppresses; feels like an inexorable life (or death) sentence to some of the readership.
“In the context of spotted flower at least, this is very heterosexual so i’m not sure anyone invested in the ship for “rotten” reasons got a payoff they want. ”
–Tumblr user on Spotted Flower ch22
When the fantasies of the BL storytelling world meet the realities of a politicized, activist tojisha community, all manner of competing concerns pop up. From the Twitter commentary on a recent panel discussion at an academic conference in Japan about what happens when BL gets lose in the rest of Asia and becomes and aspirational fantasy for their nascent gay communities:
“In his response to the panel, Patrick Galbraith raises the problem that many BL fans may in fact create new normativities #BLinAsia –Thomas Baudinette @tbaudinette Jul 2
He also notes that Fujimoto Yukari points out how early “shonen-ai” was much more fluid in its gender and sexual politics #BLinAsia –Thomas Baudinette @tbaudinette Jul 2
So some BL fans, in rejecting violent sexual fantasies (for example) may be producing homonormativities… #BLinAsia”
—Thomas Baudinette @tbaudinette Jul 2
Given so much powder that can be burnt, is “realism” or even adherence to “canon” tropes a hill that an ambitious mangaka wants to die on?
Back to that sex scene. What can we say about it besides that it sure looks like the two characters took turns bonking each other, !Mada kept his glasses on and !Hato declared true love?
- Is it schmexy hawt? Erotic?
- Are both or either of the two dripping with sweat, drool and other classic ero-manga markers of intimate passion?
- Is it disrespectful of male:male or cis-male:transwoman intimacy?
- Is it tender, compassionate, romantic?
- If not, is it over-dramatically fetishistic? Marked by role-playing?
- Despite !Hato’s wish for !Madarame sou-uke, does it adhere to rigid pairing roles?
- Could you imagine ANYONE using it as fantasy material?
- Could the mangaka have done this by accident?
- Do you think he did it this way to hide the fact that he cannot draw a stereotypical BL schmex scene?
- Do you think he did it this way to hide the fact that he doesn’t get man-sex?
- One more time: do the internets not function as a pr0n delivery system in Japan?
There is something about the over-all “feeling” of the scene that does however bring to mind certain classes of disenchanted straight and gay porn; a “we’re just here to fuck” urgency. One page. Six darkened panels of !Mada on !Hato foreplay then “Ooops, doggy style reminds me of my wife. Ok, this works. I got mine, your turn. You want what? Eh. Fade to waves crashing on the… Yamete, oshiri ga itai”
Kio Shimoku has gone out of his way to draw and write this scene exactly as he has done.
Ghu knows how many rough takes he had to crumple into the wastepaper basket before he got it just the way he wanted it. This took work. He is showing off by showing what he is not showing.
Sensei, we never doubted your Art degree.
Now we can begin to edge towards literary-ish critic-y-ness. Making the sex scene convincing enough but somehow “less’ or “off” or “jarring” greases the great grindy gears of nemesis. Kio Shimoku is a friend and admirer of Nisio Isin; perhaps he wants to do his own “everyone will be equally unhappy, together” story. Certainly infidelity puts an extra bit of oomph in any continuing tale of a young couple who just had their first child, whether or not they have interesting friends and/or hobbies.
It is also a good time to consider a change, or at least a pivot in Kio Shimoku’s understanding of his target audience.
Here are a series of interviews with Kio Shimoku from 2015, on Spotted Flower, early influences and his “new” main audience in Rakuen Le Paradis magazine. (In Japanese, translate plug-ins work well enough.)
While Spotted Flower has ambled along in Le Paradis, a few pages per chapter, three times a year for years, the last few issues have seen an expansion in the chapter page counts. Spotted Flower is now the mangaka’s main property. More pages per chapter also mean less time between tankobon volume releases. Rumour has it some manner of book is in the offing as well. (1)
Time to play chopsticks on the new piano, in the major key of marital infidelity immediately after childbirth.
!Mada you fool! Remember to launder the sheets. And what’s with the Febreeze variant !Hato is spritzing around? Was ze drenched in hir usual fave scent? Better air the apartment out.
!Mada lies on the couch after the deed is done, reportedly asking himself if this counts as “cheating”
What a progression for Hato/!Hato: from crossdressing male fujoshi to transitioning gender-queer BL ero-mangaka, to homewrecker.
Naw… Just boys’ night out. Very Mishima. The wife (!Saki) need only worry if the lads start wearing old military uniforms and rising sun headbands.
The order of forms of the Japanese family is not threatened. The wife (!Saki) remains as good-wife-wise-mother head of the domestic realm. She also controls the household finances. Buddy boy just bought himself a cut in his weekly sarraryman pocket-money allowance. In a few years his wife and child(ren) will hold him in silent contempt; his only friend will be the family dog. He’ll be saving up his spare change for a monthly visit to a hostess bar so he can whine to !Keiko. This is what happens when sarraryman-san can’t keep it in his pants.
So much for genderqueer transgressive romance.
Meanwhile the “realism” of !Hato’s doujins get a mild level-up due to fieldwork.
And that could be it; with or without subsequent Rubu Hotel trysts. Where’s the fun in that? Where are ‘The feelings that all !Madas and !Hatos And !Yajimas and !Sakis must endure”? On the other extreme, I hope that Kio-sensei isn’t aiming for high Japanese variant modernist literature, otherwise the schmex is going to get violent and our two foolish heroes will have to jump off the apartment building roof together because that’s how one proves that love is true in a Japanese romantic tragedy. It says it right here in the ops manual.
!Mada and !Hato could sneak off to a tea-house, eat sex drugs and hole up for 4 days of debauchery before !Mada dies of a stroke and !Hato, mad with grief wanders around Ikebukuro with a cut-off souvenir of her lost lover.
Wait! Howabout !Saki leaves him, then !Mada listens to an ancient war veteran tell horrific stories and then gets the urge to climb down into dry wells! !Hato follows. Much angst in dry wells ensues…
Oh fuggettit. Don’t wind that bird.
If we consider Spotted Flower as an unofficial sequel to the Genshiken and Genshiken Nidaime, chapter 22 represents a radical shift, a rupture from past light slice-of-life comedy that smiled ruefully at otaku and fujoshi foibles. Expanding our consideration to Kio-sensei’s short-lived Princess of Hell/ Jigopuri
[ https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=29903 ] series, with its goth loli cosplayer single mother and her twin sister trying to cope with the responsibilities of precarious parenthood, gives us a view of how the mangaka has tried to explore situations that were a few steps removed from the safe, carefree days of university clubs in the early 2000’s. With the Genshiken, Kio Shimoku won an otaku audience. With Genshiken Nidaime he sought a second demographic while trying to hang onto the first. Per years of the grumbling chorus on numerous forums, he might have lost some of his original otaku fans in the process. Attrition was to be expected. Nidaime, as an examination of a fujoshi social remains incomplete but far more complex and nuanced than any number of “Oh-those-wacky-fujoshi-girls-in-high-school” efforts.
Did Nidaime ever gain a significant fujoshi/ female audience? Doujnshi output suggests that while recognised and respected, the Genshiken was never a barn-burner parody property. 1 or 2 doujins per year max. Only the publishers and their secret polling firms know for sure. That time has passed. The fandoms of Japanese youth and young adults have radically evolved. Twitter commentary from professor Matt Thorn speaks of a younger, socially engaged, media savvy, sometimes even activist queer fandom. The denizens of /a would spit white-hot venom at them. I suspect the denisons of /a are getting old.
I know I am.
There will be no Genshiken Sandaime unless Kio-sensei snags a part-time gig teaching Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture at some university. (No one need ever know, as long as sensei and his nom-de-plum are never connected). The new breed of otaku and fujoshi would be impossible to understand without field study. Besides the ever-present tyranny of write what you know (oh middle-aged married guy), Kio-sensei’s earliest major works were dense, messy, angsty chronicles of young relationships falling apart. The mangaka always had a taste for writing Josei-ish stories. This time, he’s got a decade and a half of experience behind him and a slot in a magazine that will let him stomp the pedal hard. Le Paradis prints sex scenes. Even sex-fail during pregnancy scenes. Enough guys, even straight guys read Le Paradis. Yumm! Fresh demographic, one that he always wanted to write for.
While Nidaime was still ongoing and even after, while it was still fresh in memory the short thrice yearly vignettes of Genshiken-perhaps-to-come were sufficient. Now the mangaka can, if space is made for his story churn out longer chapters featuring otaku baby raising, mom tips from !Ohno, daddy war story sessions with the married guys as well as chronic sleep deprivation and diaper duty. All the while !Hato and !Yajima navigate going pro and outing !Hato with a public gender-queer presentation. Add to this the shadow of infidelity, plus the odd effects this shadow casts on the relationship between !Hato and !Yajima. English language scanlations are currently lacking as well for chapters 21 and 21.5, when !Kousaka (ex-boyfriend of the wife) visits her hospital bedside. We also await the details surrounding the revelation to !Hato’s editor that her new charge has a complicated backstory, as well as the pillow talk between the mangaka and hir manager. Did !Yajima sanction a “get it out of your system” foray? What did they talk about? Is !Yajimacci ever going to tell !Hato that their relationship needs to make progress? Or are !Hato and !Yajima too far into the Japanese variant of Too Het! Too Vanilla! to get serious?
Another curious thing about the /a board chatter: it was full of oblique references to NTR when griping about Spotted Flower; as a fashionable weeb-ish alternative to “cuck” and as denoting a voyeuristic cuckholding fetish. Flavour of the month but consider; the only character NTR’d/ing so far is !Yajima and only because she is torn between her affections, her fangirling and the duties of her office. Keep the creative idiot drawing. If he/ she/ hir needs to bite the heads off chickens in order to keep drawing, order in another dozen and find a stronger brand of mouthwash.
While the characters, as future versions of their earlier Genshiken incarnations have undoubtedly aged, can we also take note of how or if they have grown up? Matured? With only a few pages three times a year, the readership wasn’t going to get much in the way of deep character sketches. Some of what has been seen so far is already troubling. !Saki remained Saki, but lost much of her previous worldly, no-nonsense attitude, replacing it with frustrated horny pregnancy. “Your wife is needy” — that’s pretty well all of her. !Madarame is just as spineless as always and can still get away with it because he is just as privileged as he always felt himself to be. Show up for work, come home, eat, open a cold one and play otokonoko games. Even when he met with his old university kouhai, a truly unique and complex individual, the conversation stumbled and devolved to mumbling about rare doujinshis or his marital complaints.
!Mada! Your kouhai is a famous ero-doujin mangaka who is undergoing gender transition and is shacked up with another ex club member. Has !Mada ever asked !Hato if !Yajima and !Hato are a couple? An item? Just dating? She ‘services” me to keep me drawing? What??? Any curiosity about the doujin business? What’s it like being a famous ero-mangaka? Meet any cool people? Adventures? Anything in Jump that you both find interesting for different reasons? Say, sensei did you ever get around to playing any josou games? Wanna borrow some?
Why do you and !Kousaka have the same magic-seal-of-solomon patterned silk scarves?
The problems with this lack of “progress’ or “progression’ were already tragically visible years ago in chapter 12. !Mada was still “spineless’ and !Hato still wanted the never realised fantasy fling. No one had learned anything. Time had stopped for them even as they aged.
Japan makes a big deal out of high school and university clubs, sempais and kouhais. Perhaps this “time freeze” effect is a well-worn antimony in popular fiction and experience. The “why I don’t go to class reunions” effect. I however found the restatement of this effect in Spotted Flower particularly savage, even as it was delivered with surprising economy within the story.
You can only pull off such a trick a few times before it wears. The Genshiken‘s Hato was an over-wound ball of contradictions who was on the edge of bat-shit crazy from their internal contradictions before he and she made peace with some of themselves. Even then, when sewed into her fujoshi costume, her behaviour, her “presentation” was severely constrained. Demure or full-bore BL goggles. Now, in her ero-mangaka incarnation she is only goggles, except when she cranks up the “independent professional woman on the prowl” act. Her new character is markedly thinner despite her v2.0 presentation. Has !Hato the trans-fujoshi ero-mangaka ever told her lover and manager about “The Stands”? Do they still, occasionally appear to her in all their simple-minded, compulsive splendor?
Or has she become them?
Likewise, supporting characters have also become as willow-wisps who threaten to melt into air. !Ohno has become a bovine caricature of motherhood, Sue a boob-grabbing fangirl monster and vassal to her ever-offstage liege.
An expansion of Spotted Flower‘s page count allows the mangaka to address this problem, Kio-sensei has loaded on the plot complications in anticipation; even as he will have to rely on his most complex creation to fully exploit them. So far the only glimpses we have been given of !Hato’s contradictions in their V2.0 form have degenerated into, as one senior blogger pointed out, a burlesque routine from Monty Python’s Life of Brian. “Where is the foetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?“. No! BL could not make everything happen, even as finally having sex with your sempai will not resolve the howling contradictions within !Hato’s souls.
“Beauty will be convulsive or not at all”
—Nadja, André Breton
Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken was never shy of acknowledging the “libidinous charge”, so championed by Dr. Saito Tamaki that ran through Otaku and Fujoshi fandoms. Stories give rise to fantasies or they fail to carry sufficient emotional charge to re-enchant the real world. But !Hato has gone too far and/or has used them for their own conflicted purposes. They no longer re-enchant, neither do they resolve. They delude. Being fucked by and fucking Mada in the manner it transpired is another proof of their misapplication. Kio-sensei has refuted Dr. Tamaki, even if he has had to stage an unlikely thought experiment to do so.
!Hato consumes BL, but the consumption, hysterical as it is has begun to feel incidental. !Hato only consumes BL as part of the act of consuming fujoshidom; which is his accommodation with that part of his and her soul that would otherwise be either a gay man or a transwoman. !Hato’s friends-with-benefits approach to (not with) their manager can even be read as part of this effect; his creator has internalized the surface form of the impression that the lesbian fujoshi is one of the most powerful iterations of the type. No doubt that !Hato can be comfortably written as enjoying sex with !Yajima. The hesitancy to throw more of their heart into the relationship screams out that while the form has been appropriated, any deeper substance has been held in abeyance.
You thought that your manager would want to run off with !Sue?
Taking his sempai as a seme requires !Hato to “remain” male, or at least retain some part of the male self for the deed, even as these same fantasies processed his initial “receiving” role as a BL character: male, albeit the fantasy “new half” or “okama” of fujoshi-scavenged Japanese gay male historic lore. Note well the cosplay outfit. !Hato was not present at the banquet as becoming-woman, or always-have-been-a-woman-even-if-stupid-society-deemed-my-original-body-male, but as a twice-borrowed creature of female fantasy narratives, forever inscribed as male despite any surface appearances.
The sex, reversible, versatile and even originally imagined and rendered out upon the pages remains as symbolic and formalistic and ill-suited to deeply romantic connection as the earlier mentioned male-gaze yuri porn “tribbing” or any fangirl sex scene script from a long-defunct year 2000 fan site.
Only their initial embrace spoke to a truth of longing.
Our two protagonists were not alone in the bedroom and the ghosts they dragged in with them exacted a steep price. Mada brought with him his jealousies and insecurities, his fear of adult responsibility and fatherhood, his silly otokonoko game fetish, a faded envelope full of cosplay pictures and the memory of an exciting kouhai that once he had almost mustered the nerve to “give it a try’ with. Why had the kouhai never been able to say those few simple words to fully acknowledge his interest?
!Hato’s declaration of love was therefore part of the price to be paid, but paid in the suspect coin of a genre cliche and followed by a very strange look on !Hato’s face. One last evasion. A simple I love you, one word in Japanese would have cost far more than !Hato could pay. Likewise, !Madarame’s accedence to !Hato’s semexuke fantasies was a price that he grudgingly paid to avoid a heavier toll.
Both of them were fucking their ghosts far more than they were fucking each other. Perhaps it was their ghosts who were fucking them.
Tell me oh salaryman-otaku, do you yet deserve love?
Tell me again oh ero-mangaka: who do you love?
!Hato’s project of becoming-fujoshi as accommodation to becoming/being-woman allowed or required breast enhancements and hormones (those hips) but remains unresolved, not from questions of the body and medical procedures, but from the contradictions within the structures of the fantasies that were used to accommodate the shape of the Hato heart to the world. The strategy contains its own trap within the fetish of the male bodied characters it requires. The cathexis of fantasy impels but ultimately hobbles and blinds.
What if even radical disillusionment cannot resolve the impasse?
Tell me again oh ero-mangaka: who are you?
Pure literature, pure comedy
“All our desires are just things we impose upon others.”
— Hato Kenjiro
There are stories that need to tell themselves, and many don’t have happy endings that the reader can binge on for easy comfort. Neither do they end in high dramatic or even melodramatic tragedy. Somewhere between Mary Sue and Double Love Suicide lies Kio Shimoku’s ongoing chronicle of how a generation almost made it to the promised land. For those who critique such stories for being too vanilla, isn’t hysterically overwrought transgression the new vanilla? Between the poles of both the happy huggy fluffy straight or otherwise romance and violent fetishistic queerer than queer fantasy lies a common, silent agreement that mutual happiness, love or some measure of satisfaction somehow remains within reach. Their arguments are merely about mechanics.
“The dread of losing the self and of abrogating together with the self, the barrier between oneself and other life – the fear of death and destruction, is intimately associated with a promise of happiness which threatened civilization at every moment. Its road was that of obedience and labor, over which fulfillment shines forth perpetually – but only as illusive appearance, as devitalized beauty.”
–DOE p33, Adorno & Horkeimer
An up-to-date Sendaime‘s characters would scratch their heads in disbelief at the complaints and disappointments of their precessors. Stuck in your life as an aging salaryman with only your odd hobbies to comfort you? Try the gig economy, precarious labor, freeter-dom. Does shufu-hood both attract and repel? No matter, most of the young’uns will never have to worry about that. Raising a child is scary? Who can afford to marry and start a family? Infidelity? To be able to worry about such things. Desire? Sexuality? Gender expression? Whatever. You can be as straight or as queer as you want, all the time or on the weekend. Why not start a blog or tweet about it? Everyone still wins a minimum wage temp job and the planet will still go to global warming hell. In the meantime no one will have any power to effect their lives or their society; at least until the old ones who hold all the power, the capital and positions of authority finally shuffle off the stage.
Bad millennial, bad. Stop reading that Isekai crap. Let us instead pester them into reading John Updike novels and buying approved products advertised by approved agencies.
The rest of us must acknowledge that Kio Shimoku understands the full breadth of meaning behind the term slice-of-life-comedy.
(1) Rakuen Le Paradis is a niche market, boutique Josei magazine. From the interviews, Kio-sensei understands the magazine as primarily for an adult female audience. Oh lookie: a free summer web extra edition got a link on the main landing page. Will have to check back and see if anything Spotted shows up before the end of August. [ http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol24/calendar.php ]
Meanwhile on the company site footers, Le Paradis is remarkable for it’s absence. Ok, so it does have two box-y links in the Magazine & Web magazine section of 1997-era mini web-banner boxes near the bottom of the page but c’mon! As a 3-times per year anthology magazine some committee probably had problems figuring out how to categorise it; it seems to have its own odd niche called “Books handled comics”
Loud Outlander to Hakusensha suits: Huh? Hmmmmmmm?
No link on the page footer stylesheet?
It’s your publishing house, you want to hide one of your products, go fer it.
A buy e-book version link or two on the magazine’s page when we finally find it would be nifty as heck too. Just sayin’…