12days #2: Actually, I might be, but not really

JITSU WA WATASHI WA 実は私は; 其实我是; Actually, I Am…; My Monster Secret
by Masuda Eiji. 2013-2017
Comedy, Fantasy, Harem, Romance, School Life, Shounen, Supernatural.

Spoiler lamp is ON

I really like Jitsu Wa. It has much to commend it – a derth of fanservice (with one tame exception), a not really-a-harem harem sub-plot, loads of good-hearted goofiness, over-the-top hijinx-ensue, young romance and enough dramatic moments to seal the deal. Plus it offers an allegorical plea for diversity and inclusiveness.

Allegorical…

If us straight boys and girls dream in queer in strange ways, sometimes we can be far stranger when we dream in straight. The rules, the structures of these dreams themselves begin to fill out the ranks of characters.

We are all supposed to know how two “vanilla” (cisgendered, heterosexual, middle-class, majority ethnicity) young uns get together. If I want music I’ll turn on the radio. If we want aspirational details on how a storybook romance should go off, we can go read conventional romance story books. Everyone plays their part and knows what part they are supposed to play. The order of forms is maintained and affirmed. In an effort to spice up a simple girl meets boy and they end up together story, an author may add one ridiculous twist, as in with Usotsuki Lily‘s crossdressing-because-guys-annoy-him male lead. The couple still end up happily-ever-after but we get to watch them bumble around the edges of gender non-conformity getting there.

And then you have an author who will start by throwing the kitchen sink at you and then double down with the bathroom fixtures and then escalate to a raid on a plumbing supply warehouse until the story is a towering ludicrous mess.

Jitsu Wa starts with your average schlub highschool romcom guy and in short order has him smitten with the school’s aloof ‘cool beauty” who happens to really be a socially clumsy, shy vampire girl with giant bat wings and fangs (which she manages to keep hidden most of the time – hence shyness). Not happy to simply work this premise it keeps adding more weirdness (and weirdlings) to the pot. Almost every single addition is a burlesque of a well-worn high school fantasy adventure romantic comedy trope: time-travellers, espers, aliens, youkai, demons and fallen angels, each added with the unrestrained glee of a gaggle of hyperactive fanfiction writers. No keter-class demi-urges thankfully, although the principal at times comes close. I have no idea what to make of the gods of (mis)fortune lodged in glasses frames that hitch rides on pigeons.

Can our happy couple make it through 2.5 years of high school secrets?

A sizeable minority of the school’s students turn out to be shealthed supernatural and or fantastic creatures. The principal is an irresponsible 400+ year old demon who presents as a 13-year-old girl with ibex horns. Her great-great grand-daughter is a violent 29 year-old spinster ex-girl-gang leader teacher who barely manages to keep the demon principal under control. There’s a fallen angel, a 10cm tall alien invasion scout in a Pinky and the Brain human exo-suit, the childhood friend who is beset by the aforementioned gods of misfortune as joke glasses and the school’s sex-bomb exhibitionist girl who is also a guy were-wolf.

Later chapters add time travelling relatives from the future, multiple instances of mini-alien girl, a ninja, the 9 meter high vampire father of the girl and his habit of shapeshifting/ crossdressing into the form of a teaching assistant (female) plus a few other oddities, including a murderous ghost and probably a handful of other aberrations that slip my mind at the moment.

Aside from ms. exhibitionist Jitsu Wa is remarkably free of gratuitous fanservice and uncomfortable revealing outfits for the women characters – which is curiously refreshing. It is also chaste as all heck, so much so that … oh nevermind. Let’s just say that the mangaka pushed the no sex in our shonen magazine rule to nearly biblical extremes.

As well, it is a fairly heavy-handed morality play. Morobare high school; presided over by a demon principal and welcoming to stealthed demis and others is what a Japanese high school could be without bullying, if all the students were supportive of each other and all the teachers were not burnt-out crypto-fascist nationalists who were stuffed into the system to counter the wave of lefties who had previously jammed the schools in Japan after the 60’s. There are no Ministry of Education bureaucrats, prefectural budget restrictions, burnt out temp-agency teaching staff (with no benefits or job security), regulations forcing students to dye their hair black or broken bones during karate class jock-fascism.

No get your sorry ass off to cram school either.

You really don’t have to whomp up a load of semi-mythological figures if you want to do an aspirational tale of supportive, inclusive high school life, do you? Or perhaps a 2nd string Shonen magazine might balk at too high a level of social realism? It seems that Shoujo manga can do things that Shonen manga can’t.

I can understand why the story centers around a group of fairly conventional (cisgendered, heterosexual and mostly gender-role conforming) youth, despite their backstories and their secrets. Jitsu Wa does not aspire to be Shimanami Tasogare. Perhaps if we felt the need to do so, we could even pretend that there are gay kids and gender non-conforming kids at Morobare high school but the tale does not center around them…

If only minority sexualities and gender expressions were not repeatedly used as the butt of easy no-homo and oops-that’s-not-a-girl gags throughout the entire manga. I wouldn’t even make a big deal about this except that…

Your story was supposed to be about being supporting and inclusive.

And you just pulled a big fail on that, didn’t you? Vampires, Time Travellers, Espers, Demons, Aliens and Angry Ghosts… Cool.

Gay student? whoaaaaaaah! Let’s not go crazy here, this is a mainstream manga magazine.

Your story was supposed to be about being supporting and inclusive.

Also, chapters 67-68 are suck.

Otherwise, it was a goofy, fun romp that will wind up with some 200 chapters.
This blog has messed up my ability to let things like this slip. Allegory is all fine and wonderful until it covers erasure.

If a sequel surfaces some time in the future, perhaps it can do better.

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One thought on “12days #2: Actually, I might be, but not really

  1. I actually started to read this but was distracted by some other stuff. Oh it was “Genshiken:Nidaime” or “Hourou Musuko”, most likely.

    Even some of the overtly yuri manga has put downs of Lesbians but is not as full of stereotypes as my old Ann Bannon paperback novels. I loved Ann Bannon and the character of Bebo Brinker in her stories but the whole series was full of people either butch or femme, The sympathetic gay male, Jack, was apparently doomed to passing relationships with various butch boys who might try to beat him up or rip him off.

    In “regular” fiction of the time if a gay man or woman was introduced they could be sure to come to a bad end. I have read Family Compo and aside from the family the world seems to be full of stereotypes that are designed to be amusing for the “normal” readers.

    So I would not be too upset at stereotypes showing up in manga and it should not spoil a whole manga from a few icky chapters.

    bliss

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