About mudakun

“Who can gaze into the mirror without becoming evil? A mirror does not reflect evil, but creates it. Thus the mirror bears a glimpse, but not scrutiny.” – Saito Ryokuu (Saito Masura) 1899 HEARTS OF FURIOUS FANCIES examines how desire is reflected in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture - especially in the construction of imagined "others". Lets see if anything useful comes from it; or will it end up as "wasted effort"

2 minus 12 days (of) anime 2017

I haven’t been too productive here lately, for a number of reasons but that is all going to change in 2 days. I have signed up for at least ONE variant of the venerable 12 Days of Anime Challenge. That there are a few different organizing nodes surrounding this event is not surprising: anibloggers are harder to herd than cats.

I didn’t know we ‘ad a king! I thought we were autonomous collective.

I was considering sandbagging some posts and setting them to go live via the wordpress.com timer thingy but I think I will go for the full, live, daily challenge. Expect me to miss a day or two, double-up on some posts and mess up in all manner of ways.

I also intend to keep these posts short, or at least shorter and with less of some kind of =>>THESIS<<= to hammer at.

Time to try new things!

Meanwhile, if you are on Twitter, the hashtag #12DaysofAnime will find you one node of the 2017 project’s sign-up(s) spreadsheet: https://goo.gl/forms/Ymo2XHxIO4MxnQ703

I cheer these folks on but never got my crap together to make the introductory Youtube video that they requested, which may or may not be an affiliated/ associated effort of anime v-bloggers. Who knows? Some have suggested that the #12daysAnime hastag ( note no ‘of’ )  is the youtubers

I did however sign up for another #12DaysofAnime project:  their sign-in form  is at:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1WofqRVYPzze6BD82_lib_4Gg7UkI0VBANvMkw6htSGI/edit#gid=417421868
via this blog:
https://perpetualmorning.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/12-days-of-anime-2017/

I resisted the urge to start my own variant:
#12daysofTLDRonAnimeManga&ContemporaryJapaneseVisualCulture 

Meanwhile, lookie up top o’ post at the fine US$30-something stocking stuffer I found on a certain large, far-eastern e-commerce site. A BOOTLEG OUGIE!!! Ain’t she cute? And I wouldn’t feel guilty buying her for IP reasons but I won’t because a certain wonderful person who up-with-me-puts has made it very clear how she would regard any such fit of extreme weeb collecting mania.

That reminds me! This 12 days thing is a perfect excuse for me to dig out those small Genshiken figurines I snagged on yahoo.co.jp during a vist years ago. That will take care of ONE of the days’ posts. Time for a teeny tiny modelling shoot! I almost ended up sleeping under a bridge when them things showed up in the mail at….

Urrrrghhhhhh!

My Neighbor Totoro Miyazaki Horses The Smiling Face of The Umbrella Nuggets Do Diy Micro-landscape Landscape Doll Action Figures

I do not think I will catch it for the $1US bootleg Totoro-ish thing with umbrella pvc figures.

I will NOT get the bare-assed Nausicaa figurine, though I commend it to niche collectors everywhere. 

Aiyeeeee!

As you may guess, I am a fan of the Bootleg Stuff @Bootleg_Stuff [https://twitter.com/Bootleg_Stuff] Twitter account.

And so…

Two more days until it starts.

Advertisements

Nymphs and Shepherds: Moyashimon

Moyas[h]imon: Tales of Agriculture
2004-2014 Ishikawa Masayuki

“The series follows Tadayasu Sawaki, a first-year college student at an agricultural university, who has a unique ability to see and communicate with microorganisms. Del Rey Manga licensed the manga, but only released two volumes in English in North America. An 11-episode anime television series adaptation, animated by Shirogumi and Telecom Animation Film, aired between October and December 2007 on Fuji TV’s Noitamina programming block. An 11-episode live action adaptation was aired on Noitamina between July and September 2010. An 11-episode animated second season titled Moyasimon Returns aired from July to September 2012.”
– https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moyasimon:_Tales_of_Agriculture

Characters:

Tadayasu Souemon Sawaki (our hero)
Kei Yūki (our hero’s childhood friend)

The doppelgänger girls:
Yū Kaneshiro (Okinawa)
Marie (France)

Keizō Itsuki (the prof)

Kaoru Misato (tall, shifty, later likes Hasegawa)
Takuma Kawahama (short, rotund, a returnee from Mexico)

Haruka Hasegawa (the rich girl)
Hazuki Oikawa (neat freak with a scooter)
Aoi Mutō (miss ufo world traveller)
Aya Hirooka (sempai bartender)
Hana Kanō (a craft brewery owner)

 

I need to write something and it might as well be on Moyashimon. The alternative is a report on the first ever World Court in The Hague prosecution under the heretofore secret World Leader Likeness Sex Robot Ban Treaty (2015). From a quick perusal of the filings, I can see that one will get brain-bleachy rather fast. [Later: strange; the filings have been scrubbed from the web. I blame Soros and the Fergus Illuminati]

The slice-of-agricultural-university-life manga ran 10 years, spawned 2 anime seasons and a live-action series and was often considered as ‘The Agricultural School Genshiken’. Perhaps Genshiken was ‘The Otaku Moyashimon’ ? Yet only now are thieving enthusiastic English language leeches urrm fans getting around to completing a scanlation of the manga – and only, I suspect because of a certain character. The licensing for an official English release expired with the DelRay efforts, reverting back to the Big K, who have kept it on ice. Folks who may have stumbled on it remember it as quirky, good-natured and mostly about cartoon bacteria and lovingly drawn young women.

Unlike the Genshiken, it featured a promotional view of (agricultural) university life that recalled the otherwise forgettable ecchi attempt to boost enrolment at a Hokaido university Fine Arts program, ‘Boys be Ambitious‘. The comparison exposes Moyashimon’s first weakness; there is a reason young uns get sent off to expensive universities but aside from some drunken yuri subtext, nobody is getting any in aggie land. The romantic wasteland almost justifies the thin plot complication of (Tadayasu Souemon) Sawaki’s childhood friend (Yūki) Kei vanishing and reappearing as a very fetching goth loli themed crossdresser with suppressed feelings for our hero. Not that it goes anywhere, except that the mangaka throws in two more samefaced girl Kei-chan doppelgängers to confuse the issue. The French one, Marie or the Okinawan one Yū might eventually grow to have some feelings for our hero Sawaki but who knows?

Otherwise, weird fermented foods of the world, as well as more common Japanese staple fermented foods and beverages are explained at great length and much alcohol is consumed by the older members of Itsuki-sensei’s lab seminar class. Ag school is interesting, perhaps you should try it.

Three broad approaches characterise and redeem the manga (and therefore give the two seasons of anime something to lean on)

The drawing is first-rate, detailed, interesting, pro-level accomplished. The anime by necessity simplifies the character designs and shifts the visual emphasis to the slice-of-life gag panel stylization. The manga is far richer in detail, mostly elaborate scene pages and near portrait-sketch renderings of the women characters.

The woman characters are strong and are written as having a degree of agency, even as they are definitely there for eye-appeal. At least they are not moe-blobbed and/or top-heavy, even as the plot convolutions that flesh them out are well-worn chestnuts. In comparison, the two dodgy guy upper-classmen are thin and ridiculous until well into the story. Masayuki-sensei likes to draw attractive young women characters. He revels in costuming them in leggy outfits that are heavy on belts, buckles, heels and boots but avoids wrecking their backs with huge boobies. By this last trick alone, the women characters gain a higher degree of in-story seriousness than one would at first expect. When he grunges a girl character out, she appears formidable and capable, rather than a mess. When he overdoes it with fashionista fetish-punk or Harajuku wear, the effect still works. Agricultural University is posited as a place where young women can play with their style while still being taken seriously. The effect extends to Kei as Yuki-chan, who as honorary Moyashimon coed gets to have far more fun than Kei-kun.

Kei Yuki-as-chan is also why cheap leeching anglo-outlanders like me are getting to read the last remaining volumes of Moyashimon. Once again, we are indebted to a certain honey-themed group of fans who have a taste for gender-bending characters.

While Kei-chan manages to steal a kiss from a surprised Sawaki shortly after their (re-)appearance, it takes some 100 chapters before Kei-chan finally pops and embarks on an halfway-around-the-world pursuit of their childhood friend who has gone off to meet one of the rival doppelgängers, Marie. Even as they dissemble when asked if they are smitten. This is rather tame. Even annoying (1)

On the other hand, there is more than enough going on around the lab class to keep Sawaki busy, along with the venue changes offered by grumpy dominatrix rich girl Haruka Hasegawa’s problems and resources, Itsuki-sensei’s vast web of political and financial connections, a nearby ancient sake brewery turned booze shop and secret lair to wealthy sake connoisseurs and assorted other plot diversions. Then there is our hero’s ambivalence towards his gift – he never had an easy time of it being able to sense and communicate with microorganisms and temporarily losing the ability was even more disturbing. Such is the power of a stolen kiss from your best bud who is now a hawt goth loli girl.

While Kei has unresolved feelings for their childhood friend, the manifestation of these seems to occur by whim of a dice-roll or whenever the story is at a loss for a new arc. That the plot device that they were always considered effeminate (and hated it) and so decided the G. Gordon Liddy out their issues (per anime, not manga) by transforming into a stunningly attractive gothic Lolita (who just happens to have 2 doppelgängers in the story) somehow gets folded into their conflicted feelings for Sawaki and provides a clue as to the larger structural problems witin Moyashimon’s story telling.

I know this fits a well-worn manga/ anime story trope. The “I like him but I’m a guy – I’ll become a girl” is a common trope but I wish the creative types of Japan (and the rest of the world) would give this one a break. Unfortunately this kind of trick is too easy, especially when the approach to story-telling is “make a neat place, fill with attractive, quirky characters and then let them bumble around and see what we can write about“. Verisimilitude Overload Failure occurs when too many things get thrown at the wall and random bits stick and stick together. You can get away with this kind of mess for a short tale but once the story establishes itself and settles in for the long haul, cracks begin to show.

Time to add another new character and change the venue!

“Oh shit, she looks like Kei, again!”

“So what: we’ll stick it in the “unresolved shit” basket and we can pull it out later when we are short of ideas.”

“Sounds good to me…”

Kei-as-chan may be one of the most interesting charas in Moyashimon but kitchen sink gender theory will get nowhere with them because the character is written as a complete mystery. They are dropped in as edgy eye candy and comic relief. They don’t even get to be part of a harem because there is no harem of suitors after our slouching protrag. He just gets dragged around to interesting places with formidable women because he can sense bacteria. Any time Kei-as-chan or otherwise wanted to declare an interest they would undoubtedly win something by default.

Since Kei-chan was around long before the Genshiken‘s Hato Kenjiro made their debut, I speculate that the latter’s appearance might owe some debt of inspiration to the former and that the complexity of the Hato character only benefited from the earlier version. Kei-as-chan still gets to do more in Moyashimon as chan than the they did as kun, even as their stepping-in-to-save-the-day activities usually involve displaying themselves to an audience.

I think the mangaka was too busy trying to balance the “super-power” of the MC, against the rest of the ensemble and then juggle the eye candy and the voluminous side-trips into bacteria and fermentation lore. It is remarkable how little of the story relies on our hero’s ability to “see” and “communicate” with microbes. That the author goes easy on the trick makes it possible for the reader to suspend disbelief long enough to get sucked into many 7 page talking bacteria omake chapters detailing how miso, sake, mirin and the like is made.

I had no idea you can make your own natto. Apparently you use a bit of leftover as a starter.

We might even venture that Moyashimon got away with its odd story-telling conceits by situating its appeal not only within the ranks of “educational” manga but also within the ranks of manga that celebrate culturally nationalistic lore; in its case the better strain of the type. While Moyashimon goes on about the culture and the cultures of fermented food oddities from all over the world, it never loses its confidence in the ability of dedicated Japanese enthusiasts, scientists, farmers, chefs and brewers not only to preserve their legacies but to find and appropriate the best that the rest of the world has to offer; even as it notes how the pressures of modernisation/ globalisation threaten the survival of some of these.

Like the recent “Otherworld Restaurant”(Sekai Shokudou) anime, the outlander other and their fare are an opportunity for exchange, learning and localization, rather than a fear-driven imperialistic fantasy or derision.(2) A useful attitude to foster, given the approaching challenges of the 2020 Olympics. Given the sense of doubt that crept over Japan in the wake of the 3/11 tragedies, I can understand how the somewhat confident mood of Moyashimon suddenly felt out-of-place as it wound down to its conclusion. Either that or Moyashimon just ran out of fermented stuff to showcase. Fatigue set in. The Ag Uni ran out of festivals, while less than a full year of subjective time passed for the students.

Despite its meandering ways, Moyashimon never lost its good heart and remains a fun read, even as we outlanders await its conclusion. Ishikawa Masayuki went on hiatus from his next series in 2015, citing eye-strain and fatigue. Perhaps when rested he may revisit his campus? Or perhaps I am missing something important about the entire exercise. Going off to university is a time to see and do new things; the order in which they occur is usually outside of one’s control and for a while, largely opaque as how and why things are as they are. Then new neat shit happens! Wow! So while each arc of Moyashimon needs some excuse to further this trick along in a somewhat predictable way; get through the festival, retrieve the aged Okinawan hooch, follow Hasegawa to France, Put on a mini-Octoberfest, go help Marie with something or other in America, these are all excuses for elaborate journeys of discovery – or at least sightseeing trips with plenty of interesting food and drink.

Okinawa, now that sounds interesting…

Unfortunately, the campus itself is a composite, existing somewhere near both Osaka and Tokyo, so pilgrimage visits are impossible.

I hope the mangaka got a lot of enjoyable research vacations out of the story. If you make it to Japan, do not fail to take in a tour of any modern brewery or sake brewery you can get to. Tours are usually quite reasonably priced and well worth the time spent. The Kirin brewery I went to on a weekday was nearly empty: we got the whole tour to ourselves as the guide practiced her English. And of course, be sure to spend $15 on a bottle of live farm sake (doburoko) as soon as you arrive (and have secured lodgings with a readily accessible WC) – it is a great way to wind down after 24 hours in airports and trains while you inoculate your gut for your stay.

And you can imagine that all those little Moyashimon critters are talking to each other as you partake.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) Spoiler warning! Highlight to read white-text:
Chapter 118 pulls a rather annoying no homo/ no genderqueer/ was all crossplay therapy or sumthin moment with Kei. To say that Kei remains unresolved, or at least conflicted would be an understatement. Chapter 119 attempts a quickie patch job, which was kind of cute but still feels like a jerk-around. If you are needing a resolutely pro-heterosexual story line, the order of forms is re-established as in any pastoral play. If you were rooting for team rainbow: crap, another jab to the ribs. At least our hero made an effort but in the end remains a slouching, schlub.

(2) This does not stop the mangaka from getting really pissy about fast food and smelly trains in America. Later discussion throws a sop at some of the worst of the criticisms, while re-emphasising the importance of tradition in culture. The mangaka is at a loss to deal with late industrial capitalist accommodations to polyglot cultural mixes, something which is quite common in the Japanese psyche. Europeans, among others also suffer from this. See for example, Jean Baudrillard’s America and Umberto Eco’s Travels in Hyperreality.

 

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda and the Secret Life of Hato Kenjiro – guest essay by asandyrabbit

Genshiken Dropout‘s asandyrabbit considers Kiss Him Not Me, fujoshi socials and harems, Genshiken Nidaime/ Spotted Flower and the power of the One True Pairing.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have have enjoyed working with them to bring it here. Be sure as well to visit their blog for the companion essay ‘I an Hato” (link below in notes).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me!
Comedy, Reverse Harem, Romance, Slice of Live, Shoujo
Junko (2013 —)

(Also you better bet I am talking about Genshiken and Spotted Flower. Spoilers for all three series.)

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you watch or read Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda— it’s kind of just bad in a lot of ways. It’s a mashup of generic shoujo tropes, typical reverse harem stories, and it just looks worse than its competitors in the reverse harem market. However, it unintentionally hits on a lot of points regarding Fujoshi Culture and through this, one can find way more character depth than really was probably intended in one of the members of the harem. Here’s how.

Serinuma, the girl at the center of the reverse harem, is a through-and-through fujoshi under the specific definition of “A woman who likes BL” (as opposed to a generic term for a female fan of anime / manga, as I have seen some people use). There are not many fujoshi in anime, and only a few more in manga. When you look at most of the titles, though, Genshiken, Fudanshiism, Mousou Shoujo Otaku-kei, Tonari no 801-chan, Ruriro no Yume, the number of manga written about fujoshi that are by fujoshi is rather small, and those that are less well-known.  This means that the majority of portrayal of fujoshi is not by fujoshi at all— in fact, often times it’s a male perspective of fujoshi, writing fujoshi characters from what they see on the outside. There are a lot of assumptions that must be made about what fujoshi actually do, since it’s kind of secretive a lot of the time, and, again, most of these stories about fujoshi are not actually written by fujoshi. The few exceptions, Fujoshi Kanojo, Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, etc, put greater priority on non-fujoshi characters (though in the case of Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, the fudanshi largely just act the same as fujoshi would but they’re male so you can ship them).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is then one of the first manga and then anime written by a fujoshi, with a shoujo and fujoshi audience in mind, featuring and focusing on a protagonist who is a fujoshi. This is special because it can be seen as the author giving a role model to the audience of what a fujoshi is and what fujoshi do. It’s the first time I have seen a fujoshi protagonist in a role the audience is supposed to relate to, and it’s good to see her being a fujoshi is influential upon the plot beyond “Oh, look at this weird thing that she is.” In cases like Fujoshi Kanojo, et cetera, the girl who is a fujoshi is that way just as a way of defining her personality, with its influence on the plot limited to “Oh she’s weird so I have to get used to her being weird.”

The idea of fujoshi rejecting romance in favor of BL has been hashed and rehashed to oblivion, but usually it’s more from a perspective of “I value my BL more than romance.” Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is the next logical step in this— Serinuma acts like she values her BL more than romance, but in reality she’s afraid of going out with a guy. So why not have her go out with a girl instead? After all, fujoshi are virtual lesbians, guys! Haven’t you read Akiko Mizoguchi’s Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan yet? At least you remember when Patrick Galbraith mentions that some fujoshi identify as lesbians because of their sexual connection to one another in Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan! Come on, get with the times already. I highly doubt Nishina, the lesbian in the reverse harem, was made with the intent of commenting on this idea, but with the understanding of fujoshi as virtual lesbians, Nishina’s relationship with Serinuma becomes much more complex.

When Nishina first invited Serinuma over to her house, there was an implication of Nishina making a move (hence why the boys all interfere) while she was there, to bridge the gap between virtual lesbians and literal lesbians. This transition is much easier for one to make than from straight to lesbian, since there is a pre-existing quasi-sexual bond between the two. Had Nishina and Serinuma not been fujoshi but just regular friends, Serinuma may have still accepted the invitation, but she would not have been so willing to demonstrate to the boys how to pose for their BL photo shoot. It’s the implicit bond of “We’re fujoshi, therefore we can talk about sexy things,” that makes this so easy for Nishina to make advances the way she does. Add to this the predisposition Serinuma has toward rejecting they boys’ advances because she’s a fujoshi— she would rather watch them fuck each other than fuck them herself, and Nishina presents herself as a painfully obvious resolution to the harem within a couple of volumes. She’s the only one who Serinuma can be with without taking away from people Serinuma can ship (Well, you COULD ship your boyfriend with other guys while in a relationship, but you may have noticed how Ogiue’s attention on SasaMada seemed to decline the more she realized her attraction to him). The farthest extent one can go in denouncing all men so they are left available to ship is by being a lesbian, which is precisely what Nishina represents.Wait a second, did Nishina just confess to Serinuma in the sixth episode of the anime?

Oh shit! She did. In the manga, this mini-arc was structured after the scene where all the members of the harem confess all at once, but in the anime, the full harem confessing is at the end of the show and Nishina is in the sixth episode. So in the manga, when Nishina says, “I love you senpai!” it is simply restating what we got a couple of chapters ago. But in the anime, Nishina’s beaten everybody to the punch by six whole episodes. Now her advantage is not only the first kiss, but the first confession. So Nishina wins the harem, right? Wrong!!! Here enters the trials and tribulations of any good generic harem show and… you know, why the fuck did Sue win the Madarame harem because she confessed first, but Nishina hasn’t won the Serinuma harem???

This is bullshit!

So, what happened? Why hasn’t Nishina won? Why is everybody in the harem so freaked out about Mutsumi attempting to confess to Serinuma in episode 11? Is it really just because the anime team did a stupid panel-by-panel adaptation of the manga without consideration to these things, or is it something more?

Nishina made it clear from the start that she was interested in getting some sweet sweet fujoshi alone time with Serinuma, but ever since then her interactions have been so platonic. The only exception to this was in the episode where Igarashi refuses to let Nishina sleep in the same room as Serinuma (and even here a character other than Nishina is reminding the audience that Nishina’s aiming to be more than just a fellow fujoshi). So why is it that after Nishina confessed to Serinuma, she seems to be falling behind the others as more of just a fujoshi buddy to Serinuma?

Dismiss this as a result of poor structuring by the people making the anime, but I like to believe there is something else going on, something that gives Nishina a level of depth far beyond any other character in the series:

The fujoshi zone.

The only explanation for how Nishina confessed to Serinuma, but everyone freaks out about Mutsumi attempting to confess five episodes later, is that Nishina’s confession was only as a friend, or rather, as a fellow fujoshi. When Serinuma describes Nishina, she calls her a soul mate. Not friend, not lover, but soul mate. This enters a nebulous gray zone (we’re kindred spirits, so claims Chiba Saori of Hourou Musuko) of not-quite friend, not-quite romantic interest. This is much like the realm that fujoshi occupy with one another. The bond created by virtual lesbianism is stronger than typical friendship —after all, most friends don’t comfortably chat about their sexual fantasies with one another— but it still lacks something from a typical romantic relationship, and that is the direct interest. One’s sexual fantasies are filtered through BL rather than directly stated to one another. It’s not quite having a partner, rather, it’s more of a formalized communal experience.

When Serinuma is on the date, she claims Nishina is “fun to be around.” There is no mention of an actual romantic interest, or her own personal fear thereof that she experiences with all the boys. Meanwhile, on Nishina’s side, this should be an opportunity for her to show all her love for Serinuma, which she 100% nails in the setup. A romantic cruise, fancy clothes, a classy plane flight. She even makes it partway into her pick-up after introducing her probably-rehearsed line about the plane itself. “When I see such beautiful scenery…”

Screen Shot 2016-12-25 at 02.27.15.png

We wait in anticipation. Here is where Nishina gets serious! She’s showing her love for Serinuma that has been weirdly absent for the past few episodes!

…And then we get discussion of yaoi pairings. Dammit Nishina! You were so close.Nishina had the crutch of virtual lesbianism to get close to Serinuma before any of the boys could, but now she has found herself unable to stand without that crutch. Serinuma’s continually reinforced her love of Nishina as a fellow fujoshi, a virtual lesbian, and not as a romantic interest, and Nishina’s found herself unable to remind Serinuma of her actual interest. Nishina is ignoring her romantic interest in favor of having a fellow fujoshi friend. So, while in Nishina’s confession to Serinuma in episode 6, she may have been trying to express her romantic love, it comes off as nothing more than a token of their close friendship, their fujoshiship.

One could argue that any harem is built around boxing oneself into the friend zone, but quickly Igarashi brings Serinuma to understand he’s not there to just be her friend, and the others soon follow suit, except Nishina. (1) Each of them go on the dates with Serinuma, and, even if they seemingly do not succeed, everyone but Nishina is going for the romance. But the moment that Nishina has a romantic line ready, she chickens out and turns it into an excuse to talk about BL. It’s not a case of obsession or of miscommunication, it’s a case of Nishina boxing herself into the friend zone, or rather the fujoshi zone, ever since the fallout over their reversible pairing argument. She had plenty of opportunities besides the date in the last episode to make a move on Serinuma— they spent an evening in the hot spring together, just the two of them. Hell, given how much they talk about conventions and BL and how buddy-buddy they are, surely they visit Otome Road together, just the two of them. It does not make sense why she would not have made a move already, unless it’s the fact that Nishina’s too afraid to express her legitimate romantic interest in Serinuma out of fear she will lose the bond of fujoshiship they already have.

We can pinpoint the exact moment where things change. In episode 6, her original intent was to assert her superiority as a fujoshi and cut ties with the BL side of Serinuma, meaning she can pursue her as a romantic interest exclusively. But she realized that hurting the BL side of her relationship with Serinuma would hurt her chance at romance, so she was stuck doing the only thing she could: not interfering at all with her connection to Serinuma as a fujoshi, and hoping that she could pursue romance as well. But, because of this, and because Serinuma reinforced their connection as fujoshi and pushed away their connection as lovers, Nishina found herself growing comfortable with just being buddies. She got close to Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi, but she was also ultimately distanced from Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi. So ultimately, Nishina becomes stuck as purely a virtual lesbian— stuck in pure fantasy.

This of reminds me of another harem arc wherein the only same-sex character is able to get closer than the other harem members because of their connection through those means, but their ultimate downfall is their inability to escape from fantasy. It’s almost like the reason I’m so attached to having Nishina win the harem is as a way of making up for Hato losing the harem in Genshiken! The ultimate difficulty Madarame cites in dating Hato is that Hato is too obsessed with fantasy; so much so that they can’t just accept the possibility of romance at face value and go with it. The closest bonding experiences with Madarame that they had were often the most real— when the two of them talked as just friends, or when Madarame was so impressed by the simple gift Hato gave him of homemade chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

Ultimately, Nishina and Hato have the same downfall— their inability to escape fantasy and enter the real world, and have their romance with their crush as sincere romance. Originally I was hoping Nishina would succeed where Hato failed— after all, Nishina’s got a leg up on Hato by being able to be virtual lesbians with her crush, rather than just otaku buddies. But I was mistaken. The problem from before is the problem now.

This is the fujoshi zone. (2)

Wait a second, it seems like I’m forgetting something here. Hato… Madarame…. Maybe there’s an alternate universe set several years in the future wherein Madarame and Hato actually fuck?

No way. This can’t be happening. Miracles don’t just happen. I have to be dreaming! Kio has to be making it in a dream! But… if it’s real, what could this mean?

If, in Genshiken, Hato was ultimately defeated by their fantasies, Spotted Flower’s !Hato is reunited with !Madarame by their fantasies. They even say themselves that they’re remembering another dream from the college days— one where !Madarame (or is it the Genshiken’s Madarame?) is the sou-uke. Only because of their ruthless perseverance to make !HatoMada reality are they, years in the future, able to steal from !Sasahara !Saki !Madarame’s anal virginity (after giving their own, mind you). It is like the answer all along was that if you hold on to your fantasies and dreams for long enough, they will become reality. It’s almost like my fantasy for HatoMada to become reality was answered, as was theirs! It’s almost like… I am Hato! (3)

So, what does this all mean for Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda? Can the recent development in Spotted Flower foreshadow a conclusion to the Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda harem? Are all the basic bitches who want Igarashi to win sadly mistaken under the notion that Nishina’s just a boring-ass lesbo fujoshi? If Nishina was to be Serinuma’s answer, then everything would fall into place. Her arc would conclude by being able to show her affection for Serinuma, not only as a fujoshi but as a lover, and we would all have a happy ending.

Ah, shit, I’m kidding myself.

We got !Hato and !Madarame to fuck once, but it’s far from the point of !Madarame divorcing !Saki, giving her the child support, and taking !Hato as his new lover. Hell, we’ve gotta take !Yajima out of the picture too. (4) I’ve just had a year of intense sadness and disappointment over the regrettable conclusion to the Madarame Harem only to find endless joy in seeing Hato and Mada really do it in each others’ butts. Maybe you can’t handle that kind of thing because it’s too gay, so let’s put in your mind this instead— Hato and Madarame fucking in Spotted Flower is good indication that Nishina and Serinuma will fuck, and straight guys looove them some yuri, amirite?

I do think that is something to explore: How is the yuri-potential in Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda affected by being written for girls versus for guys? There is definitely a difference from what you see in general yuri manga. The girls’ ones focus much more heavily on interpersonal connections, friendship, often more clear gender roles, often including the influence of sexism, whereas the guys’ ones are more about there being a couple of cute babes having sex and being cute together.

Knowing though that Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda was drawn by a woman, could it be that Nishina’s actually not a loser, she was just drawn that way? After all, it’s only after her and Serinuma have had their struggles and dissatisfaction with one another (fallout from the “Akane x Lord / Lord x Akane” debate (5)) that they can begin the path to more than just friendship. We’ve got the gender roles— Hell, Serinuma mistook Nishina for a boy when they first met. We’ve got the fast start with a kiss, followed by the period of uncertainty. Has all of this just been a ploy by Nishina to get closer than ever to Serinuma? Nishina has developed her connection with Serinuma to the point they two are unbreakable, so Serinuma’s connection must therefore be just as strong. How are any of the boys supposed to interfere with that? Maybe it isn’t Nishina in the fujoshi zone, but Serinuma, and Nishina is the patient (not predatory guys! Predatory lesbians totally don’t exist in yuri, I’m sure Junko the BL author knows that and will give a very consensual representation of same-sex relationships) lesbian waiting for the right time to make a move. Now that would truly reflect Spotted Flower— !Hato’s insistence was met with flat rejection by !Madarame, but when !Madarame is weak and lonely, now he finds himself reminded of the possibility. Shit, it seems like Nishina has a plan! All we need is for Junko to follow through on it.

Wait, what? I’m getting new information from my sources… it seems that the harem is over, and Serinuma hooked up with Mutsumi?

Heh. Sure, go ahead and believe it, ye most gullible of folk. I think we here all see the writing on the wall. We all know the truth now. Nishina is the only one for her— there can be no other. We may have Serinuma and Mutsumi in the main canon for now, but just you wait for the sequel. Just you wait! Serinuma will be through with that boy before you know it. You all expect me to believe Serinuma’s going to be upset about her newfound boyfriend getting it on with another boy? This is just a thinly veiled expression of her dissatisfaction with their relationship. If !Yajima will let !Hato go for the sake of fulfilling their BL fantasies, then you can’t convince me Serinuma, who easily exceeds the passion for BL of !Yajima, would be against seeing her man get it on with another man. I don’t buy it for one second. Just a few volumes earlier she was shipping him with the shota-bait! I’m all for character development, but I’m not buying that she can possibly be dissatisfied with this turn of events. And then for Mutsumi to ask her which she prefers: her waifu or him. The gall! If she seriously answers with him, I’m going to be done. Junko, you’ve turned the moral of the story into, “Being a fujoshi is bad! Get a boyfriend, get married, bear his children, and forget about your life as a virtual lesbian.” I may not know Junko the person, but I do know she’s written some well-respected BL. She’ll see the only possible outcome here. Serinuma’s going to break it off with this Mutsumi bitch and FULFILL HER DESTINY WITH NISHINA! FOR THE FUTURE! FOR BL!

FOR HATOMADA!!!!!

— asandyrabbit (asandyrabbitblog.wordpress.com), October 25, 2017

Footnotes:

1: …And Mutsume. This is one of the arguments I see people saying for why Mutsume is the best option, because he treats her as a friend, blah blah blah. Yea, I’ll give you that point. He’s certainly a believer that lovers can be friends too. But what makes for a better friend, someone who’s just ordinarily kind, or someone who has much of the same generosity but also is much more relatable? I don’t think there’s a right answer to that, but I do think there’s a right answer to Mutsume vs Nishina. Come to think of it, maybe the reason people don’t consider Nishina to have the same attitude of “lovers and friends” that Mutsume has is because she’s a girl? Like, maybe people naturally assume they’d be friends before lovers— all lesbians are, right? Let’s ignore the “lesbians rent a U-Haul on the second date” stereotype. Nishina definitely has a different kind of kindness from Mutsume, I would say though. Mutsume is more focused on simple human compassion and empathy, whereas Nishina is more focused on just spoiling Serinuma to her heart’s content. Perhaps Mutsume’s attitude is better since it’s more of an emotional equality, but in the long run, what we would likely see is Serinuma grow accustomed to Nishina’s luxurious lifestyle, thus making them equals in that regard. Perhaps as well then, Mutsume and Nishina are largely doing the same thing, and the difference in their actions is the result of socioeconomic differences? Shit! This should be its own post.

2: I have a series of six posts on Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda which everything up until this point is a compressed version of. If you decide to check me out you can skip those posts.

3: https://asandyrabbitblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/i-am-hato/

4: Well, maybe. Perhaps !Madarame will see the real American dream: getting a threesome, and he’ll be convinced to marry both of them. Harem all over again! Wait, shit. If !Yajima agreed to that, then we really would have a harem. I don’t know where !Sue lies nowadays, but I’m sure !Angela would still be plenty willing to give him a good fucking. Add in !Saki and we really do have another harem. Take that you normie bitch! Who’s lusting after who now, huh? Oh, I guess she already was anyway.

5: …of which I have to heavily disagree with their resolution. Akane x Lord is obviously the right answer, which, knowing Nishina to be the bright young lady she is, makes me assume she agreed to reversibility for Serinuma’s sake. No, this isn’t a reversible pairing, not with such distinctive roles. Akane is clearly the protective top. Hell, he transforms into armor for goodness sake. Can’t get more protective than that. He’s the one to make the first move of transforming into the armor to save the Lord. Plus, sticking with traditional roles, the lord would be the slimmer, more delicate, feminine one from a life of leadership, as opposed to the stronger, more masculine Akane. If you have Akane as a top, there’s such good potential for drama— the jealousy over the Lord’s concubines, as is implicit in his nature as a protector, the dashing saving of the Lord from sticky situations with his transformation (and getting the Lord into other sticky situations, NAWMSAYIN?)… it goes on. I’m a fan of reverse pairings, so naturally I would be interested to see how Lord x Akane would turn out, but you have to admit that the natural order is Akane x Lord.

Referenced material:

Akiko Mizoguchi – “Reading and Living Yaoi: Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan” [https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=5822]

Patrick Galbraith –  “Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan!”
[http://www.academia.edu/3665371/Fujoshi_Fantasy_Play_and_Transgressive_Intimacy_among_Rotten_Girls_in_Contemporary_Japan ]

The Friendly Ones — Hatsukoi Zombie

HATSUKOI ZOMBIE/ First Love Zombie
Comedy, Ecchi, Gender Bender, Romance, School Life, Shounen
Minenami Ryou (2015 – )

Warning: Spoilers ensue. Also blog stuff and why? why? why?

For those of you who have dropped by looking for a simple review of Hatsukoi/ First Love Zombie, I should attend to the preliminaries and warn you about what goes on here. It is good, go read it. Need a summary? The TV tropes page is useful:[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/HatsukoiZombie]. I like the clean drawing style and that the storyline pacing keeps up with the ridiculous premise. It is also a fan-service mess penned for young guys who like exaggerated drawings of healthy, curvy and busty high school girls and a brilliantly contrived piece of foolishness designed to provide endless opportunities for somewhat plot-justified ecchi cheese dropped on top of a Shakespearian gender-bendery love comedy. Good wholesome fun and a competent teen-age love triangle all in one. It is drawn by Minenami Ryou — his newest series after the rather dire seinen Himegoto-Juukyuusai no Seifuku — and has been running in the weekly Shonen Sunday magazine since November 2015. There are somewhere around 90 chapters of it out so far; it appears to be durable enough of a concept.

Now for what this blog essay is going to grind on (and on) about: longtime readers will note that I stray into the sexuality and gender stuff, as portrayed in manga and anime. I blame Kio Shimoku and the Genshiken, but until I see if Kio-sensei is planning to level up on Spotted Flower (the somewhat less than a decade later, somewhat followup with characters that sure look like Genshiken alumni), I continue to cast about for odd things to snag and do kitchen sink something-that-might-look-like-sexuality-and-gender-studies on manga and anime, to; from the point of view of a middle-aged, het euroethnic guy.

Why?

Why indeed? Why did Kio Shimoku, whose nom-de-plume supposedly conceals a married Japanese guy, re-start his tale of a university otaku club only to stuff it with fujoshi and one crossdressing boy who wanted to be a fujoshi? And why did he crib and simplify all manner of academic theorising about the wayward hearts of otaku, fujoshi and minority gender and sexuality expressions, in Japan circa 2002-2006 to do so?

I stole the tagline conceit of this blog from Jean Baudrillard’s The Mirror of Production (which you don’t have to read to get any of this). The title conceit is somewhat more complicated. The method is akin to literary reviews, bad sociology, some of the useful bits of “critical theory” and a touch of post-lacanian conceptual jiu-jitsu that Zizek sometimes does well and that he swiped from Jimbo when the latter was in full Nihilist Spasm poetic mode. While I try not to be ignorant about real-life gay guys and lesbian women, as well as queer, non-binary, trans and gender-fluid folks, beyond a few posts noting resources and perennial cautions that there are real folks out there that are concerned, I stick to the way manga, anime and game production — aimed as it is at a “majority audience”, can’t stop making up distorted reflections of LGBTQIA, ect., people.

I wonder why “we” need to do this?

For one thing “we” are incorrigible kleptomaniacs. High modernist cultures are like graduate thesis advisors; they grab any shiny new thing they come across. Good ones give credit. Bad ones steal and try to cover their tracks, often by pissing on who and what they swiped from. For how to do this in a self-aware manner, search this blog for Adrian Piper and read those posts later. I have a background in sociology and then bureaucracies and cities and policy stuff about them. Then I went to art school because I could and it was a blast – due to having the good fortune of being in the right country, during the right recession. The whole postmodern thing was just hitting the fan back then but the neat thing about the way a somewhat competent, if theoretically inclined art programme handles that stuff is that it doesn’t really take any of it seriously. It only grabs what it can use to make something, presumably “art”, with. “Uhuh, Foucault, yadda yadda yadda, every time I try to make something using his shit I get another useless Panopticon ref“. Your mileage of course, may vary. Misunderstanding on purpose is how sausage gets made. Details available at your discretion.

I immediately get some of why the straight boys and girls are dreaming in queer, beyond any interest we might have in satisfying our immediate curiosities (they’re looking in the wrong place, Indy…) Now that a few of the better neighborhoods in the global village are getting somewhat less barbaric, we might soon see less fantastic shadows and more interesting, new and authentic points of view that ‘we’ can misunderstand and try to squeeze some value-added out of. Better than spending all night on nasty little misogynist and racist patches of the web until you go paranoid and convince yourself to hysterically lose your job at Google by penning a manifesto that “proves” that “those people”, shit, “all people not exactly like meeeeeeee can’t do Google stuff. It’s a Conspiracy! Lizard Men! High paying job bye-bye. “I would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling Social Justice Warriors!” This is not a new affliction: one of the dudes who helped invent the transistor went all squirrelly that way 70 years ago. As they used to say in the ‘hood; ‘watch your head’.

Or was it ‘always do the right thing’?

Meanwhile, it is glaringly obvious that when the shadow of queer falls on a character in a “mainstream” narrative, it is there for a reason; for a use. And we are well beyond needing to dig out such for dumb scary villain roles. Nope, we need someone to “highlight the contradictions” and/or do something that we can’t or wouldn’t — beyond any bodies getting tangled up in new and interesting ways. Finally “we” will keep using these shadows because perhaps, maybe, somehow, we can find stories that offer new ideas as to how two people can put up with each other beyond being forced to do so by custom and law.

“The last violence we impose upon the queer of our straight imaginations is the burden of our hopes.”

We have these needs. We wont stop.

It’s been six years since I started this blog. It has been a lot of fun and I have at the very least learned enough to venture a few opinions, or maybe mansplain to myself and whoever cares to read this stuff, why I like some things and really loathe others. Some academic types call this deep reading. I think of it as paying attention or even being a fan. And it remains far more fun than detective novels or politics. No one gets killed, most of the time. The worst that happens is that I stumble upon some interesting research being done by gay, lesbian, queer researchers and geek out on it and go all off-topic on their interests with my het-ish concerns. So far the overwhelming majority of these researchers have been patient and gracious when I kibbitz, even as they try to figure out what possible interest I would have in, for example 1970-1980’s patterns of ‘types’ among patrons of Tokyo gay bars (short answer: I’m guessing early fujoshi went on a verisimilitude hunt for their stories and organising schemas are useful when you need to be able to locate your doujin in big thicky Comiket catalogs).

If Kio Shimoku can grab such research to whomp up a university fujoshi social, why can’t I do so to understand his, and similar works?

Odd hobbies are a thing in manga and anime… neh?

Enough of this; time to tear into First Love Zombies or “Psychic manifestations of high school guys’ first loves and how they can really cause grief for anyone who can see them.”

1) They are distracting
2) They are embarrassing
3) You now half-remember her
4) Everyone at school thinks you are gay
5) Your manifestation is now self-aware, sentient and will watch you fap, so you can’t.
6) You have to learn how to understand complex interpersonal human dynamics surrounding teen crushes and you are a 15 year old guy. Guys are not supposed to have to do that kind of bucket work!
7) Your one childhood friend who you remember as a girl is a guy. He hates your guts.
8) Your other childhood friend, (you just noticed) is HAWT and she might like you but with these damn things floating around, you be SOL.
9) The wound on your forehead keeps re-opening and bleeding down your face.

10) Ha Ha Ha. Sucks to be you.

A few questions: why rig the story so that the main character Tarou Kurume gets to be misunderstood as the school’s gay guy? Why are there absolutely no floaty beefcake guy ghosts among all the cheesecake girl ghosts? This is statistically impossible. At least the school is an idealised high school romcom bastion of open-minded good behavior. Perhaps it is because Tarou got beaned on the forehead and has been acting not-quite-himself in other ways; it might too nasty to drop a full load of ijime on him. As for the ‘Ewwwwww, don’t come onto me’ thing; he does it so poorly that he isn’t considered a threat. Besides, Ibusuki Ririto is kind of bishie and one could understand why one would, if one was going to go that way…

Next question: Isn’t it a bit unfair, or at least sloppy to do gay — or some manner of ‘queer’ — in such a slipshod fashion? This is not a simple transposition of the BL “I’m not gay, it’s only you“. This is a confused, naive male audience view of “the gay”: attracted to a bishie guy, so one wishes he was a girl. Perhaps dressing as one would be sufficient? This sounds like a josou game but seems to be a “thing”; a popular subset of the imagining and negotiation with same-sex attraction in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture narratives. One would need a lot more sociology to see if and how it maps to current and historical IRL practice. [1]  Of course the story also gets around this, because…

Time for the standard caveats. This will probably be annoying to some real-world gay readers but at least it is only on the level of an old-school crossdressing romantic farce. Besides, it is needed as a setup for the next plot trick.

Why does the “amazing new power with a serious drawback” almost immediately trigger the “mistaken for gay” and…

Why does the character need conditions one and two to get dragged into becoming the school’s love advice expert?

Well, Duh!

The mangaka could instead have done something equally foolish with an isekai setup, wherein the hapless protrag fell into a video game that then transported him to a fantasy world full of scantily clad girls where he has to defeat the demon king…

…By solving teenage love problems at a magic high school/ academy for young heroes…

Urrrrrr, maybe that wouldn’t work. And this stinker’s author would probably end up make the hypothetical groaner character mistaken-for-gay again anyhoo.

See what I mean about the very heterosexual story finding a cut-n-paste use for the shadow of gay? So what if two levels of fakee instead of one are applied to the character design? Maybe three… who’s counting? Must get the main character to solve relationship problems in the process of trying to unravel his own.

It gets more convoluted: the guy who Tarou-kun thought was his kindergarten first love girl, really is a girl who is crossdressing as a guy because she has the same damn curse/ super-power, has had to live through the hell of it for ten years and blames him for it big time. The last thing she is going to do is reveal to him that he (she) is really a girl. Ibusuki-now-kun does boy to avoid having to see cheesy cringe-inducing fantasy versions of her girl-self that would be created if she went around in her girl state. No wait; the-fiend-responsible-for-this-curse has one floating above him; it clearly is modelled on “her”, she talks and is self-aware and she even has a bigger bust than the original. Goddammitalltohell! The idiot even copped a feel in the dark and still thinks that Ibusuki just has chubby man-boob baby fat. Thefoolmustdiepainfully!

Also: boobage as plot device.

This convoluted setup was needed so that slacker everydude high school guy can be forced into playing boy relationship detective. Normally one would need an eroge or dating sim to get a shonen manga (/anime) guy to give a flying squirrel about all that complex can’t/ don’t even wanna try feelings stuff — at least in a game it is systematized and rule-bound. You can grind at it and there are save-points. We need this bullshit setup to solve the shonen/ shoujo problem. Wonder what manner of contrivance would be needed to get a more adult male character story to play with the kind of emotional complexity and painful relationship angst that is routinely rolled out in josei mags?

I recently read a josei manga by the mangaka who does a lot of the covers for Rakuen Le Paradis. Said covers by the way are uniformly hawt as hell. It might have had a guy main character but the ‘Femme Fatale‘ he was fixated on drove him so far around the bend to next Sunday that it was hard to follow. Induced headache. Dude, you have a crush. Don’t over think too much. Just tell her and be there. She’ll do the deciding. You keep third and fourth guessing her while she of course is doing the same. And don’t tell me that the primary audience for this thing are dating-confused twenty-something guys.

Of course Tarou-kun normally wouldn’t bother with anything so confusing — in fact he protests and drags his heels at every opportunity — but those psychic apparitions can go bad and cause real-world harm, so he keeps finding himself having to help, otherwise someone is going to mysteriously trip out of a third-floor window.

And now a complete side excursion that is only slightly related to Tarou-kun’s concussion, confusion, troublesome psychic power and turning him mistaken-for-gay so that he can become the school’s lurv expert.

Time to run this essay off the road:

Over at the (famous and respected) long-running blog on all things Yuri, Okazu’s [okazu.yuricon.com] Erica Friedman recently published a very fine survey of the cliché/ trope of the “mentally ill” lesbian character. “A Survey of Lesbianism and Mental Instability in Yuri” (August 28th, 2017) [http://okazu.yuricon.com/2017/08/28/a-survey-of-lesbianism-and-mental-instability-in-yuri/] Not real-life lesbians as (or as represented as) pathology/ pathologized. Not about similar pathologizing traditions in lurid North American pulp magazines, not about lesbian activism in Japan and not about how to brew your own farm sake:

Characters
in
Yuri
Manga
(and anime)

It is a finely crafted presentation that flows naturally using notable manga (and anime) examples from the early 70’s on up to current practice. Of note is how Friedman advances the argument that the early juxtaposition of mental instability with same-sex desire in characters has slowly given way to the depiction of lesbianism as identity, with its recognition and acceptance a balm to the souls of characters who had previously suffered trauma — often at the hands of patriarchal authority figures. [2]

Friedman has previously written other examinations, notably on the trope of two young women first experiencing attraction for each other — what she has christened Story A — in her 40 Years of the Same Damn Story essays [Pt.1: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/  Pt. 2: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/05/21840/]. I may be mistaken, but I also recall the subject of why lesbian couples kept meeting unfortunate ends (at least until 2007?) had also been examined by her, even as I believe V. Maser went into greater detail on this, as well. Since Erica Friedman knows yuri and knows how it intersects with, but is not anywhere close to a direct mapping of any IRL “lesbianism”; she sticks to THE STORIES. As cliché. As trope. As an exercise in literary/ manga/ moving pictures/ anime criticism while briefly noting historical trends for clues as to why anyone would do such a thing. Note the small changes in the iterations of the form, suggesting evolution in the trope. End of presentation. Any questions?

Cue confusion from the peanut gallery.

Before we consider trying to expand the frame of discussion, asking for footnotes, further examples, prequel studies and a multi-part series considering all the possible tangents from the subject at hand, including real-life spill-over, ethnology and full societal social anthropology, a simple guy like me must stop and ask myself:

Did Jim Morrison really have a massive Daddy-Mommy complex?

Twitter poll:

() Oh Yes, just like Mamet
() No, he got high and went all hacky-copy-pasta.
() Huh? Was he in Nickelback? Song sucks.

Add one more sin to the pile to be layed at the altar of the demon bones of Dr. Freud.[3] Save a bit for Krafft-Ebing too.

Modern medical research is done with record-keeping, coding, statistics and clinical trials. Shoddy pop psychology however remains a treasure trove for writers who need a quick and dirty “just-so” hook to hang a character design on. Shoddy pop psychologizing is also dangerous, as are most mythologies and just-so stories. Governments have routinely grabbed such and used them to push any number of nasty agendas. Then they sit back and do nothing to correct past vicious impositions of such because persistent low levels of discrimination and infighting among the plebs keep the bolshies from getting too many seats in the Diet and demanding crazy things like sensible work hours, living wages and affordable daycare spaces, rather than continuing old-boy cronyism.

I immediately geeked out on Friedman’s essay and dashed off a late-night email, offering excerpt quotes and a link to a neato essay from the early 90’s that I found while researching Edogawa Ranpo lore  [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/your-own-private-game-of-laplace/]. Friedman was gracious in her reply, encouraging me to pursue some of these lines of enquiry myself.

Time to put effort rather than foot where mouth is:

The effect I found fascinating was the possibility of further examination of what happened with the official Japanese adoption of certain late 19th century “western” ideas about sexuality that I am sure must have affected the Japanese stereotyping of lesbian desire, along with gay male desire from the 1920’s on through the early 1960’s.

A recap on the earlier Laplace piece: something always felt a bit ‘queer’ about Japan’s Sherlock Holmes, for good reason. Edogawa Ranpo learned that his detective mysteries sold really well when they were situated in a pervy, pathologized fantasy re-imagining of the ‘floating world”. He didn’t invent it; it already existed in lurid, sensational pulp magazines that hid their fetishization of porny deviance behind quasi-pop-scientific examination (much like the western practice of hiding nekkid lady pictures in Nudist Life magazines) but he sure glommed onto it. There were all kinds of these Ero-guro (erotic-grotesque) mags and Rampo earned his living writing true crime detective stories for them, even as when these were later republished he would be acknowledged as Japan’s answer to Conan Doyle. He also had a friend, an amateur ethnologist and historian who was really annoyed at the way furreign 19th century quack-medical ideas of mostly male same-sex desire were over-writing Japan’s history and traditions surrounding that part of the human experience. Whether Jun-ichi Iwata himself was gay and/or whether Rampo was is besides the point. Iwata’s life research project was pure cultural nationalist reclaiming of the gay as Nihon Jinron Bunka and so he set out to make the ultimate bibliography of all historical literary mentions of Japanese same-sex desire. The big complaint against same-sex desire among Japanese reactionaries is that it was and remains “un-natural”. Iwata sought to show that it is as natural as any other human behavior and that it was always part of Japanese life.

Here’s where it gets interesting: He couldn’t get it published in a scientific journal! There was the militarist police state thing in the 1930’s and then the war started… So buddy Rampo got the first bits of it published in some of those psychologized pulp fiction mags! And after Iwata died his friend Rampo continued to get the rest published as he could, as tribute to his friend’s life work. It was as if Masters and Johnson failed to find any place to publish but Playboy Magazine and then Playboy backed out and it all ended up in something like True Manly Man’s Adventure Man’s Magazine.

Better researchers had already pointed this effect out. See the quotes and citations in the Laplace post. I just thought this quirk of the Japanese 20th century approach to the study of human sexuality needed a quick ‘n dirty, perhaps a tad too snarky Cliff Notes tour, as well as bringing some disparate sources together for the laity. The Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace anime needed context. Laplace is still massively weird; especially how it works overtime to erase the well-known homoerotic subtext in Ranpo lore, turning all the pervert criminals into very, very heterosexual (over-) enthusiastic perverts but then jamming a BL reading onto the friendship between two members of the Baker Street Irregulars ooops: Boys’ Detective Club.

Needless to say this entire shambles is about guys.

What about women who happened to like other women? If there was an urge to lump lesbians together/ explain lesbian desire with (as they used to say in neolithic sociology classes) “deviance” in the imagination of the Japanese public, the Ero-guro and those weird little pulp hentai (literally; strange) magazines would be where this trope would hide for all those years between the 1920’s Flower Stories and the re-emergence of the “lesbian” character in early 1970’s shoujo manga.

One more time: Hentai does not literally mean smutty or dirty or lewd in Japanese. It means strange. Abnormal. Its milder cousin Ecchi literally means “Somewhat “H”(for Hentai)-ish” or “(mildly) strange-like/ish“. The legacy of pathologization of minority sexuality and gender expression is pernicious.

My chance of doing any significant primary research on any of this is on par with my chances for scoring a free Vip tour of the International Space Station but I’ll bet a small box of donuts that something must be hiding there. I can smell it!

Crap! I’m mansplaining (again). Anyone who has researched the field knows this stuff; especially if they have skin in the game. I bet some mighty powerful researchers in Japan are already on the case.

I have a whole boat-load of other interesting notions for trope research. I will stay away from BL; I’d be out of my depth — besides Nagaike did excellent groundwork on this with her “Elegant Caucasians, Amorous Arabs, and Invisible Others:
Signs and Images of Foreigners in Japanese BL Manga” essay [http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/nagaike.htm] — the structure is easily adaptable. In Yuri however, I wish I knew more of the classics. The rich older role model who may (or may not) be one member of a beta couple needs a survey. It would be interesting to watch as she/they evolved. Perhaps she has to be teased apart from the beta couple trope itself into two separate character trope categories? Her opposite/ opposites; the wild child/ war child/ child of the streets. Being poor is almost as unfortunate (and useful) for character design as  mental instability, or unbelievably wealth.

All are marked, even multiply marked as living outside of mandated social roles and behaviors — which is why we keep making up slipshod tales with them. And since they are also outside of social mores and modes of behavior, they can do things. What else? Most 20th century pop psychology maps reality about as well as political commentary on Fox News. It might be better to now go easy on all the sexuality and gender stuff when designing outsider charas but bitten by a radioactive spider is already taken.[4]

Back to the “I’m not gay, it’s only my childhood girlfriend who turned out to be a guy (only he hates me now and I don’t know that he is really a she)” hero of First Love Fanservice Apparitions, Tarou Kurume. His whole class thinks he is gay. It is too complicated to explain otherwise and he wonders if perhaps he might be; at least for Ririto Ibusuki. And if everyone thinks he is gay, it will take a lot of pressure off him because this is an ideal manga high school and no one bullies gay people and besides he can’t deal with love and attraction right now because he is too distracted by all the cringe-inducing cheesecake love-ghosts floating above the heads of all the guys in class – including his own ghost, Eve. The only person who is really left out by all this is his other childhood friend Mei Ebino; an incredibly beautiful, tall and buxom sports girl who is slowly developing feelings for him and wishes he would notice her. (He has, but he also knows that his other friend has a severe crush on her – It’s complicated!)

Being “the gay guy” has its advantages. None of the girls consider him a perv like the other guys — at least in their direction. The guys have settled on the idea that he is only interested in one particular guy (who despises him) and he gets to avoid all manner of messy jealousies and puppy-love triangles. Also, to his classmates he seems uncharacteristically (for a guy) insightful about everyone else’s crushes (he can’t help it – they float over the guys’ heads) and has therefore become the class “love expert” who can solve everyone’s teen-age heart breaks and longings. Solve is a bit of a misunderstanding, he exorcises; the ghosts can go bad and cause real-world harm and Tarou can’t sit back and let it happen. Eve won’t let him.

Clearly the whole puberty thing is just a trail of thorns and tears. Tarou can’t even take solitary enjoyment in porn mags because Eve is always there to make cutesy comments, she talks to him, incessantly! Porn mags? What kind of porn mags? He already gets to see what all the other guys’ fantasies looks like. All the guys in his class. Floating above their heads. Every day.

Cringe!

This has got to be one of the most ingenious ways of mixing an excuse for ZOMG overload with embarrassing laughs over adolescent male discomfort with desire ever devised. Kudos to the mangaka!

Then add a not-so much love triangle between him, Ibusuki and Ebino-chan. Then add Ibusuki’s crossdressed-as-a-girl-child-for-family circumstances cover story and why she hates him: he ‘contaminated’ her with the curse, unconsciously made up cheesecake Eve and the cursed ability was instrumental in breaking up her family — her father is a flake and ran off after his first love (quel disaster!). Therefore everything is all Tarou’s fault.

Ha Ha Ha.

Of note is the plot conflation of being able to read subtle interpersonal clues and notice other people’s desires as a “super power” and/or “curse” for a “normal” heterosexual young male chara. Cartoon guys are not supposed to have or want to have a clue — let alone publicly admit to having a clue about such things. Emotional bucket work is women’s work. Emotional complexity the fabric of their recreational fictions. Exceptions to this rule are a marker of “the other”; often the minority sexuality and/or gender-expressing male, who by nature of their position outside of the social norm is attuned to such patterns, even beyond the normal abilities of conforming women members. At least, like the two-souled indigenous-culture shaman or Thai transperson they are worth consulting for a second opinion.

I will not go all J.G. Frazer here. On Shinto, nope…

Yet desire and identity are irresistible subjects to question and play with. And nothing highlights the contradictions like a character that doesn’t fit the authorised specs. Take these away and there is nothing left but fighting, money, machines and freezing to death on the top of a mountain. Unfortunately, being creative is hard, low paying work and we are, all of us rather lazy when it comes to constructing and/or accepting characters and fleshing out (/buying into) their motivations.

One axis of this mess is how an author needs a convincing excuse for a character that is “the other” in order to give the character a measure of freedom and agency, as well as an outsider vantage point towards social structures.

Another axis runs the length of the question as to why all manner of people who are not attracted to the folks that their fave characters are attracted to will continue to need to make up far-fetched shadows of real minority sexualities and gender expressions. Even if we do get a tale spun by an authentic LGBTQ author, it will still have to pander to majority clichés or, at least until recently settle for very limited publication runs. There are too many of us riajuu underfoot; companies want our patronage.

If you wade into ethnicities, race and colonialism, we also all go wild making up (or supporting) exotic “others” as charas to fetishize too. Let’s not go there right now, except to mention that part of why the weeb legions of the west are so geeked on Japan is that we watch the Japanese reader/ viewer doing it back to us. And they do it in all kinds of interesting yet somewhat disturbing ways, which is an entire new experience! (again: Adrian Piper). Such illusions remain surprisingly resistant to disruption. At their simplest, they reinforce the useful delusion that the greatest threat to our well-being lies outside, rather than within our own socials.

Thank Ghu these aren’t floating around above our heads. Wouldn’t that would make for one nasty manga…

How about a preliminary, if transactional schema:

Complete alien/ THREAT => opponent/ threat => comic relief/ not a threat => faces challenges poorly because of X/ not a direct threat but disconcerting => faces challenges and surmounts them once realises that X is their strength/ not a threat, abstract moral example => different point of view/ not a threat, might be useful => interesting friend/ valuable as an ally.

I wish they would go more into Aeschylus’s The Friendly Ones when they teach the Merchant of Venice in high school. Shakey dumbed Shylock down wayyyyy too much for the cheap seats. Of course the well-educated caught the reference to the earlier classical play. Even rich bigots need good accountants.

Ceremonial robes of citizenship for the useful ones.

Being able to process and cope with complex interpersonal emotional situations is not a shonen lead chara thing. Have I mentioned that I cannot get into Evangelion because having a teen boy shit-fit-freak-out in order to power up a giant robot is just too far around the bend for me to care about — even as it is posited as the “correct” shonen response to emotional turmoil. Part of the charm of Koyomi Araragi’s harem in the Monogatari franchise is that all the emotional problems that beset its good-looking young women turn into physical supernatural manifestations that, while dangerous can be “purged” by contest (mostly finished by the ruined mini-vampire) or trickery. Or you can just let the girls bat you around until they get bored and work it out themselves.

If you have an insightful, resourceful teenage guy character who can understand and resolve complex interpersonal conflicts and who does not have a hidden super-power or is not marked as having queer desires and/or gender expressions, then he has to be a depressed, self loathing hater of all humanity; as in “My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected“. The outsider vantage point necessary for insight and agency. Come to think of it, Araragi-kun had a touch of this too before he met his vampire. His “bad uncle” Kaiki is even worse.

One other hole in the plot structure: why does a girl need the ability to see such apparitions, when she would “normally” absorb the gender-marked ability to read all manner of complex emotional interpersonal dynamics in the process of socializing into her role as a woman in society? Ibusuki was “contaminated” by an ‘abnormal’ male power, is wealthy and therefore somewhat isolated from mainstream socialization pressures and adopted male presentation as an interim solution to her affliction, thus probably dooming herself to her continued condition. Yikes! Another heavy-handed just-so story sneaks into the tale to do some gender-role policing!

Beyond all these fantasies lies the last boss of reality; the insurmountable fact that messy teen longings cannot be solved by anyone, let alone by a boy relationship detective, no matter what manner of fantastic status is given to the main chara as/ along with small super-powers.

You do not understand the heart of a man.

First Love Cheesecake Apparitions remains fun and far less dire than the mangaka’s previous effort. Floating pantsu overload aside, it is chaste and well-behaved. No playing with fire, everyone has their whole lives ahead of them — as long as they can get through adolescence without getting maimed by a jealous first love ghost. The other interesting bit about the story setup is how it foregrounds the emotional turmoil of the high school guys. It becomes, in effect a mechanistic boys-do-simplified-shoujo-manga analogue. Note who gets to work through, or fail to work through their romantic problems. Of the two women main characters only the one who presents as a boy gets significant wrestle-with-their-feelings time. It takes the other one, Ebino-chan some 80 chapters and a school play before she realises that she might actually like her childhood friend, that way.

It’s all about the lads after all.

A final complication lies dormant in the story set-up; how young guys’ fantasies of their crushes over-write the reality of the actual person they are supposed to be interested in (the grandpa arc touched on some of this). If the mangaka wants to spin the tale out for another hundred chapters, they can have most of the happy couples that boy relationship detective brought together split up, with a chorus of angry young women complaining that the guys immediately grew bored with (real girls) them. This effect also jumps over to reader expectations; forum discussions about a current “gummint-pairs-up-teens” anime has (at least on one forum) derailed into a nostalgic revisitation of why Mysterious Girlfriend X was much, much better.

Destroy everything we touch

Tarou is the quintessential low-energy male romcom lead. The only remedy for such lethargy is edgy romantic confusion (spoon-fed to him in a linear, easy to digest manner). Guys are suckers for this kind of nonsense, as it is far easier and much more fun than paying attention to the person in front of you. Better than naughty knickers too!

If Hatsukoi Zombie lurches to a standard, predictable conclusion Ibusuki will decide that she-as-she still has feelings for Tarou and then stop “presenting” as a guy. Then the “super power” can get toned down or controlled for both her and Tarou, so that only Eve remains with autonomy enough to wander off and/or disappear as she choses. And Ebino-chan will find someone who makes her heart go doki-doki more than Tarou does.

BORING!

Ibusuku should be maneuvered by the mangaka into dropping their masquerade, trying girl mode for a week, surprising the entire school, claiming Tarou as her own and then reverting to a bifauxnen guy school uniform presentation because “I feel more comfortable this way’. She is rich and can do anything she wants. Drop in some mumbo jumbo about it minimizing Ibusuki-chan apparitions and this otherwise vanilla cheesecake manga can go out (or drag on) in ways that Uso Lily dipped its toe into but never developed.

I’m not gay, my girlfriend just likes the boi look“. Eve to have fun with Utena cosplay and otokoyaku Takarazuka outfits.

Straight folks won’t stop making up our ideas of the gay (etc.). We won’t stop. Ever. We have needs. The best that everyone can hope for is that some of the worst squick and dirty versions that get whomped up are retired as massively uncool and finally so hateful that to drag one out would indicate that something is not entirely ok with anyone who did so’s head space. Maybe real gay folks can even add some new, better stuff to the trope stockpile, so that the rest of us can pillage them.

Oh Lookie! A shiny, shiny new thing called queer! I got this great shonen manga idea…

Facepalm.

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] See “Japanese gay men’s attitudes towards ‘gay manga’ and the problem of genre” by Thomas Baudinette for a contemporary view of how Japanese gay men view these narratives and associated character types.
https://www.academia.edu/25044799/Japanese_gay_mens_attitudes_towards_gay_manga_and_the_problem_of_genre
Of note by the same researcher, on modern Japanese gay male identification by self-identity/preference-type; “Constructing identities on a Japanese gay dating site: Hunkiness, cuteness and the desire for heteronormative masculinity” and how this maps out in urban space in Tokyo’s gay bar district; “The spatialisation of desire in a Japanese gay district through signage“, available at his Academia.edu page:
https://mq.academia.edu/ThomasBaudinette

[2] I nominate Princess Principal to any appendix list, with “spy des” as stand-in for clearly imputed women’s affective bonds. All the father figures in that anime so far are sexist, often dangerously harmful shits. They get killed a lot too. Oh heck, there should be room for Haibane Remnai too; that face in the train apparition

[3]  I better watch my own soul here. Herr Doktor and an ancestor were academic rivals and the latter’s complaints with Freud were undoubtedly tainted by bad faith.

[4] There is even a curious rejoinder to this Fox News psychologizing effect; if the battleground shifts from science to fabulation then the fables themselves must become contested ground. Iwata was not the only example of this impulse. What the devil was I doing reading Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick? One of the founders of queer theory‘s main works was in effect historical literary analysis and critique: lookie at all those 19th century high literature tales of male friendship. Lookie what must be hiding between the lines. Ok sure, but I reserve the right to voice a “Helmut” rejoinder now and again. It is as easy to fetishize (male) friendship as it is to fetishize gay and lesbian desire. I would never consider imputing “slashy” praxis to Sedgwick. Nope, not me…

Fearsome Asymmetry

“This Story Is Just 2,000 Words Of A Baby Boomer Mansplaining Hentai”
— A Twitter Bot post

“Conclusion: I love cake”
— A not-bot twitter post.

Nise x Koi Boyfriend/ Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely
Ataru Yamamoto  (2014)
Serialized In Be x Boy Magazine
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=113661 
SPOILERS ENSUE.


Instead of adding to the essay series “The Naming of Parts” I have been diverted; first by the recent plot twists in Spotted Flower and now, by stumbling across an exemplary bit of Shoujo-fied BL. Normally, the latter is not my favorite thing but Nise X Koi does a superb job of showcasing one aspect of BL that is usually hard to wrap one’s head around. You could call it a mode of melodrama or the fetishization of male same-sex romantic confusion; you could call it hot dogs but you would be just as close to understanding the true (insidious) nature of the trick. Theorists dryly describe it as “asymmetry”: an emphasis on the emotional dynamics between characters rather than on a character (a Beautiful Fighting Girl, or a Loli Moe-blob) alone; sometimes to the point where the atmosphere itself is almost a secondary character.

It is worth examining it in action, at least once.

As a bonus, if you were already uncomfortable with stories about male same-sex intimacy, this stylistic trick is going to boost your hate levels into low orbit. Take a deep breath. Not a bug; it’s a feature.[1]

“”Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in anime and manga. Although content with his lot in life, Soutarou also wouldn’t mind having a fateful encounter with a cute girl someday. Lucky for him, he comes home from school one day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.””

Vol. 2 Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely: A sequel to Nise x Koi Boyfriend as a continuation of Soutarou’s and Meguru’s relationship.””
Mangaupdates summary

As one can tell from the description, here there be otokonoko (just one). The English fan translation is being done by a group who go out of their way to scanlate gender-bent fluff manga. They seem to favor shoujo-ish stories, hewing close to the root genre of many contemporary works that play with gender and sexuality. You can get away with almost anything in shoujo manga — as long as you shoujo-fy it. Also, I am using the clunkier otokonoko/ josou/ crossdresser terminology because the conventional western-anglo term has been condemned as hateful out in the real world. Real folks suffer harm because of the original reading of the term. A small measure of polite discretion costs nothing.

A socially clumsy otaku guy and a crossdresser who gets a crush on him. Sounds familiar. Is this a version of the same BL cliché that Genshiken Nidaime‘s Madarame and Hato riffed on? Not quite. If anything I have renewed respect for how the Genshiken‘s author avoided convention. Some of it does however look like something that Hato would draw. It gets lewd.

When a Japanese female-gaze story uses an otokonoko they invoke tropes from past works as well as scavenged real world lore from Japanese (and other) gay communities. Very little about these characters is “trans”; they remain essentially male and inclined toward subjective same-sex intimacy, even if not avowedly “gei“. It is worth emphasizing that the rotten tribes consider male-ness as an irreducible characteristic. Straight, gay, crossdressing, gender-fluid, gender-queer, Japanese, outlander, rich, poor, whatever are all just minor variations in specs of guy-ness. All are fresh meat; therefore male-ness in the gender-fluid character must be preserved.

If human societies are rigged to favor male agency and privilege, shouldn’t all guys then be fictionally frogmarched into taking advantage of all manner of opportunities, so that they can really get “interesting” in stories? Too late for “just because you could don’t mean you should” or “real guys don’t do that!

I have a notion that some fujoshi stories are as, or even more disquieting to real-life gay guys than they are for straight guys. Straight guys will just “oh heck, two guys screwing” and tune out. The chance for a gay male reader to get drawn into the story while feelings of “wrong wrong wrong!” creep up their spine could be a serious factor. The “wrong wrong wrong” effect isn’t necessarily all about the bonking either. Anyone who has researched the genre has run into mentions of the 30-year-old “yaoi controversy” (Yaoi Ronso) in Japan. The substance of the complaints against BL-ifying gay guys is reported as “objectification” and in more recent reoccurrences, ‘fetishization” and mis-representation. The only problem is that such complaints dwell on unintended ends. The mechanics of the “wrong, wrong wrong” (beyond airbrushed violent non-consensual sex and “I’m not gay it’s only you“) remain largely opaque.

Extreme and variable emotional dynamics between the characters is generally not mentioned. Or perhaps a finer distinction is needed. “A Night at the Opera” is Ok every so often, when done by pros. When clueless Chads are nudged into doing a cover version for fujoshi because the audience is geeked on the raw charm of the fail…

If you were an ambitious mangaka and you really wanted to turbocharge this (jarring) effect, you could drape its presentation in the visual stylings of adolescent girls’ romance manga. Wispy hair, expressive big eyed longing glances, floral/iconic backgrounds, flare effects. Since we have a crossdressing character, add cute frilly girl clothes as well. Then pile on all of the usual miscommunication, “notice me sempai”, “who is going to make the first move”, “failing self-confidence”, “I need to prepare my heart”, “no, not yet, not like this” mush from the shoujo genre, only with two male leads who can take turns grinding through the clichéd sequences. This is funny in itself. As well, at any moment either or both characters can snap back into shonen-esque selfishness, resentment, indifference, arrogance, weakness and violence. Drama ensues!

Feeling woozy yet?

Boyfriend lovely ???

Nise X Koi “feels” at first as if it escaped form the pages of Margaret or LaLa magazine and ran gibbering off into the night. Later it gets nasty. Isn’t it in “bad faith” right from the title? Nise as in “fake” or “trick”? Again from the sypopsis, with an upgrade:

“Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in otokonoko genre anime and manga”.

Not only is our diminutive doormat lad an otaku, he’s an otokonoko otaku; the bully-ish group of popular guys at school spot his fave manga and shame him for it. By spitting out his angry “cuteness is justice” defense; “so what, as long as they are cute!’ he lights a flame of hope in the heart of an onlooker. One of those handsome, popular guys has a secret and a fierce need to share it with someone who might accept them for all that they can be.

“…he comes home from school that day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.”

She ain’t just sitting there smoking a ciggy. The crouched down, dejected look on the mystery girl speaks volumes to the longing she initially feels. The mangaka is going to dance along the edge of seduction by deception for a full chapter and a half, as the crossdresser is so wrapped up in their own excitement and insecurities that they forget to check if shy nerd guy has clued in to who the mysterious cutie barging into the apartment is. She and later he just assumes it is obvious and that nerd boy recognises them. This takes a bit of work to clear up but along the way nerd boy gets to show how heroically smitten he has become when the crossdresser gets in trouble and then by dismissing minor details and declaring that he’s enraptured with the complete Meguru-chan experience. Hooray, they now have a happy secret romance. Even some physical intimacy. Roll credits on a two chapter one-shot.

When the story resumes nerd boy starts by backtracking on his commitment to fully appreciate his lover and then develops a severe case of fleeting self-confidence. Then a rival appears. Nerd boy wavers. Otokonoko guy (in guy mode) gets wound-up angry and decides that if boyfriend is going to act like a cowardly doormat, then boyfriend should be spitefully treated in a –ahem– more traditionally yaoi-ish manner. The resulting near sexual assault is mean-spirited and pure raw meat thrown to the intended readership. Satoi-san stomps out of their lover’s apartment in a snit after no finally means no, angry that the one who understood him won’t show any backbone or prove his resolve.

A mite over-wrought, perhaps? [2]

At this point, a gender-studies sociologist might cut in and point out that because they are both well-socialised Japanese males, even if one dresses up like a cute girl, neither of the two are particularly inclined to carry the empathy bucket of sorting out the other’s feelings or do the work of negotiating understandings within the relationship. That’s a plausible excuse for later and perhaps one of the “features” that fujoshi enjoy. For now, it is expected, in-genre behaviour. They are both horny-excited and each wants their shiny new adventure to go their way. Also, those feelings: so intense, so conflicted! Why not let them slip? Fireworks time with light guy-sex.

In female-gaze yuri, everyone would run off for a while and eventually have a frank, serious, somewhat tearful discussion and work things out like adults. Someone would not end up paired off but would wish the happy couple well.

In male-gaze yuri, all would end up in the sack.

In bad faith whoever-gaze yuri one or more involved would be suffering from a serious personality disorder, so that the behavior that causes the suffering can be endlessly repeated over and over; with ever-increasing levels of emotionally wounding sex.

In a bad faith nominally heterosexual melodrama, at least one character might have a severe personality disorder, another a masochistic need for an older woman, another a narcissistic fixation on an self-centered useless old guy and there might be a pining lesbian thrown into the mix. Then the characters can variously paw at each other, because they have agency and therefore they can (neener neener neener) but they will not enjoy any of it because the story is dramatic and shall not feature any happy. Momentary physical pleasure during sullen making out only – this telegraphs literary pretension and allows for a few more turns of characters bouncing between each other for bonus spite-groping. Then all will abruptly stop, grow up and decide to get real lives or wake up and remark that it was all a dream.

The framing of any idea of “bad faith” is, in itself a highly subjective exercise. If you view any particular hetero (or homo-) normality as stifling and oppressive, anything that subverts its expectations is just peachy; even if to the riajuu, it looks like getting stuck in a temporal loop on emo night in a small-town bar.

Forever.

Bad faith is avoided in any of these genres by advancing the plot towards some resolution. Otherwise the game is just endless grinding while wandering the labyrinth. Even someone’s head ending up in a school bag is preferable to endless grinding. When a genre has a whole warehouse-load of plot tropes available for ready use, these can be strung out in service of some eventual resolution. Perhaps even a “good ending”. You lose the “serious literature” vibe with a good ending but more people buy manga than serious literature. Vox Populi, vox profitable publishing company.

If one is more inclined toward linear storylines, characterization and action, having a clump of characters run around going bat-shit random over their horny might not be your idea of a fun read, no matter what manner of bodies are involved. You want the Supply Module to meet up with the International Space Station. You expect a bit of excitement over the launch and docking maneuvers but you will have your mission accomplished!. Having everyone on the station, in the module and in mission control self-sabotage because their heads are all jammed up their particular cray-cray thing de moment (subject to abrupt change in the next 10 minutes) so that the docking almost-but-repeatedly fails, or goes horribly wrong and still repeats, will strain your patience.

No matter how many times Riley sings Kathleen.

For another group of readers, bonking pretty boys may be fun and interesting but it is much, much better when both parties are working through their stereotypical male inability to deal with new emotional situations and overcompensating dramatically while they go at each other’s bods. They can then not only switch positions but cycle through new and unexpected emotional states. Amateurs may deploy some manner of fetish-ry, but this is less effective because it is always marked as play-acting (and is a cheat to avoid actual sex and thereby edge around certain regulations enacted by a past Tokyo Governor). Far more satisfying if the two creatures are pity, hate, fear, love and disgust fucking each other all at the same time!

And they cannot stop!

“Therefore, we can conclusively state that BL holds the potential to be far more obscene than either het, yuri, fetish or gay romantic pr0n. (And that I like cake.) Q.E.D. Certain classes of Bara to remain outside of the comparison range because those are allegorical and if you don’t consider them as such, you will lose your lunch.”

Perhaps my thesis is not completely convincing?

Shoujo-fied BL often feels like a pretty-fied train wreck with light man-secks. (Or it’s just me?) What’s with this story? What’s with the characterisation? What’s all this overdone emo crap? No way that they’d do that! Now they are going at it; at least getting past necking to pawing, nibbling and pulling. Now the other one has gone all sullen and pissy. Sheeet! We get it already! BL guys not fast on the uptake. Please, can they sit down and talk it out? Please? Maybe they should watch some gay pr0n? No luck, urusai continues. Wonder what they are going on about now? Somebody must liek this. STFU!

Other views in the theory-verse suggest that while the characters are male, their emotional responses have been “upgraded” to reflect an improved male subjectivity that can do emotionally complex interaction, while enjoying the agency and freedom to act on their desires. That may be the case for stories like the Uso Lily spin-off previously considered, but it is not the only way to rebuild a guy character. What if you freed them from the need to act “supportive” or “understanding” and gave them male agency enough to go after what they wanted? Then make it so they also get wound up over their feelings, because — Hey! they are new at these and they also have the privilege and agency not to be shy about taking them out for a test drive.

That might get messy. What? Messy good you say?

There is one further “technical” aspect to the genre that arises from the canon, from fan practice and from tradition and that has evolved either into a happy accident or a sneaky author’s trick. Recalling one of the roots of the term “yaoi” – no climax, no resolution, no plot – a term of art in Japanese literary criticism long before being adopted by fujoshi, points towards a tradition within the genre for disconnected, stand-alone scenes or tableau. Porn movie directors would call these the “money shot”.

cue the wikipedia entry:

“The term yaoi is an acronym created in the late 1970s[1] by Yasuko Sakata and Akiko Hatsu[8] from the words Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (山[場]なし、落ちなし、意味なし) “No peak (climax), no fall (punch line/denouement), no meaning”. This phrase was first used as a “euphemism for the content”[9] and refers to how yaoi, as opposed to the “difficult to understand” shōnen-ai being produced by the Year 24 Group female manga authors,[10] focused on “the yummy parts”.[6] The phrase also parodies a classical style of plot structure.[11] Kubota Mitsuyoshi says that Osamu Tezuka used yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi to dismiss poor quality manga, and this was appropriated by the early yaoi authors.[9] As of 1998, the term yaoi was considered “common knowledge to manga fans”.[12] A joking alternative yaoi acronym among fujoshi (female yaoi fans) is Yamete, oshiri ga itai (やめて お尻が 痛い, “Stop, my ass hurts!”).”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi

Once again, Genshiken Nidaime‘s Kio Shimoku left clues about larger rotten practice in his trans-fujoshi character Hato’s inability to draw anything but one-page sex scenes. Fanzines/doujins must accommodate page restrictions and low-output amateur artists. There is a strong bias towards jumping right to the lewd. When creating a parody work that brings together two wildly improbable giant robot piloting guys, the scant dialogue can stick with luvvy dovey fluff or they can expressively work out their conflicted feelings while they go at it. Same printing bill.

The space station metaphor once again becomes instructive. A mangaka might already have a number of schmexy hawt mis-en-scenes in mind, complete with a who-is-wound-up-which-way script for the drama component. Wouldn’t it be cool if this one surprised that one, but is still angry about such and such, while the other has lost confidence? And they still go at it while sniping at each other! “Talk dirty to me” taken to a new level.

What if the next big scene has the two emoting in completely different ways? Do they both have multiple personality disorders? Did some magical girl gimmick their headspaces? Nothing so fancy. They are just completely overwhelmed with a whole new range of feelings and are cycling through all of them. If we can acknowledge that smut with emotional fireworks delivers more than just smut with the dialogue turned off, story mechanics becomes an exercise in logistics.

When a mangaka becomes responsible for a monthly serialised work, instead of 12 pages of doujin smut they have to maneuver the characters from one “yummy parts” scene to the next. Using the “new at this, making a hot mess out of it” excuse, a mangaka gains extra maneuvering thrusters and fuel. She can even make one of them do an end over end tumble before docking.

It is almost impossible to pull anywhere near this level of variable characterization and emotional range with boy-girl romantic shoujo. Even if the boy is Doctor Jekell and the girl is Harley Quinn. Uso Lily tried with a crossdressing boy and a girl and had to concuss the guy for multiple cases of soap opera amnesia. At no time did the heroine take her turn getting banged on the head so they she could become the male lead. Lady Chatterley may switch between haughty and horny while groom Mellors gets to be servile and then forceful but he never gets to be her ladyship. Neither does she have to muck out the stables.

Only the “carnivalesque” excesses of drag and camp offer more potential. Perhaps the entire genre needs to be theoretically re-positioned when subjected to critical analysis. Normalities must be (over-) performed so they can be subverted.

I remain uneasy with the entire genre but at least now I have some idea (beyond gehhh! dudes making out!) why something as simple as Nise x Koi set off my wrong, wrong, wrong alarms. Nothing like a bit of attitudinal gymnastics to negotiate a new understanding with one’s prejudices. [3]

Anyway, I Shouldn’t Take It Personally, It Just Ain’t My Story

Against the tautological structures of excessive emotional drama and characterisation within the genre, complaints by nosy outsiders are easily brushed aside.

Guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm, you sure? They might if they were sufficiently smitten and unhinged by their conflicted desires…
Your plotting and characterisation is bat-shit random! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Gay guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Transfolk don’t act like that, and you are being insulting! Hmmmmmm?

Back to weaponised queer shoujo. This type of story seems to be popular and commercially viable. Outsider opprobrium is not going to put the idea back in a box. Can’t un-see once seen. An entire “lore” surrounding the genre makes it easy for rotten newbies to crank out more. It’s not just ‘seme” and “uke“; a range of off-the-shelf roles come with modular, emotional scripted subtypes such as “wimpy seme” and “trickster, inviting uke” (which is the second link of the chain back-tracking the origins of the “emotional range character trope” effect that I will resume grinding on about in future “Naming of Parts” essay instalments.)

Recall the brief summary of Nise x Koi above. Classic BL clichés favor the smaller guy “taking” the taller, initially dominant-appearing partner. In this story, the latter is already inscribed as female-role, even if he has previously initiated, even attacked. A challenge has been issued to wimpy nerd boy. Anyone care to guess how this one ends? [4]

If heteronormative narrative tried this kind of dynamic “making progress in a relationship” story, one would end up with a Taming of the Shrew retread.

Disapproval by phobic old-school guy otaku of BL will continue but as this mirrors the emotional dynamics of the conflicted characters, the hate-on becomes an unexpected bonus for fujoshi onlookers. When reading distressed fan reactions to the alt-Mada x alt-Hato fling in Spotted Flower I began to wonder if one of the thread originators might have even been a stealthed slash-fan trolling for a taste of honey. (“the misery of others is like…” ) Yesteryear’s girly-boy threads on 4chan’s /a board were a lot more inventive and far funnier. They usually started with “If it wears a skirt, it’s a girl” and went sideways fast.

Then a further notion struck: what is all that rage really about? To properly appreciate what is so disquieting (for straight guys) about BL, one needs to untangle the fujoshi “gei” or gender-queer character from the (straight) male subjectivity gay or gender-bent character.

Here’s a fun insight into contemporary fan practice and its intersection with activist gender politics — although I might be grabbing at fog. (requires more research, subjective evaluation, database coding, yadda yadda yadda). More and more anon on /a seem to be sort of, kind of Ok with “the gay”, as long as a gay male (secondary) character gets treated “seriously” within the story and isn’t trotted out as a cardboard joke or creep or abruptly vanished – in other words; afforded male respect and privilege. No depictions of male same-sex intimacy either, please! What sets off rage is when a gay male and/ or their same-sex desire is portrayed and/or deployed in a way that appears to pander to fujoshi tastes. “Real” gay; it’s 2017 – just don’t scare the horses. “Fujoshi-fied” gay; bad thing!

As for the otokonoko as male-gaze fantasy eye-candy creature, far fewer instances of vocal hate rear up in social media venues than one might first imagine. Pro-forma surprise is usually followed with a “that’s coolio too” rejoinder. Edgy quips that “the extra” makes her even better are not uncommon. The slightly sheepish reaction (cute cartoon girl character plus slightly pervy bonus) has become a safe consensus position. Public over-reaction would telegraph any manner of weak unresolved personal issues. All good, no biggie. Similarly, creating her is remarkably easy. Design a cutie, go easy on the boobs and impute a “little bit extra”. You can even make her act with less reserve than a usual female character has to maintain. Drop one as needed into each new franchise.

However, when the rotten tribes get their mitts on an Otokonoko character, Astolfo the hottie will be mangled into something else; something complicated and insidious. Far worse than Kio Shimoku’s Hato Kenjiro. Designed to highlight male wonkiness. Does things not-for the male reader/viewer’s enjoyment. Problematic. This will not end well.

Aside: Astolfo was originally a (male) magic-using sidekick character from 1500’s European-knights-do-heroic-things tales; most notably from the poem-story Orlando Furioso (the Rage of Orlando). The hero’s “wits” get stolen, so he rages. Only Astolfo has enough magic to go to the moon and retrieve said wits in a bottle. Astolfo MkI does not crossdress. In medieval Europe, guys got all the fun clothing anyway. Magic users are expected to be a bit eccentric.

What remains are complaints against the problematics of fantasy cross-dressing characters in light of real-world fall-out; including any deceit implied in that term. Anglosphere fandom needs a new short, snappy and less loaded descriptor. It should be noted that current best practice in manga and anime invariably has the character matter-of-factly announce that they are male or have a body that others would “deem male at birth” to any who have a need to know, well before sparks fly (as well as to any number of obnoxious types who should have minded their own business before they get their comeuppance). Seduction by deception is rarely any issue, though fetishization remains one. If the otokonoko and another (usually male) character hook up it is not because the latter wanted a “girl” but because they wanted “more than a girl”.

Fetishization in general is why a majority of cartoon characters are dropped onto the page and screen; male-subjectivity otokonoko remain “flattened” to their eye-candy outward appearance, as much as any other female-ish fanservice character. Their gender-queerness is their “hook” in the same way the glasses-girl and the athletic tomboy have theirs. When deployed in slice of life comedies, she is often used as a variant and/or extra moe-blob. In adventure scenarios, a variant Beautiful Fighting Girl.

“For duty, a woman. For understanding, an otokonoko. For ecstasy, a melon.”
— Slavoj Zizek

Only when one wanders into the recycled BL thickets of josou narratives, where some emotional complexity is necessary to move the plot along, does the revealing of the “feels” component of the “better than” come into play. Her gender-fluidity and essential male “core” posits her as more sympathetic to a class of male lead. The author must then tread lightly and leave much unsaid. The two are in sync; they understand each other perfectly and therefore dialogue can be kept to a minimum. A few reassuring quips, an exchange of knowing glances because they have (re-)invented sex, a few tender words and finally the frenzied mutual tearing off of clothes that leaves at least one female-marked accessory or piece of clothing still clinging to the otokonoko‘s body, can progress through to mutual exhaustion. Both will be blissfully happy because the genre posits, then leaves to the reader’s imagination a vague intimation of mutual physical and emotional satisfaction that is for the two of them “better than” heterosexual or conventional same-sex intimacy. The novelty and transgression masks a “just so” story. One may speculate that the difficulties of fine-tuning the move from pure transactional exchange towards affective interest is why the genre remains a niche market and why the one magazine devoted to such stories went under. Lewd twincest tales play a similar trick. You need some token emotional charge but not too much, or too fast. The overload/ overwhelmed effect is what remains disquieting.

The “deception” that the straight male subjectivity fears is not present upon the body of the otokonoko but within the emotional complexity of any interaction. [5]

Snowflakes!

Understandable then that male subjectivity fan discourse has kind of, sort of, begun to make peace with matter-of-fact, just-a-guy gay male characters and even simplistic eye-candy otokonoko characters. As long as neither of them bear any marks of “rotten” purpose or complexity. A diffuse, consensus notion of essential male identity is thus preserved. There are far scarier things in the world than a touch of queer in a lad. As for secondary appropriation, the fujoshi will always come out at night to cut up what remains. Look what they did to poor Holmes and Watson!

Good luck to us all.

Have some cake.

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] This entire essay may be complete and utter bunk; the result of my residual homo-panic freak-out when a quick read of a harmless looking shoujo-ish one-shot (that looked interesting because “that scangroup” distrod it), turned into confusing guy-smut. WTF? Run Away, run away! You’ve heard of the ‘unreliable narrator” trick? This is the unreliable critical essayist version.

[2] Someone reading this might actually be here for a “review” rather than a subjective over-reaction, followed by a mess of speculation about plot mechanics and conventions. If one is really into BL-ish things, I’m betting that NiseXKoi is probably a quite good an example of its kind. The art-work is pro level. The emotions are not completely random (if you pay real close attention), the two characters are noobz enough to justify their mildly selfish fuckups, the “rival” is not a jerk; the thing is well constructed and the author has her own active doujin circle. Since I have few comparison points, I can’t say whether she is genius rank but I suspect that experienced readers would find her work solid, and “yummy”. She knows how to tell a story and play within the bounds of a style.

[3] Keep reading. It’s really easy: all you have to do is displace one bias with a different one. It just becomes a matter of fully understanding what one’s original bias was trying to protect. We guys should all thank the fujoshi tribes for “highlighting the contradictions”.

[4] MUCH LATER: In fairness to those wanting some manner of “review” and to the mangaka, I should add that the story ended on a surprisingly happy, vanilla, aspirational, linear and not too crumpled out of shape by semexuke conventions, way. The young crossdresser was snagged by the school drama club as “the princess‘ in a play and used the opportunity to solve the issue of his childhood friend blindly crushing on his girl presentation. Meanwhile doormat boy showed some spine at school and began to socialise, then used his new found confidence to declare his resolve to the crossdresser. Both vowed to have a happy high school romance with lots of sex, with the crossdresser both as a boy and as a girl. (I am almost tempted to D’awww here…)

A few points of note: once the mangaka decided to wrap it up, the characterisation and story lines became more linear, with the motivations easier to follow. Resolve. Follow through. Also of note, both characters try to abstractly empathise with the other’s situation; not at shoujo girl levels but at least they make a token effort. Even the childhood friend, while at first embarrassed, is supporttive. He also now understands why the two were hanging around with each other at school. Duh! moment. The otaku is not an intrusion, he has been vouched for within the male social/ circle of friends.

Finally, the happy ending recalls why all the straight girls are reading smutty romantic guy:guy highschool love stories. The two get to (at least promise to) sex themselves down to exhaustion because they are in a relationship. Because they are horny teenaged guys, even gay, they should really want to do so even more than playing video games. And they can, because no one is going to be labelled a slut or have to deal with a teen pregnancy and/or D&C if something goes awry.

(At some point will future general-interst high school romcoms feature stock zoned-out falling asleep at their desks with stupid grin on their faces male beta couples?)

To this end, the “formalism” of older rotten rigid BL pairing conventions are jettisoned for a more up-to-date “versatility”. It might even pass muster as aspirational ending for a young gay male reader, although the gay crossdresser type is apparently considered one of the least desireable “types” in IRL Japanese gay communities. At least Meguru doesn’t “femme out” while crossdressing, so he’s not completely outre.

[5] Ha! I have made it through this thing and not mentioned a certain game.
Slick, or whot? Oh yeah, almost forgot: Praxis! Now is must be legitimate academic-ish essay! What else? No mention of Dr. Tamaki or Lacan, although if you scratch the cheap paint you can see that old “ontological consistancy” chestnut; it’s harder to paint over than magic marker. And then there’s the “shota” component in nerd boy. Crap: even wearing shorts on the frontspiece! Pure Dr. Nagaike bait, though Tamaki called it first. Mangaka sure covers all the bases. 

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23: les etrangers

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23
Kio Shimoku
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.

 

Continue reading

Spotted Flower Chs 22-23

What the hell just happened?

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to interpolate Italian text, when you only know French? That said, some of the more impatient fans across the pond have applied their arts and their passion to chapters 22 and 23 of Spotted Flower.

That sure didn’t look like a dream sequence? What happened?

Oh My! What fools.

THE NAMING OF PARTS 1: Too smart by half

On the origins of peculiar terminologies:

WARNING: Multi-part work in progress. Refresh for typos, corrections, revisions. Let me see if I can string all the pieces together over multiple posts in the next few weeks. Feel free to add your 2 yen via the comment section if you have extra material, ideas, whatever. Not much to mull over so far — wait for it. I plan to go full-bore fandom/comiket apocrypha on this one. Mimeograph machines, doujins, Fido BBS’s, 20yr old occult lists of fan terms and too many cached pages on Archive.org. Wheeeeeeee!  

 

“Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday,
We had daily cleaning. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have what to do after firing. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Japonica
Glistens like coral in all the neighboring gardens,
And today we have naming of parts.”
— “The Naming of Parts”, Henry Reed

Something feels odd (to me) about the Japanese (and derived) otaku practice of naming character trope types. Something doesn’t fit, or fits too well, gives too much information. I have ideas as to where the larger practice was borrowed from but then I must ask; from where did the previous instance arise? To uncover the roots of the practice will require a highly subjective, speculative romp through the traces of fandoms from 20, 30 even 40 years ago.

I must break this essay up into installments.

If I were to mention that a certain anime or manga (or game, visual novel or doujin) had a noteworthy “Blonde Loli”  character in it, one would not only immediately know what she looks like. Any reasonably experienced fan would have a good idea of how she would act and relate to other characters.

  • Female, young, somewhat pre-pubescent and/or appears as such.
  • Blonde hair, short of stature, flat-chested (petanko)
  • Outlander or hafu background in relation to a Japanese cast.
  • Wealthy, of means. Has hidden skills and/ or powers.
  • Disruptive, arrogant; does not know or care to follow established social conventions.
  • overcompensates for her feelings of social isolation and rootless upbringing.

As well, most of the notable previous examples of the type would color your expectations. Evangeline A K McDowell of Negi and Uq Holder fame; Shinobu Oshino/ Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade from Monogatari; the pale knockoff of the previous two in Vampire Bund; Hayate The Combat Butler‘s Nagi Sanzenin and The Genshiken‘s Sue Hopkins. Recent iterations include Sana (who is a child) in Alice to Zoroku and Erii in Eromanga Sensei. Many more can be found.

Hiroki Azuma’s musings on the database seem to have come true. [1] A database model has advantages. While characters might feel cookie-cutter-ish, a good writer is expected to elaborate sufficiently to add charm to their version. If a notable restatement of the character emerges, these elaborations will fold into larger conventions of the type, as common resource for future story-telling.

Such a practice favors iteration in ephemeral products and production on a large, diffuse scale. She is closer to a piece of metal drywall edging than a craftsman’s creation. You can’t finish office towers and thousands of basement rec-rooms with bespoke techniques. You need cheap, modular, easy-to-use commodified bits and pieces and the simple techniques that employ them.

Our Blonde Loli is not a creature of high literature. She bears very little resemblance to Nabokov’s original, even if part of her type-name originates from his tale. The idea of character types or stereotypes runs in direct opposition to the originality and authenticity of the project of high literature. The character type is a Barbie or a GI Joe doll, or somewhat less, even as they are somewhat more; their range of behavior is more circumscribed even as their use implies a commodified “published” narrative structure.

Their implicit invitation is that of creative seriality; “the differance” of repetition — if you care to wax high-fallutin’s faux-French post-structuralist about it.[2] I digress. The point takes the complaint of early critics of diaspora anime that “all the characters are the same!” and recasts it as a feature, not a bug. Off the shelf means easy to build and easy for everyone to build with. You get far more absolute output that way and you get lots of individual variations/ iterations of the base model. An ecology, complete with evolutionary surges, population explosions, extinctions and mutations nudges aside the privileged solitary, exalted role of the auteur. [3]

Add that this year’s model is a lot less opaque to new readers because of vestigial familiarity. Does what’s on the label. Pick up a six-pack today.

Most of the benefits of this modular approach were mentioned at least in passing by Azuma in his 2002 work. It remains interesting, but its limitations must also be recognised. In many ways, recognition of what he leaves out, glosses over or shades to his purposes makes his work far more valuable than the first reading of the work itself.

The database as strained metaphor. In Japan, before 2002 there was no organised trove of data sitting up on 2chan or some other occult internet-accessible BBS or forum that contained mix-and-match build-a-bear input screens for churning out custom proto-moe-blob femaloid characters. (was it a mere list?) If such existed or exists today, looking like some demented police sketch assistant program, I have yet to see it (Tits or GTFO! Make her breasts bigger, bigger!). Why was he driven to posit one? Fortunately, TV Tropes came along: the entire meta of tropery has caught on and spread like wildfire during the last decade. Early iterations of the site had a strong “I’ve seen it all before” flanneur/ connoisseur weariness to them. The current versions are exuberant.

No sex here. Grazing ungulates, sea creatures drifting in the current. Post- sex to match the end of history and a pile of hooey about the twilight of grand narratives. One word for that: Chlorine. As in water treatment. As in, which is a newer idea; modernist grand narratives or cholera free city drinking water? Maybe it was the latter killed off grand narratives? Are you sure they are dead? Go argue with any number of repressive regime apologists and stop picking on anime babes. Meanie!

No girls allowed/ (aloud). It’s a boy thing, all about pin-ups and scratching boy itches. The company omiai session will eventually, properly mate up sarrarymen and office ladies to produce the next generation of corporate Japan, so sex is barely necessary, almost a distraction. If required for procreation, the newly wed good-wife-wise-mother-to-be will initiate the required mechanics. (parodied in volume extras from Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower manga, a somewhat continuation/ decade later reprise of his Genshiken)

Definitely NO NO NO minority sexual and or gender expression. We have rendered all majority expressions obsolete, so variants are superfluous. Cyborg bodies perhaps? Wires? Phone sex? iPhone sex? iSex? Or nothing but that dry theory hump jouissance?

We remember the database. We remember love.

A quick glance back at Database Animals recalls the swirl of pop debate about vernacular culture in Japan in the early noughts, set off by Dr Saito Tamaki’s 2000 publication of Psychology of the Armoured Beautiful Girl, Aka; The Beautiful Fighting Girl.[4] She dripped heroic sex appeal. She inspired onanistic fantasizing. She most definitely had a use. And her use or uses were in the clinical sense of the term, perverse, her range of manifestation on the stage of (mostly) male dreams running from the chaste Miko-type to the scary hermaphroditic creations of the American naive artist Darger. [5]

She caused trauma in a Freudian/ Lacanian sense. That is: “What the heck just happened to my wiring? Did I just pleasure myself by fantasizing about a line drawing!!!! Oh shit! I will never get a girlfriend! I can’t shake this. The path to enlightenment must lie through the doors of excess! Where do I get more of these hawt manga babes? Comiket? Oh Yeah!

Your mileage may vary.

That was it. That was all. That was enough. The great unsaid thing was said. It had been said before, by cruelly mocking critics. Akio Nakamori’s article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko taunted those he had previously labeled as otaku:

“No, otaku do not love like normal people because they are attracted to fictional girl characters”[6]

Only now a doctor-professor with a big impressive book rather than some rando jerkwad doing a guest column in a sketchy loli magazine had spoken, and the good doctor was not being insulting about it either. The good doctor was even speculating that this approach may be a healthy, adaptive behavior mechanism. The good doctor also had a list of sub-types for his Beautiful Fighting Girl(s)

Hooray: Taxonomy!

Two more interlocutors were involved: The Ota-King [7], who lamented the waning of classic shonen-esque sci-fi battle/ quasi-imperialist stories that involved giant piloted robots/ battle suits and/ or carrier-battleship spaceship fleets. And Ōtsuka Eiji, who could smell fascism under every last one of these rocks [8]. These worthies had some really fine arguments/ debates, which worked to bring them all into public prominence. Dr. Tamaki’s interest in Otaku and their libidinous imaginations was in any case, peripheral to his life work on social isolates/ Hikikomori. Azuma’s Rousseau redux is not that good. What happened to the Ota-king? Who knows?

Who did we miss?

An important clue lies in the curious something “extra” in some of these terms. Something not mirrored in the vulgar. angry way young males filled with braggadocio and a wounded sense of entitlement have been known to classify real-life women: Bitches and hoes. Frigid, tease, stuck-up, slut, whore. Insulting, objectifying, simple-minded. Any “relation” or interaction posited is immediate and transactional. She gives/ does not give that which I demand now. Very little narrative complexity is implied by any of these epithets, beyond the threat of sexual violence.

Given such lazy, low practice as the default setting, how did male otaku evolve complex trope/ type terms like tsundere or yandere?

Admittedly these do not reference high modernist literature or even Shakespeare plays but at least they imply changing emotional states in the female character over time — if certain conventions of behavior in the main (assumed male) character are followed. Manga, anime and games — specifically get-the-girl games, either galge or eroge may have normalised the expectations behind such complex constructions but where did male otaku first “take permission” and/or find inspiration for reducing these character-behavior-narrative patterns to type-trope shorthand and then elevating them to archetypes?

They are far too complex.

Next up: Fail-through-over-confidence-hero-guy

ENDNOTES:

1) “Dobutsuka-suru Postmodern (Animalizing Postmodernity)” by Hiroki Azuma  (2001) Translated as “Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals” by Jonathan E. Abel and Shion Kono (2009)
See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroki_Azuma

2) Tenure GET! No? Perhaps a lecture fee and lunch at the faculty cafeteria. If I wanted reliable income, I would be rebuilding truck and construction equipment starters and alternators.

3) …Then the solitary auteur secretly gorges on the cheap stuff, because they fear picking up some other big’un’s recognisable style and inadvertently committing plagiarism if they read highbrow stuff. Ya can’t plagiarise gruel and even if you do, the gruel-pots can’t mount a serious objection. I understand the tactic of pissing on the carcass you find by the side of the road, but doing it while cosplaying Cirrocco Jones decades ago at book signings… Hmmmph.

4) “Sento bishojo no seishinbunseki” (戦闘美少女の精神分析), Psychoanalysis of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Dr.Saitō Tamaki (2000) . Translated as “Beautiful Fighting Girl” by J. Keith Vincent  and Dawn Lawson (2011) With a foreward by Hiroki Azuma. 

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamaki_Sait%C5%8D

The BFG reviewed: “You Fight like a Girl” by Brian Ruh, Brain Diving column an Anime News Network, (Jul 26th 2011)
http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/brain-diving/2011-07-26

5) Darger was by no means unique. Someone should forward a copy of this to Dr Tamaki: “My Dad, the Pornographer” By Chis Offutt The New York Times Magazine (FEB. 5, 2015). TW: descriptions of fantasy violence, rape, squick.
https://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/08/magazine/my-dad-the-pornographer.html

6)“Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith
www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men
See also earlier post: “Kio Shimoku, Madarame & Hato vs Akio Nakamori” https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2016/01/30/kio-shimoku-madarame-hato-vs-akio-nakamori/

7) Toshio Okada, The ota-King: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toshio_Okada

See also: THE CONSCIENCE OF THE OTAKING: THE STUDIO GAINAX SAGA IN FOUR PARTS — Interview of former Gainax president Toshio Okada on Gainax’s history, Wings of Honneamise, Aoki Uru, etc. (anime, NGE)
originally in Animerica Magazine Volume 4, Issue 4 – April 1996: ANIMERICA talks with Toshio Okada Interview by Carl Gustav Horn. Text archived on gwern.net blog
https://www.gwern.net/docs/eva/1996-animerica-conscience-otaking

And for a Cliff Notes on Okada Toshio’ s “Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons”, see: “Introduction to Otakuology” on the Fantastic Memes blog
https://frogkun.com/2016/04/15/introduction-to-otakuology/

Context: “An Interview with Patrick W. Galbraith on Otaku Culture – Part Two” by Matthew ALT, May 24, 2012, NEOJAPONISM blog post
http://neojaponisme.com/2012/05/24/an-interview-with-patrick-w-galbraith-on-otaku-culture-part-two/

8) Ōtsuka Eiji: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eiji_%C5%8Ctsuka
In the 1980s, Otsuka was editor-in-chief of Manga Burikko, a leading manga magazine where he pioneered research on otaku sub-cultures in modern Japan. He has published a host of books and articles about the manga industry.

“Ōtsuka Eiji and Narrative Consumption: An Introduction to ‘World and Variation,’” in Mechademia 5 (2010)
http://www.academia.edu/2093053/_%C5%8Ctsuka_Eiji_and_Narrative_Consumption_An_Introduction_to_World_and_Variation_in_Mechademia_5_2010_

See for example “An Unholy Alliance of Eisenstein and Disney: The Fascist Origins of Otaku Culture” by Ōtsuka Eiji, translated by Thomas Lamarre in Mechademia, Volume 8, 2013 pp. 251-277 [paywalled/ MUSE]

UPDATE: (Early November 2017)  Oh Crap! I had no idea this one was going to be so difficult! I am stuck on part 2, the destinction between simple and complex character types/tropes as used by guys/ male gaze narratives in harem games and stories. Part 3 with mimeographs is pretty well done, Part 4, an excursion into 1980’s and 1990-2005 Japanese on-line fandom is 3/4 written. Part 5, the payload is full of massive weird speculation and might be hard to pull together, but it FEELS right and will, in the end be only an invitation for folks who can get at primary sources to go digging. Nevertheless, the circumstantial evidence is as good, or better than a whole lot of other speculation that has become ‘lore’ in the field, so i’m gonna run with it.

When I can get my writing mojo back. Thanks for your patience.

on point

An academic conference in Yokohama, this weekend:

Queer Transfigurations — International Symposium on BL media in Asia.
Saturday, July 1 & Sunday, July 2, 2017,
Kanagawa University, Yokohama Campus

“My critical examination of yaoi begins with the premise that yaoi does not represent any person’s reality, but rather is a terrain where straight, lesbian, and other women’s desires and political stakes mingle and clash, and where representations are born.”
— A. Mizoguchi, “Theorizing comics/manga genre as a productive forum: yaoi and beyond”
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/143-168chap10Mizoguchi20101224.pdf

‘Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality’ opine the characters of the Genshiken, echoing a claim made by Dr Saito Tamaki that despite the libidinised nature of otaku (and fujoshi) consumption — or because of it — the Japanese fan, even (or especially) the most committed of these are able to keep the walls between real life and “play” separate. They are all in effect flaneurs, connoisseurs of their outre fictions and these fictions’ effects (or affects). The riajuu may be bombarded by the relentless flow of images and desires and retreat into numb passivity, even reactionary withdrawal but the L33T fan surfs the shock-waves and hacks the spew.

How’s that workin’ out for you all?

Ok, so what if this sounded a lot like an update of the old floating world brothel-crawler notion of “iki” — which incidentally influenced european ideas of the flaneur – – as well as trying to drag the old-school practice of situating narratives of minority sexualities and gender expressions in lurid pulp exploitation settings into a better neighborhood [see: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/your-own-private-game-of-laplace/] via Comiket, shoujo manga and its more interesting offshoots.

Along the way, a lot of folks pretended that they forgot someone(s).

If you are a not-quite-straight kid in Japan (or adult) and you value your privacy, this pretense or at least quiet convention had (and still has) its uses. The last decade’s general agreement about BL and yaoi in Japan was that %90+ of the readership was female and that the overwhelming majority of these were straight women who enjoyed it as a relaxing and amusing diversion. If you were a gei male, there was manly-manly Bara for you and nobody really bothered about what 3D women who liked women cared to read. There were even a few convenient broadsides from honest to goodness flesh-and-blood homosexual male polemicists who criticised the rotten tribes for acting like “dirty old men” (though the major flare-up of this controversy happened decades earlier). If real gay guys groused about the stuff, it must be some kind of odd straight-girl fantasy thing and therefore harmless. Pay no attention to the fujoshi behind the curtains.

Meanwhile in the euroethnic mostly anglosphere west, research spotty as it was, indicated that slash readership was closer to %50-50 male-female and that the desires and identifications of the readership were all over the map, with a strong ‘queer’ gradient.

Something was due for a change.

I wonder how many casual fujoshi will make their way to the conference this weekend? What the devil is a casual fujoshi anyway?

In truth, gay folk, queer folk have always, apparently been part of creating these stories and consuming them. Folks are doing the historical research so that concealment does not end up as erasure. At the same time, there is a vast readership and fandom made up out of straight women and even (per the two extant fan studies plus hints about secret secret publisher data) somewhere around %1 straight male readership (%10-15 of the male readership). And then there are lesbian fujoshi, who while unfathomable in terms of demographic representation, make up some of the most productive and articulate champions of the genre. And there are gay guys who like it too. (those fan studies would put them at %80 of the male readership or %8 of the total readership) Over across the boulevard are the Yuri fans with all those pesky mostly-straight male yuri-danshi (I still prefer the older, western-anglosphere LFB term), even if them’s are for a different conference (which I would also really like to attend). We LFB guys aren’t too good on holding up our end of the fandom, but our Japanese brethren keep buying the magazines, so that’s something.

A lot of the academic interest in fujoshi and otaku fandoms in Japan has been carried out as informed by queer interests and situates comfortably within a larger idea of “queer theory”. If you are going to read any kind of academic writing about your fave manga, anime and/ or games you are going to get hip deep in it fast. After all, BL and yaoi (and yuri and even weird otokonoko/jousou) stories sure look like ‘queer texts’. Lookie: same-sex bonking! How long can the publishers keep up the pretense that they are all just something like sci-fi-ish or fantasy allegory and mostly for straight folks dreaming in queer?

In Japan, probably for a while longer, especially if it has something to do with sales revenues.

Time for some Academic Cool Japan jiu-jitsu:

[http://human.kanagawa-u.ac.jp/BLinAsia/Transfigurations_Program.pdf]

Take a close look at the conference presentations, the presenters and the moderators. All-star line-up! Welker, Mizoguchi, Nagaike, Baudinette, McLelland, Galbraith and a whole bunch of others whose names look vaguely familiar from my amateur theory scrapings. Note as well the titles and subjects of the presentations/ papers. This is about how a certain Japanese cultural product hits the rest of “Asia” and then creates its own context and readings. Ichiban Nihon Bunka!

Note as well, the absence of the dreaded fashionable academic neologism “Gl-ocal“.

Oh frabjous day!

Wonder how many Cool Japan bureaucrats will be in attendance? You wanted “soft power”? Congratulations! Now about the way Japan is sluggish about the rights and protections of minority sexualities and gender expressions and the upcoming 2020 Olympics… Do I hear whistling from the audience?

One academic not on the program (perhaps because the historic role of the wider shoujo genre is mentioned only in passing) is professor Matt Thorn, who in a recent Twitter thread went into the changing face of the Japanese fandom — at least the university-attending fans in her classes. TLDR: they ain’t the Genshiken. They are hyper-social, engaged, productive and even activist. I hope that she gets around to expanding upon these observations in her blog. [http://www.en.matt-thorn.com/]
(Update: per Twitter, prof Thorn plans to attend.)

I suspect that the student attendees at this conference will be equally unrecognisable to anyone expecting Genshiken style fans/ fujoshi, even as their updated versions will be undoubtedly surprised at the range, influence and effect of their fave genre. A few might even wonder if any of the diaspora product needs to be tracked down and studied, for the sake of a wider cultural perspective. …Won’t even get into speculation over the straight, fujoshi, fudanshi, gei continuum issues. I have a feeling that Dr. Mizoguchi has long since updated her 2010 observations to include male interest, even as the genre remains a powerful primarily female-authored form.

Readers of this blog know my angle on all of this and I would be curious to see how the conference presentations handle the clashes, not only between cultures, but between the readerships who want their fantastic allegorical (and somewhat racy) dream-in-queer diversions and readers who seek aspirational representation and support from the genre. So far the only strategy I can identify that does not involve proscription would stress authenticity as verisimilitude; in effect a value added approach — which is damn crass when real lives are at stake.

Unfortunately, publishing and content creation, like most capitalism is crass, and often brutal.

A final thought: Open Access = mega citations and academic fame.

It would be wonderful if the uni streamed the proceedings, or at least vidded them and put them up on YouTube. (Later: have been informed that presenters were not asked/ warned about the possibility of video recording, so that’s out. As someone who participated in a conference that let me use my blog nym, I should be better clued in on privacy concerns for presenters/ attendees.. Duh!)

(LATER: Howbout an audio transcript for Soundcloud? They embed well. I should stop; my previous gallery gig – we always tried to at least get a sound transcript from a presentation. We’d put a volunteer/ student intern in charge, do a little Audacity trimming and up it went, even if the sound quality was atrocious. Again, prior warning, privacy concerns…  So much to consider…)

Publication of the papers/ presentations in an open source journal or collection so that the conference doesn’t end up on some shelf or stuck behind a paywall would be wonderful.

(LATER: Prof Welker points out that he “shares all published articles & book chapters on request. As do many scholars. Just ask!” Regging up an indepedent researcher account at Academia.edu makes requesting such fast and easy. I was even able to do so using my blogging nym. Such individual ‘sharings’ are legal and  allowed by journal and/or publication contracts; which otherwise lock down academic articles and books behind paywals that even notorious [-cough- sci -cough- hub] russian academic study sites fail to worm their way past.)

 

Best wishes for a successful conference!