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.

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Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

“Oh the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter and on her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water” – Slavoj Žižek

C104p4 no BL this time

Behold Hato-chan V2 as she decides to create a full manga narrative.

c104p14 discouraged

And then behold the setback. The look of disappointment on her face is shocking, verging on tragic even though we are diverted by the greater shock of finding out the Yajima can plot out very effectively funny 4-koma works. We are used to seeing Hato succeed effortlessly in pretty much everything he or she tries, so of course a lapse is telling.

Previous failures were always presented more in the manner of a two-sided quirky “super power”: he cannot draw well unless crossdressed, and then she can only draw steamy m/m clench scenes. This both bolsters the arguments for becoming Hato-chan within a fujoshi social and gives Hato something to exchange with the rest of the members.

Drawing work-safe manga stories is in no way central to fitting into the magic circle, so getting it perfect the first time does not push the usual compulsion buttons. Of course it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is almost as if Hato’s disappointment stems not from the failure, or from the failure to realise in advance that the manga she drew was a failure but from the fact that this failure that offers no tactical advantage. Perhaps this is too recursive but Hato is nothing if not immensely skilled at fooling his and her self into action. But there is shock on her face as well as disappointment. Could it be that the biggest surprise of the afternoon has been that Hato has just discovered how much she (and he) really, really wanted to be able to tell a story?

c104p22 blank look

Hato is failing at his (and her) first attempt as a mangaka/”auteur”. Hanging out with the fujoshi and exchanging odd smut was supposed to be the promised land. Oh sure, Hato-chan always wanted to be able to draw her (and Hato-kun’s suppressed) fantasies, but that was what the clench scenes were for. Now a new desire is stirring, and failure to easily snag it has left the Hato continuum deeply unsettled. “We did not know that we wanted it!”

What a set-up!

As the creation of a very successful mangaka/ auteur, one who has put in his time and paid his dues creating emotionally dense realistic, dramatic manga (Kagerou Nikki (陽炎日記?) (1995), Yonensei (四年生?) (1997), Gonensei (五年生?) (1998)) Hato is not going to get off easy.

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka is still very much in its first chapters. We have yet to make it even to the church retreat chapter. We have Hato with a pop-post-Lacanian wound, when he learned of yaoi dojins and that they did something (not -for- but) to him. We have the reinforcing trauma of the high school Art club- his first disastrous attempt at infiltrating a fujoshi social. We have hir debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of hir tiny, limited super-power. Finally we have his stands urging him to ship himself with Madarame and the progression from the fantasy of a classic BL m/m seduction as Hato x Mada to the project of attempting a newer hybrid otokonoko/ otomeyaku Mada x Hato “something”. What mischief will our plucky hero(ine) get up to next?

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

The Lacanian-ish wound/ shock/ trauma idea is worth reviewing: In Saito Tamaki’s analysis, what defines the Otaku is the disconcerting libidinous charge or cathexis, the desire that a cartoon female character evokes in the male reader. This desire is traumatic because the poor guy knows that it is only a cartoon character and experiences all manner of dissonance and distress over finding himself so stimulated by a crude 2D fiction. I mean, what’s next? Getting a woody from a math equation? Surely this is the path to madness! (Don’t call me…) There is something wrong with my wiring! Must take steps to master and comprehend these unnatural urges! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Saito Tamaki’s moment of unresolvable Otaku desire is spun as an origin myth starring none other than a young Hayao Miyazaki:

“…Saito hypothesizes that the young Miyazaki was caught off guard by a sexual attraction to the film’s heroine. The girl (actually the spirit of a white serpent named Bai-Nang) was an impossible object, a fictional creature who therefore “contained already within her the occasion for loss” [emp. mine] – yet Miyazaki desired her. This experience of being made to experience pleasure against his will by a fictional construct” constituted a trauma for Miyazaki. Because unresolved traumas can only be repeated, for Miyazaki this meant the creation of a whole string of beautiful fighting girls in his own works. While Miyazaki tends to insist on the wholesomeness of his works and disavow any sexual component, in Saito’s analysis the appeal of Miyazaki’s beautiful fighting girls has everything to do with sexuality. Insofar as their repetition perpetuates a libidinal attachment to a fictional construct, they also challenge us to rethink our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register.”

-Making it Real: Fiction, Desire, and the Queerness of the Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent, Introduction to his co-translation of Saito Tamaki’s ‘Beautiful Fighting Girl’ University of Minnesota Press, 2011
https://www.academia.edu/3682539/Making_it_Real_Fiction_Desire_and_the_Queerness_of_the_Beautiful_Fighting_Girl

Ch4 p13 stick figures

rethinking our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register – that’s what we are doing!

By the way, the Bard of Studio Ghibli has not even deigned to dignify Tamaki’s speculation with a response. His disdain for low otaku culture however is legendary.

Note as well the direct Tamaki quote: “contained already within her the occasion for loss” (!) If that doesn’t pretty well describe the way that Madarame looks at all 3D women. The inversion that the otaku performs on the weighted potentials for loss between 2D and 3D fixations is one of the great double-think sacraments of his tribe.

“No matter what you do, no matter what you say,
the only real perfect love is one that gets away”.

-The Residents

And so the Otaku becomes a connaisseur of the effect and the great range of possible character deployments that cause his trauma and in doing so endlessly repeats and encourages the replication, distribution and elaboration of this traumatic artifact. Yet like a flanneur on the streets of last century’s Paris, he is now a somewhat distanced expert observer of the spectacle of excess.

“Seriality is the difference in repetition”
Some pomo guy, was it Jimbo? Google draws a blank. If not, then – moi! (win!)
“Screw you Muda, If I didn’t say it, I said it now, so talk to my lawyers”
– Slavoj Žižek.
Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” – Wash…

We now return to our regularly scheduled theory block-quotes:

“What seems different about otaku for Saito is that this formerly relatively private or even secret (if also widespread) practice has in the past few decades become an increasingly mass-mediated social role with an unprecedented amount of public visibility. Saito denies that the female partners of his (perverse) straight male otaku are in any sense “substitutes” for the heroines of anime that the otaku may (also?) adore and desire, and opines, “My personal impression is that marriage to another otaku of the opposite sex tends to be seen as the perfect ending to life as an otaku”. Vincent defends Saito from the charge of heteronormativity by arguing that while “Saito may describe the real-life sexuality of the otaku he knows as tending toward the heterosexual and the vanilla, . . . he never prescribes that it be so”. For Vincent, what gives Saito’s work its considerable interest to queer theorists is its theoretical tendency neither to privilege nor pathologize the otaku’s enjoyment of “the reality-producing charge [that] . . . the beautiful fighting girl sparks across the gap between” his outward performance of sexual “normality” (xx) and his sustained commitment to both his perverse imaginary pleasures and the media- saturated collective context that enables and sustains these pleasures.”

-Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory by Michael Moon
A review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki, translated by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson.
http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16379&context=criticism

Wow, the word queer keeps popping up; scary, scary, scary. No big deal; we are talking the mechanics of desire here, not the specifics. Besides, it works across all boundaries (and none). You doubt that Kio Shimoku had heard of Tamaki and his original year 2000 Japanese treatise on the BFG? See Mada’s little lecture with the stick figure lines above…

To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
burning

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

“And what about those relatively understudied (at least in this book)
female otaku? Saito offers no substantive consideration of them and
their practices; in his introduction, Vincent informs us that the author
has written about female otaku elsewhere, and that what Saito
seems to mean by “female otaku” are female fans of yaoi, another
huge subset of manga that, in contrast with girl-warrior narratives,
features beautiful schoolboys falling in love and (in many cases) having sex with each other—narratives that are mostly written and drawn by women authors for a largely female audience. (gay men my age might have found yaoi disturbing but fascinating when we were adolescents, but made do with Archie comics instead.)[3] In one of his few direct references to female otaku, Saito mentions not only yaoi but also shotakon, a manga and anime genre that features prepubescent or pubescent boys in romantic and sometimes erotic contexts (29).”
Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory, Moon, Ibid

Fat chance! Tamaki ventures only a tiny bit of post- Lacanian fluff on fujoshi desire in his 2006 essay Otaku Sexuality. Then he drops in the shota stuff! Gehhhh! Oh well; that explains Risa.

The folks who took issue with the blatant libidinization of Otaku desire, Azuma et al, with their Foucault/ Kojève approach are even more blind to the lack of the desiring female. As they erase desire within male Otaku moe, they seem to feel no need to give mention to fen desire at all.

A Japanese cultural critic with a background in the fine arts weighs in:

“The biggest problem of the book by Azuma lies in the fact that he has no view on female Otaku.”Of these discontents, the former means that aesthetics of “Moe” is not a comprehensive nature but only one aspect of the Otaku culture, when the latter refers to the gender problem within the Otaku culture.

This latter is my own discontent, too.

Indeed, it’s known there are a lot of female Otaku – of course, in my classroom in Japan – , but they have not been fully discussed. What kind of differences are there between male and female Otaku, then? Briefly speaking,(1)the gaze of female Otaku sometimes involves moments of homosexuality whether her interest goes to boys or girls:(1-a)Female Otaku who fall into the former category, gazing at relationships between beautiful male characters, are sometimes called “Yaoi,” while(1-b)those who fall into the latter category, develop interest in relationships between she herself(=subject)and female characters(=object).
However, the most important difference, I think, is that(2)the female Otaku sometimes has a specific aspect of transforming the body of herself: i.e. through costume play. In this phase, she tries to transform herself from the motive of doubting her identity, when male Otaku gazes and fetishizes a female figure composed of his favorite parts according to his “needs.”

OTAKU AS QUEER?

If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.

Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”

If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.

Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queerbut-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

In any case, I really think it’s anachronistic that such alleged (sub)culture of Otaku is promoted even by a governmental project. Otaku Culture and Its Discontents Or, why on earth do feminists in Japan hesitate to criticize such a male-centered movement?  By the similar argument, Azuma’s book is not only useless, but also harmful. Of course it would be like asking for the moon, if Azuma’s book dealt with the specific aspects of our age. But the subtitle of the book reads “Japanese Society from the View Point of Otaku.” Moreover the catch copy by the publisher reads “We cannot discuss Japan in 2000s without this book.” These remarks announce that the book presents a general theory.

The responsibility for this unhappy situation should be laid on the intellectuals who have not blamed such anachronistic male Otaku on the ground that they don’t know the Otaku well. Critique of Otaku culture can and should be made even by the people who have little or a little knowledge about Otaku culture even from Kantian transcendental point of view.
Of course, modernist must assume this responsibility, too. And that’s why I called today’s talk a little tentative.”

-Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, (October 17, 2007, University of Rochester)
http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf

Wow, it is either all queer theory all the way down, or (sometimes somewhat feminist) post-Lacanian stuff (or both). Cue Rio Otomo, who has recently published a fine essay on “Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love”:

“Viewed as irony, a seemingly monological pornographic text turns into a dialogical space, in which, as a reader, I extract, through a negotiation of distance, a pleasure of my own. This act of reading is an expression of my personal sexual fantasy, and I perform it in my own private space. Although it is my private practice, it is not a simple reflection of my private desire. I purchase the material to read, participating in public consumption, and at the same time my choice is to a large extent formed by the selection available to me in the market. Thus, what I believe to be my taste may not be truly mine, or rather, I may have been directed to prefer one thing to another by the socially constructed notions of what is desirable. Indeed, it can be said that the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I speak, all are my learned choice, and that my desire itself is largely what I learned to want. And yet, once I am aware that I embody and act out socially constructed desire through my reading, I can choose to be a critical and creative participant. A reader is, in this context, a public performer. In the following sections I look into different modes of reading in attempt to clarify particularities of BL reading.
[…]
When I read BL texts, I first identify different bodies, which are codes for different positions in the networks of human relations. The recognition of their differences provokes desire in multiple directions. I then re-enact the difference playing multiple roles in my single body—and, thus, reading (and writing) BL I am able to play with gender itself—a point also discussed by Fujimoto Yukari in her chapter in this volume. I am, thus, autoerotic, but my (female) body is erased in this process. Fantasy in its broad sense tells me a story in which I am everywhere. In BL texts I am simultaneously the character’s downcast eyes; the texture of the velvet couch he lounges on; the windows that fling open; and the wind that blows his curly locks. When his lover enters the room, I am also that lover who looks at him with heated desire. In reading like this, no single identification takes place, since the “I” is multiplied to govern each detail of the scene. The subject “I” as the unified centre no longer exists in this activity. Unlike Mishima’s narrator, I do not consolidate the subject “I” but instead lose sight of it in the landscape.
[…]
The distance that I thought existed between fantasy and myself does not seem reliable any more because I am now becoming my fantasy, writing the script, acting the roles, and capturing the scenes. I am efficient in creating pictures and narratives since my focus is on acquiring the utmost pleasure through the fantasy I am making. In the process, however, the “I” who is making disappears, a consequence that Mishima’s narrator could not afford   despite the happiness he knew it was offering. The disappearance of the “I” is the ultimate goal of fantasy making; I forget where I am and what I am. I do not remember whether I have even existed, when I am in a phantasmatic space. At that very moment of happiness I do not care how I appear to others; I am back in my childlike innocence. I have forgotten my gendered body. The reading subject is not born there, but disappears, as my autoerotic pleasure peculiarly excludes myself along with my body.
[…]
In the mid-1990s Nakajima Azusa made her feminist position clear, describing what she calls the “world of JUNE”:
{{The standing position for these girls has already been removed from the world they create… there is no “opposite” sex as the object of love. Turning themselves into shadow, the girls can play to their hearts content with materials unfamiliar to them, connecting one person to another, or making someone fall in love with another, without fear of being made to enter the “ring” where she is on display to be purchased by men.}}
[22 – JUNE magazine (1978–1979, 1981–1996), a popular BL-focused periodical, was during its time the hub for BL enthusiasts.]”

-The Politics of Utopia: Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love by Rio Otomo http://rio-otomo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2013.11.3FantasyPornographyBoyslove.pdf

Note that Otomo follows a fairly orthodox post-Lacanian script herein, when dealing with female desire as free-floating and un-fettered by a limiting phallic subjectivity.

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

“Enomoto explains that “male fans cannot experience moe until they have fixed their own position”— an observation that may well have validity beyond otaku and yaoi fans. In general a man fears the undermining of his own subject position, and he must establish that position firmly before he can desire an object. This is probably the fate of all who possess a phallus (as distinct from a penis): if the position and orientation of the phallus is not defined, the male cannot face even the object of his own desire.

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.””

Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki , in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

It appears that Tamaki and those with rejoinders to his brief mention of the fujoshi experience gloss over the initiatial Lacanian trauma/ shock/ wound of discovering yaoish desires (“Holy Shit !!! Are you serious ??? Where can I get… ?” – as one real life correspondent once exclaimed to me) in favor of the vertiginous pleasures of the shifting POV’s within these dangerous texts. Recall that Tamaki glosses over the fine details of the male experience of the “trauma” as well; which lead me in an earlier review to suggest a rude and simple flowchart.

Only Kio Shimoko, through Kanako Ohno makes any direct mention of the grotty details of any direct erotic use of the material, and what does he know? There is no law that requires that all erotic material must be consumed in “one hand play mode” either for guys or girls and any taxonomy of “appreciation” would probably be both pointless and corporatist-fascist; mega-corporations, as well as the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Academic researchers should consult ethics boards and then ask very, very politely.

The initial question however remains and seems to be only fleetingly addressed in materials available to the English-language-limited researcher. Mizoguchi (Akiko) mentions an initial discovery of early 49’er -style shoujo manga (fantasy European) boys romance tales as support and inspiration to her, as her lesbian identity awakened  –  This effect seems far more important than any fleeting erotic charge these texts may or may not have provoked. Only Kazumi Nagaike in her doctoral thesis- “Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father: Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire” [https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962] and her later (unfortunately titled) expanded work on the subject- “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” [ http://www.amazon.ca/Fantasies-Cross-Dressing-Japanese-Male-Male-Erotica/dp/9004216952] gets down and dirty on early and mid-twentieth century Japanese literature that serves as the direct ancestor to the genre. I have previously reviewed these; the source material, which Nagaike translates in some length is not for the squeamish but is more than sufficient to provoke a Lacanian “trauma” and subsequent cathexis – if that kind of stuff turns your crank.

The disconnect, or asymmetry of the experience of libidinised popular visual cultural material between the boys and the girls seems to grow the more one examines it and yet if the differences cannot be laid at the foot of some crude biological determinism, they must then be ascribed to societally gendered codes of behaviour and consumption.

No wonder the entire gender-sexuality-queer-theory-whatnot theory brigades are swarming all over the crash scene! (Be grateful they are; good work is being done there!)

I made no comment.
What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”

Perhaps a simpler solution would be for someone to swipe a time machine, go back to France after the war, feed Lacan some mind-altering pharmaceuticals and drag him to a whole lot of movie theatres.

As critical-theory inclined film essayists have long pointed out, a floating, decentered subjectivity is not merely a matter of who has a delusion between their legs. The camera can do all kinds of tricky things, even if the majority of film makers stick to simple tried and true omniscient “male gaze” visual narrative conventions. Remember the multiple/split screen effects in the Woodstock music documentary were breathtakingly avant-garde and daring for 1970. Such innocent days… We have better cameras and computers now, so we can go crazy in the head and perhaps vicariously enjoy the perspective of the -gasp- Lacanian autre (read: female inscribed by lack) with special effects.

Or Lacan was a bit full of it and we can trash the whole line of inquiry…

Whatever the case, Kio Shimoku’s character mechanics tack quite close to post Lacanian shores. Note the scene in which a sworn-off BL Hato-kun experiences the classic shock that Tamaki has grounded his approach on:

Ch88p17 still works

Of course Hato’s big trauma/ shock/ wound was meant to lie in wait for unsuspecting young women. The Beautiful Bonking Bishie(s) is supposed to be the female counterpart to the Beautiful Fighting Girl. I have probably burnt too much powder on this one already, but a few other fine distinctions can be teased out of the tangle of 2D desire. Tamaki’s BFG in her purest state is a thinly drawn character, a nominally female cypher that lives to fight, requiring little or no back story or motivation and possessed of a sexuality that is sublimated toward battle. She is the phallic, or non-female female, There is a world of difference between such a character –almost a one person clench scene– and a fully written fictional female, heroic or not. Similarly, the Bonking Bishies of a BL tableau are far removed from even the minimal characterizations of parody yaoi dojins. You still need to do author-thing work to get a working story. And reports have it that the rotten girls seem to want more story/ situation/ relationshippy characterization than the Otaku guys do for their critters.

And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;

So Hato is suddenly realizing that his grand “fujoshi desire” project must now include becoming the improbable “male crossdressing BL mangaka”.

“How can I win if they keep moving the goalposts???”

Something about Carnegie Hall…

Since the first moment Hato’s (first) Stand appeared, Kio Shimolu has been hiding this card up his sleeve. Hato mirrors (in a distorted form) the original problem faced by Shimoku – how to properly pull off an ensemble manga full of fujoshi charas when you are a guy. The Stand (and later Stands) were all about making Hato act out classic BL scripts. Whether Hato puts on a dress and gets all hot ‘n bothered with yaoi pr0n or whether the mere knowledge that such creatures as fujoshi and such narratives of desire as BL and yoai exist is enough of a trauma to set him on his course, is immaterial. The only real desire he has ever really shown is towards his project and his project involves authorship – whether he knows and/or admits it or not.

Dammit! We cannot completely scrap the Lacanian approach. Implicit in Tamaki’s trauma scheme is Lacan’s idea that all experience is mediated in the imaginary, that the “real” is something that would drive mere mortals crazy, and that in the moment that mad desire is sparked by the seemingly innocuous or ridiculous cartoon image “Sex is broken down within the framework of fiction and then put back together again“.

A Later Aside: Don’t look or listen to closely to the Lacanian ‘real” or you might find that it is a re-tread of Euroethnic Judeo-Christian mysticism. Alanis Morisette explains:

Ok, so reality, the cave, shadows, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Otaku hysteria born out of the trauma is fundamentally a narrative, creative act and therefore in becoming-otaku (or fujoshi) one must inevitably undertake creative acts of secondary production. One must learn to ride the waves of mass mediated images- of- the- imaginary or be swept away to drown in the torrent. You have to hack the spew.

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand
And puts a record on the gramophone.

Genshiken might well be a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shoujo components: shouldn’t we at least get to see Hato ache for Mada? …Or even ache for an idealised phantasm of Mada? Kio Shimoku is great at the timid hesitation of Otaku courtship, and damn fine at the in-relationship and/or in-well-married couple frictions and their minor (sometimes major) discontents but he seldom deploys full-throttle romantic mush. Ohno & Tanaka came the closest when Ohno got hammered at the cosplay shoot, but Shimoku-sensei doesn’t do over-the-top melodramatic longing. Saki had a tiny bit, but it was quickly dealt with. The happy couple kisses and we move on to in-relationship comedy situations. Shimoku’s works appear more realistic or slice-of-life because he plays all his romance-ish notes in a restrained, pragmatic, somewhat disillusioned key. It is the old chestnut about the Japanese courting couple, with the guy who cannot ask the girl to marry him –  so he asks her to be the one to make breakfast miso soup for him for the rest of his life.  Ooooooh! That sets the heart a’ flutter!

Hato-as-chan acting out BL tropes, should be doing the full, overblown shoujo-esue Heart of the Song of the Wind and Trees & Thomas ” I am yours until the earth claims my body vow of undywing trew ruv at a perplexed Madarame. And where are the full-page floral background portraits (dammit!)? Instead Hato is following the timid courtship rules of the Genshiken: potential partners are approached slowly, tentatively, and with a wearying deliberation that recalls the purchase of a major appliance or a used car. This might be funny, but it is not very big on the desire thing. If Hato has gone quasi you-and-only-you gay for Madarame (even if it shocks the hold-over mainstream male Japanese fan-base, as well as the legions of followers across the grey alleys of the world-wide interwebs) there has been scant evidence of friendship, no evidence of love (even one-sided) no evidence of lust (beyond drawn 2D Hato-works) and no evidence of desire. One outburst of loneliness is all that we have seen. That, the prodding of the Stands and a lot of leveling up in Hato’s femme-ish presentation.

Hato you cad !!! You are just toying with Mada for material for your damn comic.

Meanwhile Sue has “had” in one moment, more of Hato – chan and kun, than Mada ever will.

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

I wonder what she is threatening Mada about in Chapter 105 (the raws are out!), and why the handcuffs ????

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

I am fanning out here, but I am also speculating about what i have long suspected as one of the over-arching plot engines of the whole fujoshi-with-Hato Genshiken. It’s not that you have to do the Anti-Oedipus becoming-woman/ becoming-monster thing to be a successful auteur. Nor is the consideration of decentered subjective multiplicities a feminist (or not) post-Lacanian or queer theory monopoly – though one can understand their interest in the idea. (Hegemony not good!) It’s just that the ability to load and process multiple subjectivities is helpful to the creative process in this day and age. Hato is being used as a slapstick allegory on this theme, as he edges towards being able to tell his stories. He will try all kinds of odd approaches. Like a certain cartoon penguin, He will not fail!

C’mon Hato, as an aspiring mangaka, you need a muse – being your own just isn’t cutting it lately. Sue or Yajimachi: pick one! (Sue best girl!) You can be a male crossdressing virtual lesbian BL mangaka and surpass all your sempais!

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

SURVEY & RESEARCH METHODS #3: The Murphy Engine + On Monogamy

Between work pressures, research continues, and my health improves a bit. For relaxation, I have been reading plenty of happy, nothing-bad-or-difficult-happens manga, while picking at online journals, Mechademia (must do more with the article that highlights the twin influences of mr. Database vs mr. Gainax) and have been continuing to enjoy massive real-world news fix(es) with the help of Calibre ebook management software’s amazing ability to absorb online periodicals. Too much news can be a mixed blessing though.. But first:

Going back through my posts, I feel I must add one small thing in praise of Hiroki Azuma’s (mr.database’s) analysis of the Otaku. While I still feel that the “database” theory can be wildly over-applied, I must commend him as the first to seriously comment on what Western bloggers now call the echo chamber effect in online political discourse. So that while using “the database” to find (and/or create) perfect loli characters might be fringe activity, using the Fox News blogosphere or the Huffington Post -verse to insulate yourself from “annoying wrongheaded bullshit that you just don’t have time to deal with”, is now a major feature of contemporary politics. He spotted it. Cue the end of public debate. Two cheers and a tiger for Hiroki Azuma.

In the news, more on troubles in Japan rebuilding after 3/11: As part of the background of this blog is exploring how fiction mirrors the breakdown in workable societal roles and processes surrounding individuation, identity, mating and desire in Japan, it comes as a shock (but not too big a shock) to see that the finely tuned mechanisms of political consent in Japanese society are cracking up under the strains of the horrible damage inflicted by earthquake, tsunami, nuclear accident and the later summer rainstorms. Of course the Diet is in a mess and the bureaucracy is thomping around using the crisis as a great opportunity to seize territory (heh, so apparently is the Yakuza, we await hearing more from Jake-sensei) But the last straw surely must be taking reconstruction money and spending it on RESEARCH WHALING !!!!

OMG! WTF?

I am happy that this is a manga blog. I gave up on polisci.

If it was about Japanese politics I would be three miles past I AM IN DESPAIR stage and well on to FUCK YOU ALL nihilistic mode. I am keeping an eye open for some other blogger to do the dirty work.

I WILL NOT be setting up a “Let’s predict future Japanese government policy by assuming that every dead-stupid asshat- worst-possible-idea will be implemented by a confluence of crazed bureaucrats, fringe political party backroom operators and desperate industry sleazebags “ generator…. Nope… not me…

“The Reconstruction ministry has partnered with extreme right-wing political insiders to develop a loli brothel comfort women theme park in [ x ] devastated prefecture. Under-age North Korean and Thai orphan children to be “hired” as “trainee workers” to help develop “tourism”. Whale meat to be served at theme park food stalls, along with raw, freshly killed puppies and kittens. Power for the facility will be provided by incinerating tsunami waste, unclaimed bodies and e-waste until the unshielded Monju breeder reactor can be brought online.” ….

News Flash! An epic fail policy balls-over-tea-kettle scandal at the highest levels of Japanese politics was averted when Big Japanese Man and an un-named superhero who could only yell Netch koma, netch koma appeared on the scene of a secret late-night backroom conference between high level bureaucrats, far -right party insiders, board members of certain failing industries and utilities and shadowy talent agency executives. The two heroes proceeded to subdue a phalanx of bodyguards and then mysteriously vanished, spiriting away with them the aforementioned conspirators. . . . . .

Within the hour reports emerged of a disturbance hundreds of miles away at the famous Monkey Hot Spring, where it it is reported that more than a dozen drunk angry nekkid old men suddenly appeared out of thin air above the monkey pool and dropped, in a tangle of pasty flesh, into the warm waters below. The commotion then brought to the pool the senior matriarchs of the hot spring monkey band, who jumped into the pool and proceeded to groom and stroke the angry, confused old guys. Within 15 minutes, all were weeping profusely and apologising to the monkeys and annoyed park staff, pledging that they would stop acting “Baka”, make public atonememts, and devote themselves to trying to help all the people of Japan get through this difficult time.

Press conference scheduled for 10am.

Of course the Murphy’s Law Asshat Policy Generator Engine is not limited to use in Japan; I cannot watch American news lately. It is too depressing.

One word: Newt.

Like I said, Not going there…. Back to desire in manga:

I came across the spoiler (warning!) last episode of the rather sweet not-qite-Yuri series Sasameki Koto (Ikeda Tasheki). and was touched by the scene where the (finally) happy pair get to ring the bell at brother’s wedding. I gather the bell ringing is some syncretistic catch-the-bouquet thing at Japanese weddings (or a good proposal for one) and remembered something similar in my past, when two friends had a wonderful back-yard marriage ceremony and then expressed the hope that the much-loved-by-all gal couple in attendance could also soon tie the knot (if they so chose). Well, since I live in Canada, this all worked out well soon enough. Hooray for sentimentality!

Enthusiastic western fans, both guys and gals have been gushing about Koto for years, and have noted that while it dragged on forever and remained extremely chaste, its heart was in the right place. True love conquers all. No one expected Koto to end up as a loser-fan-boy pandering tangle of two-good-15-better 2D nubiles groping each other, which is always a danger in a genre which presents wimmen’s “love” for a male audience. (That’s what donjishi and the works of Ken Kurogane are for).

Monogamy in narratives of desire is one of the odd variables within the Yuri and Yaoi genres. As others have noted, the classic Yaoi story line – especially the hard-core smut variety – is not only informed by a formal seme/uke characterisation, but also by an  exclusive, obsessive, monogamous desire that drives to seme to transgressively pursue and take the uke. Questions of gender identity and sexual preference are subsumed under the older idea of love/desire as a madness for “the one” that impels a catastrophic break with rules (as well as much odd speculation on aspects of male arousal).

Issues of sexual identity, class, power, ethics and plot all fall before cupid’s arrows.

Yaoi posits that monogamistic obsession (and a lot of 2D boy skin doing rough things) is very appealing to the fujoshis and (what the heck) a wider female readership.

Monogamy in sexual fantasy = gal thing Duh!

In contrast, classic exploitative Yuri work either features nasty gals doing lots of nasty things to/with lots other nasty gals for (one assumes) boy readers to fap to, or nice girls doing lots of nice things with lots of other nice girls for boy readers to etc. If you drop one or two boys into it, they recall late R.H.Heinlein (gahhhhhhhhhh! Oh shame! Oh mortifying embarrassment!) tales – No wait! Lets leave the hero’s mom out of it!.

Polygamy in sexual fantasy = guy thing Duh!

Higgamous hogamous Yaoi is monogamous!
Hoggamous higgamous, Yuri polygamous! 

What is absent in both genres is any idea of individual development while attempting to hold fast to prescribed societal models of growing up, falling in love, getting married and holding down a job. Does that make the (very odd – I thought it was only a heavy-handed sex-education manual manga) Futari Ecchi manga the most transgressive manga of them all?

blah blah blah blah blah!

want moar hot statistics

? ? ? ?

(snort!)

We so seldom speak of love. . .

On Moso Shojo Otaku-kei AKA Fujoshi Rumi by Natsumi Konjoh

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fujoshi_Rumi
Natsumi Konjoh http://www.mangaupdates.com/authors.html?id=1892 http://www.punkednoodle.com/champloo/2007/10/14/09-mousou-shoujo-otaku-kei-by-natsumi-konjoh/ http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/review/fujoshi-rumi/gn-1 http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=1740
and part 2
http://www.sequentialtart.com/article.php?id=1741
See also O’Brien, Amy Ann, “Boys’ Love and Female Friendships: The Subculture of Yaoi as a Social Bond between Women” (2008). Anthropology Theses. Paper 28.(http://digitalarchive.gsu.edu/anthro_theses/28)

Moso was serialised after the Fujoshi / Ogiue arc of the first Genshiken saga, (2006-2008 vs G1’s 2002-2006). Later Genshiken GN episodes drop shout-outs to it, marking it at least as a fellow traveller on the fujoshi pilgrimage path. However in Moso Shojo, the play between Yaoi-obsessed girls and the hapless guys who chase after them is front and center. No losers club with an unspoken social contract between its members can get in the way of the girls vs boys fun.

Not as scary as Ogiue

In Moso, the Yaoi fantasies of the typecast fujoshi main character (Rumi Asai), and the popular girl with a secret taste for Yaoi stuff (Yasuko Matsuura) serve as a bond of friendship and a shield against the annoying and somewhat threatening interests of the two hapless guys who yearn for their attention. Compared to Genshiken’s Sasahara, these two fools are in for all kinds of abuse, and by the iron laws of manga irony (Lol!) the most earnest and unworldly of them – Takahiro Abe, is going to get the worst of it. When will he clue into the fact that the girls want them around ONLY to serve as inspiration for their lewd pairing fantasies?

MULTIPLE SPOILER(s) WARNING! No.. I will not take the time to learn how to code a spoiler tag into this mess.. go find the series in your library, or the usual grey places and have fun..

The more worldly of the two lads – Shunsuke Chiba has a deep dark secret of his own: he has grown up amid the fallout from his big sister’s Yaoi habit; she is an accomplished yaoi (and Yuri, and straight Hentai dojinshi creator and perhaps a stand-in for the mangaka). As such, he is a bit more at ease with the fake-gay fantasies of yaoi fanatic girls, but has not yet internalized the deeper problems suggested by a fujoshi world-view. And he figures that his lady-killer charms will be able to punch through the Yaoi fantasy veil and snag him an “interesting” girlfriend – which might mark him as an even greater fool than Abe!

Abe, the naive male lead does not have the luxury of Chiba’s experience, or even recourse to something like Sasahara’s believable “acceptance” speech, because he lacks Sasahara’s Otaku interests. Worse, he is beginning to attract the attentions of a man-mountain upper-year judo champ who has just developed a powerful love-at-first sight crush on him.

Kumeta’s SZS has made a point of highlighting a difference between the imagined fantasies of its’ fujoshi dojinshi creating girl, and the beefy gaiyu guys that seems to occasionally pop up in the way of the not-so-despairing Sensei, but Moso renders its only true male gay character in starker tones: Hidemi Tsukamoto is no muscle-shirted nose picker – at first he appears as a looming ass-raping threat, barely able to control himself, but he soon sheds this Yaoi-goggled first impression and then acts so damn noble, as to remind me of the gay-male-wish-fulfilment fantasy character in the (dreadful) Denis Arcand movie “Love and Human Remains”(1993). (Bleh! Arcand! From now on I pirate all your movies – Barbarian Invasions made up a bit for this stinker, but you STILL OWE ME!!!!)

Tsukamoto is probably the smartest and big-hearted character in the whole 3 volumes that are available so far to western fans. His “solution” to Abe’s inability to directly confront Rumi with a declaration of love is a brilliant trick that one-ups Cyrano De Bergerac. And he steals a smooch! Even then, Abe is not out of the woods – Rumi decides that she can only “love” him if she adopts a yaoi-imagined “male” persona. Poor Bastard!

Young heterosexual love is poisoned and much too dangerous for a delicate fujoshi girl.

It is also of note that Moso and Genshiken agree on the need for bent male characters to be good at judo.

As mentioned in some of the reviews cited above, Moso Shojo shines in the depth of its references to otaku/ fujoshi culture. And while it has some really fine laugh moments, until us poor gaijin get beyond vol 3, it is going to be hard to position this one as anything more than light fun.

Do future volumes pledge themselves to the conspiracy – the Otaku mating project, or is Moso in league with the “database” and the NHK? (no, not the broadcaster dammit!)

This blog is going to have to soon attempt a typology of Yaoi, if it is to get anywhere, but first (and next up) – Critical Theory and Poetics – gals vs guys on a mythic scale.

One or several Lupins

“”Franny is listening to a program on wolves. I say to her, Would you like to be a wolf? She answers haughtily, How stupid, you can’t be one wolf, you’re always eight or nine, six or seven. Not six or seven wolves all by yourself all at once, but one wolf among others, with five or six others. In becoming-wolf, the important thing is the position of the mass, and above all the position of the subject itself in relation to the pack or wolf-multiplicity: how the subject joins or does not join the pack, how far away it stays, how it does or does not hold to the multiplicity.””
1914: One or Several Wolves? A Thousand Plateaus by Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Thousand_Plateaus)
have fun at http://notabenoid.com/book/9056/27642/

On narratives of escape, identity and re-definition, the other, the self and the group:

I feel for the poor Otaku, especially the middle-aged ones who grew up with the Lupin III franchise, and who tuned in to watch the 30th anniversary special GREEN VS RED (2008). Instead of another lighthearted master-thief and buddies pull off an amazing caper and right a few wrongs on the way, we get a meditation on middle-aged male ennui, decline, ageing, all mirrored against a backdrop of bleak societal cynicism and murderous corruption. Yikes! Bummer! But wait! Mr. mid-life crisis Otaku is gonna get a little fable about escapism, disenchantment and accommodation with the real world.
(OH Heck, it’s OZ time again!)

The “plot” is simple yet confusing:

The “original” Lupin III is nowhere to be found, perhaps he is dead, retired, or perhaps he never was. In his place are scores of peter pan types who have cast off their everyday lives and complaints and have become Lupin. There is no longer an original, yet many still NEED a “real” Lupin to give their lives meaning. And so there are Lupins all over the place, scheming, plotting heists, fighting each other, running from the cops and Zenigata, thwarting evil capitalist plans, siding with the bad guys, hiding from their girlfriends, trying to charm Fujiko Mine, and getting busted for shoplifting from a Kombini. SHOPLIFTING!

I blame Baudrillard! Of course, if there is more than ONE Lupin, there has to be many! An excess of Lupins, a horde, a swarm, a profusion to make the point. If there were only two, one would be a fake, the other real.

All of the Lupins remain masters of arcane tech, and disguise (except shoplifter Lupin).. Kinda like 2chan Otakus (neojapon article) (Part of me hopes that Azuma doesn’t play with this one in a later essay, but I can’t see how he could resist)

There is a mcGuffin, a diamond that is not a diamond, but an abomination, a couple of villains that are chillingly evil (one who cores his son for a new body) and there are plenty of odd Highlander-esque showdowns to determine who is or will be the REAL Lupin. Daisuke Jigen, Goemon Ishikawa, and Fujiko Mine cynically hang with one or another of the Lupins not out of “friendship” but according to how much “fun” they derive at the moment. In the end true Lupin-hood remains elusive – or omnipresent – available to all who need to escape from real life’s complaints.

Of note to those of us with a hunger for such things are the odd moments when a posse of Lupins break the Shoplifter Lupin out of police headquarters (or are they too late?) and then argue in a hideout over proper Lupin behavior. The cops bust the joint, but one of the more “real Lupins” and the shoplifter are on bathroom break and escape. In pairs they fight over who is real – in a group they see no contradictions in their multiplicity and only argue about what is canon Lupin behaviour!!!!

In the end, “our” Lupin makes a tentative peace with his real-world life. Others slip off to live the dream a while longer. The cops haul away the bad guys, and none of them get the girl until they GROW UP!

As one blogger commented: (engage cpt Obvious persona) “Lupin has been an idea. What the people watching have always wanted to be at one point. Even if its to a small extent. Funny, Charming, “Cool and Smart.” Able to be free. Lupin has no binded (sic) to anything. He has no family, only acquaintances. He is free to do whatever he wants. Come on who here never once gave a thought to what it would be like to actually be Lupin III? If Lupin III could actually exist in this world?”

Trickster figures have a habit of disappearing and popping up when needed. I note the newest incarnation, ANONYMOUS and their cyber-fun with “the system” (which is often little more than cyber-doorbell ringing and leaving a flaming paper bag full of dog poop on the doorstep) is open to both sexes. It is fun to watch the man yell cyber-terrorism and count up inflated hypothetical losses – just in case the chance to boost their operating budgets or sue some basement dweller presents itself later.

Occasionally Anonymous saves the day, such as when they busted a certain nasty little American security consulting firm that was using custom software and contractees to manufacture multiple fake personas for neo conservative customers – in an attempt to influence political discussion in the US “blogosphere”. (Sock-puppettry: wholesale rather than retail impersonation was their crime – each agent could multitask control 16 or more fake blog respondents – go dig it up on BoingBoing) Epic Battle of the simulations! The masked wonders vs the puppet masters!

We have all been reading too many comics!

More D&G:

“”Who is Freud trying to fool? The wolves never had a chance to get away and save their pack: it was already decided from the very beginning that animals could serve only to represent coitus between parents, or, conversely, be represented by coitus between parents. Freud obviously knows nothing about the fascination exerted by wolves and the meaning of their silent call, the call to become-wolf. Wolves watch, intently watch, the dreaming child; it is so much more reassuring to tell oneself that the dream produced a reversal and that it is really the child who sees dogs or parents in the act of making love. Freud only knows the Oedipalized wolf or dog, the castrated-castrating daddy-wolf, the dog in the kennel, the analyst’s bow-wow.””

The analyst is forever trying to shoehorn an individual, atomized reading onto a group phenomena. The analyst never looks at the surplus exchanged within the pack, especially if the surplus is vaguely pornographic and violates a slew of copyright laws. The analyst never considers how the subject changes within the pack from self/ other to in/ out, how much, how close/ far, how often, and why.

One grand narrative, dead or dying? Many petit recits? Or the pack and the call to escape, to become something different, something more?

ASIDE: Finished with Azuma’s Otaku now.

A groundbreaking work, despite a few metaphors stretched to breaking limits, and the problematic focus of viewing the solitary Otaku through Lyotard-tinted goggles. More Lacan and more Zizek would have been fun, (Much later: them two are problematic as well!) as would have been more examination of the social and technological conditions on the ground that have helped foster Otaku culture. Azuma also softpedalled the curious fact that so much of the Otaku world is day and night, comics and pr0n and the slippage between the two is relentless. Dry discussions of human and animal desire/ consumption were probably needed so that the research could remain serious, but the choice to do so has consequences. Still I infer that the current jp. media canard about grazing herbivorous men owes a debt to this work.

Much later: You can visit Azuma’s “database”, in English – it is called TvTropes and it functions more as a shared vocabulary rather than a “certain magical index”. Also when I was first picking through this stuff, I had no idea how much Dr. Saito Tamaki’s works had stirred up the pot, so “Database Animals” needs to be seen in proper context. Part of that context involves “secondary production”, otherwise why would a vocabulary be so necessary?

In any case, there are some fine resources and blog essays on “Database”:

Azuma summarizes himself:
http://web.archive.org/web/20060819205959/http://www.hirokiazuma.com/en/texts/superflat_en1.html

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 1
http://superfani.com/2010/08/06/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-1/

Adventures in Criticism: Otaku 2
http://superfani.com/2010/08/16/adventures-in-criticism-otaku-2/

Otaku annotated: adventures in moe, porn, and postmodernism
http://superfani.com/2010/04/10/otaku-annotated/

Finally, while the powerful feedback loop between fans and creators is discussed, and the dojinshi, mash-up, game patches (not to mention scanlators, pirates, etc etc) are mentioned, none of the “goggles” are particularly convincing in describing the DRIVES that encourage this behavior, or how the technology – my little matter duplicator metaphor- makes the gift, symbolic exchange, potlatch, the devil’s share, and so on inevitable and fun and part of the community.

The entire beyond objectification – the symbolic exchange of women thing needed to be explored. Women??? What about Yaoi??? (Yeehaw! got my next post topic!)

You cannot analyse Otaku by the representation of Otaku in Otaku literature. For example, a question emerges: how many Otaku obsessively stick to expensive originals, and how many exchange illegal dupes? Do they reserve their disposable income for their “pet” series/ characters and dupe the rest, or dupe all and buy figurines (wait until 3d printers – makebots become affordable!) or what? Digital media is so effing easy to copy.

First-hand experience in Japan, with japanese implementations of Windows hardware point out that there is a lot less DIY among users, but yahoo auctions and a robust mail/ delivery company infrastructure ensures that even the most isolated otaku can get all the used gear they need. Genshiken mentions this in its story, but cautiously edits out the inevitable result, much like pubic hair. We can assume that the Otaku-verse is full of
savvy computer users and pirate dubs.

Final argument: pirate copies and scans take up less ROOM!

What else – the footnotes are useful.

Of course it is 10 years or more since Otaku came out, technology and technologically assisted communities have advanced considerably. I can sit at my kitchen table in southwestern Ontario and follow kotaku, neojaponism, and hellodamage, newsonjapan and a host of other fun blogs and sites. If really, really interested or in need of a radical encounter with the other, I can try my luck with Google translate. If I am interested in Otaku culture, I can indulge myself. I can kick back and read 5 volumes of Mechademia if I really want a fun time (Gahhhhhhhhhhhhh!).

OMG! Does this mean I have become a database animal? Turn off laptop NOW! Join a political party and a square dance club quick!

RANT:
In many ways, it is FAR EASIER for me to research out and blog this stuff than it is to read my local newspaper online, or watch local tv newscasts, which have gone digital /ATSC. Because everything in Southwestern Ontario is an afterthought to bosses and pols in Toronto, the local newspaper’s web site is junked up with ads and runs on a hideously slow server – we are talking minutes here with a lousy internet connection. (this blog post is taking at least an hour to run through formatting and spell-check! Grrr!) Meanwhile, the two local TV stations were not given a proper budget for their new digital transmitters and their crisp high-definition signals are now unavailable without big 1960’s style outdoor or attic antennas or $350/year cable subscriptions. Japan is now closer to me than my local newspaper.

Of course the American stations come in perfectly; as I type this, some new cop shop has the blond babe detective chasing down organleggers! How depressing the thought of all those middle american types now worried that bad guys are going to swipe their kidneys!!

Gahhhhhh! I am in despair! I blame Larry Niven!

Next time: Mousou Shoujo Otakukei AKA Fujoshi Rumi –
Beyond turnabout is fair play to objectification and the symbolic exchange of men: Comedy and power?

The work of Art in the age of matter duplication

Still on Azuma’s Otakus . . .

To better understand Baudrillard’s Simulations, one has to take a detour between Walter Benjamin and the vertigo of democratized narrative consumption and exchange. Believe it or not, we will have to deal with radar tubes, a rather odd little space opera and some canibals.

George O Smith helped develop military radar during WWII. After that he wrote rather typical american sci-fi for J.W.Campbell’s Astounding, the premiere organ of American scientific romance, a form of vernacular modernism.
(Heinlein once called Marxism science fiction – it is only polite to return the compliment.)
Arthur C Clarke is credited with inventing the idea of the communication satellite, but Smith went further, setting his stories on a power transfer space station/ satellite in equilateral orbit with Venus. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_Equilateral)

Most of these tales are ripping good J.W.Campbell mentored yarns, with no sociology or deeper message at all. Then something goes awry. The author digs up a long lost ancient piece of magical tech in the sands of Mars, and our heroes get a working matter duplicator. Hijinx and world economic collapse ensue. Suddenly everyone is ramming food, money, diamonds and the Mona Lisa through their magic thingy and nothing is worth anything any more, but everyone has too much stuff. Did I mention the plot for world domination by Dr. Evil and his two sidekicks “Wally” and “Benji”?

Naw… couldn’t have, no way… 1945. . . Lets just say the idea was in the air.

The point of Walter Benjamin’s original short essay was essentially:

“WHAT IS TAKING YOU SO LONG ?”

Everything else is mass produced and reproduced. Why the archaic fetish surrounding the original wotk of art? Benjamin was a modernist and a marxian. He liked narratives of development and progress. I’ve read Bejamin’s Origins of German tragic Drama – whew.. what a slog! Quick recap: Cervantes and Shakespear make like John the baptist and announce the coming of the modern realistic character in fiction, thus prefiguring the modern individual bourgeois identity. Charles Taylor and Jean Baudrillard could have had a fine night’s drinking over this and never come to blows. The signifier always floats free, a wealthy bourgeois society with nifty tech just speeds the plow. Whats next? A
post-modern treatise on the lack of originality in pop music?

Aside:
Did you know that Shakespear had a late play – now lost but noted by contemporaries – that featured a cameo by Don Quixote? And that Milton’s description of Paradise was lifted chapter and verse from Montaigne’s description of the idillic state of nature supposedly enjoyed by the aboriginal (non-pants-wearing) population of the east coast of America before the Virginia colonists messed things up? Dig out your copy of “The Canibals” and then read Milton, and maybe even Kojève. Why do I mention this?

The whole becoming animal thing trotted out in Azuma is a cultural artifact born out of vernacular euroethnic christianity facing the other in the guise of mythical new world savage; Garden of Eden, noble savage, Arial or Caliban; all so many recycled goth – loli character tropes in maid outfits and cat-ears. Eden meant a whole different thing to Euro-peasants before 1492.

PS.. If a certain Wrong-headed prof at the University of South Western Ontario – who trashed my research on this, later pinched this little find, all I can say is phtttttttttt! Said clown exclaimed to a class full of impressionable undergraduates that Montaigne was a racist. Irony? Sarcasm? the drye mocke? Duh!

On the subject of petty tyranies, there is another explanation for strategies of cynical reading mentioned by Azuma; one that Zizek grew up with. Opression is still a reality in human existence. The great fallen marxist project is often taken as a dead grand narrative, but the story behind it, and the story behind western capitalist democracies –
That we are more than self-reproducing farm equipment!
– remains a work in progress. Free individuals have the right to their respective dreams, and that right extends to playing mix-n-match with them, individually, or as part of a community of play. And if the State, power, wealth and capital seek to stifle your life, play can be a vehicle for all manner of subversions.

Again: “WHAT IS TAKING YOU SO LONG ?”

Research notes: About Montaigne’s Canibals and Milton – the passage about Eden pops up in Northrop Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism, but the link is never mentioned.
At the time, I assumed this is a well-know minor “easter egg” in classical studies, but perhaps not.
Also, I don’t know enough early Japanese literature to venture a definite statement on this, but I feel that as in europe, times of peace and economic surplus invariably lead to satyrical, mix-n-match, fantastic works that poke fun at power. Anyone out there an expert in Tokugawa vs Edo period shunga? Was it all naughty bits, or were there political/ class subversions in the texts?

Still with Azuma . . .

Next up… one or several Lupins…

Assimilating Our Culture, That’s What They’re Doing!

I am still reading Azuma’s Otaku and I think it is time for a sharp corrective, or at least a counter-view: If we dispense with the grand narrative vs. petit recits cant, and the legends of the fall of post-war Japan and take the view that appropriation and misreading are central to the consumption and exchange of texts in modernism, then we can see otaku culture in a less damming light.

We can also make sense of the way “Japanese visual culture” romps through euroethnic cultural and religious mythologies with such spirited abandon, and steals anything not nailed down.

Shrine Maidens with witches brooms? WTF not! Why not throw in a few mini-skirted nuns locked in battle with vampires, while Jesus and Buddha try to find a decent veggie pizza in Tokyo ???? This kind of fun has been going on since Lucian and Rabelais – and the gatekeepers hated them too! (Ya didn’t think the Villon quote was all HST did you.. I’ve read Villon, and Pantagruel, and Lucian’s philosopher slave market, and…)

Adrian Piper’s
“The Logic of Modernism,” Flash Art January-February, 1993

Continue reading

I who have sat by Thebes below the wall and walked among the lowest of the dead

Per recommendation, I am reading

Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals by Hiroki Azuma (2001). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hiroki_Azuma

It is interesting to see where he is going; so far so good – he uses Jean Baudrillard’s simulacra usefully, and avoids many of the dry, pro-forma references to post-modernity that plague much contemporary critical theory. A bit too much “end of history” so far though – a product of the times I guess. As well, I prefer high (or low) late modernism to the idiot simplification “postmodernism” – grand narratives were never that important, or rather the Yuri rule kicks in: one good, two better, oh why not 3, 4, 5. . . Guess I like Baudrillard, think Lyotard is over-rated and enjoy a bit of D&G when I want to be pleasantly confused.

A side note on Baudrillard: I find resonance in the use of Jimbo to theorise on otaku culture. Read lots of Baudrillard – including his art magazine interviews and articles and older work, and you will recognise that he harbored a barely concealed taste for American social sci-fi of the 1960’s’ If you don’t believe me, ask Terry Eagleton. Baudrillard dropped P.K.Dick footnotes into his serious stuff long before the practice became fashionable!

Jimbo was a fan – and he is now used to explain otakudom.. this is touchingly sweet!

Nice that his work continues to redeem the Frankfurt school of its profound distrust of mass culture.

Further digression: Characteristic of many such fans is that the prior reading of secondary and/or tertiary sources inform the eventual reading of the primary source. Nothing wrong with that, but anyone who has been there will recognise small quirks, like his use of Levi-Straus.

OMT: Baudrillard’s work is at it’s best poetic, narrative, tangential and oblique.
That is why it survives – he also had good translators.
Sometimes they left the original alone – what can beat “le crystal se venge”

Back to Azuma:
The “animal” / “database” part of Azuma’s argument is interesting, but I am suspicious of overused metaphor – unless poetics is involved. A “Biking Restaurant” (Jp: Viking, smorgasborg, buffet) does not signal the end of the Big Mac, and a disenchantment with a grand narrative does not signal a disenchantment WITH narrative. It is easy to confuse and opening of possibilities, brought on by affluence with a decline of tradition and social cohesion. Grand narratives were fundamentally products born out of scarcity – most predated functional sewers and water filtration systems in European cities. “Heh! Dont shit in your drinking water!” , improved nutrition and decreases in infant mortality are pretty damn good narratives in themselves. Looks like “if it bleeds, it leads” works just as well in critical theory as it does in tabloid journalism. . .

Despite my arguments with parts of his thesis, his one looks like a keeper! Good Stuff!

(later: More than good stuff, it seems to be one of the pillar works in Otaku studies – with the countervailing arguments going to Gainax’s Okada Toshio and his various writings.
Mechademia 5 seems to have a pile of stuff on this, so I will have to plough through it)

Found some good blog articles: http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

A quick ‘n nasty guide to the mechanics of the Yaoi sex scene:
http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/fandom/that-japanese-bl-sex-scene-page/  now archived at:  http://web.archive.org/web/20081222062255/http://ggymeta.wordpress.com/the-western-bl-sex-scene/

Must get the working notes on Fujoshi(s) Yaoi, Yuri (compare, contrast) and “cultures of enthusiasm” into some coherent shape. There is also a lot of fun to be had with Barbie, G.I.Joe (be all that you can be! – the terror of mass narcissism as an economic engine), The Shipping News (Hi Annie – what are you doing to those cowboys?) and the odd role of social class in Yaoi and Yuri (scarier than nasty sex, don’t look!)

Best way I can figure to start so far is to ask: Is Fujoshi desire some new form of Queer?”