What happened to my gaze?

You may or may not have already heard the term ‘the male gaze‘. It originally came from a film criticism essay. We now find it used to examine all kinds of visual culture artifacts. I was thinking about it recently as I was going over my anime watch list for the January-February-March 2018 season. Most of what I had settled on watching was “girly stuff” or rather exclusive girl character stories, except for one slapstick comedy and one fanservice train-wreck. Thankfully, there seemed to be a sliding continuum of moe/ CGDCT / fan-service, so I am not damned for all eternity.(Slow, slow run the horses of the night…) I’m not exactly sure who these stories’ gazes are made for or rather, whether the strict gendering of gaze has not been blurred by dint of market pressure. (1)

Sora Yori mo Tooi Basho/ A Place Further than the Universe is a girl’s adventure story with lead characters who are all responsible and have their own reasons for wanting to go on an expedition to Antarctica. Of note as well are the two expedition organisers we see the most of, who are both serious 20-something women and who have done this before. One of them is conflicted about the first girl’s determined reason for going on the trip. Men pop up in the background but this is overwhelmingly a women’s story of women’s efforts.

In another all women show, Takunomi, 20-something working women drink during their free time. Short 12-minute episodes about career women who live in a share-house and drink to relax while eating side dishes. Even less detailed than the manga Nomi Joshi. (1)  Each episode features a different booze and  each is a product placement deal. A manga has been whomped up to go along with the campaign.

One couldn’t say that the show is a fan service fest. It looks like it is aimed at office ladies looking for tips on how they should be drinking during their precious few moments of time off. The talk is mercifully free of ‘I’m getting old and need to find a guy” crap. Again, guys show up in the background but this is  a women’s homosocial – another one of those academic-ish terms, originally invented to describe all-guy stories by literary criticism types who wanted to read gay subtext into every single 19th century manly-man‘s novel with no women doing anything of note in them. Kind of like slash and/or BL, only with tenure. Lest I be accused again of being ‘smarmy’, E.K.Sedgwick was probably dead right about most of the manly-man stories she set her sights on but from then on it gets complicated. The term remains useful.

Drinking with friends is important for working women. Here is a panel from the just-ended, long-running twitter web comic by @black9arrows about the tribulations of the Lone Office Lady:

“I drew a picture of an OL living alone who had become sick of everything.”
https://twitter.com/black9arrows?lang=en
Also: https://en.rocketnews24.com/2015/05/07/japanese-twitter-users-comics-depicting-office-lady-life-will-hit-you-right-in-the-feels/

Don’t ‘ronery out!

Next up is the wonderful Yuru Camp/ Laid-back Camping. It starts off with one solitary camping girl who doesn’t like company and the Genki Airhead Girl who pesters her to be her friend. Airhead Girl bugs her older sister to drive her to campgrounds around the Hakone area. Then it picks up two more high school girls in a camping club that has yet to go camping. They discuss camping gear. They go camping. They go to a campground onsen. They cook camp meals. Mount Fuji comes into view. Again there’s nothing much in the way of fanservice or appeals to weird guy-otaku interests.

There are some great moments; as when the young camping club members who have never gone camping before discuss the ultimate winter camping tent and end up re-inventing the kotatsu.

Violet Evergarden is on my list as well. The story is about Violet. Please see my other posts on it. [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/tag/violet-evergarden/]

At the bottom of my list of Cute or not Girls or Women doing things that may or may not be Cute in the winter 2018 anime season is Ramen Daisuki Koizumi-san/ Koizumi-san loves Ramen.

It definitely is a male-gaze property and seems to exist so that we can get close-ups of Koizumi-san (who looks like she escaped from Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei’s classroom) slurping ramen and blushing. Also Koizumi-san’s legs as she walks away wearing a too-short school uniform skirt from the POV of the girl who wants to be her friend and has a clumsy yuri crush on her.

You get to learn a lot about varieties of ramen so it’s not a total write off. Guys watching get to dream about meeting a beautiful high-school girl who won’t mind going on endless cheap dates to ramen restaurants and would not complain that an exclusive diet of ramen might make them overweight.

I also tried watching something called Marchen Madchen. Nope…

Finally my last two choices: Franxx and Psi(2). Saiki Kusuo No PSI Nan (2) sticks very close to the manga, which is stupid and yet howlingly funny in unexpected ways. It has a high school ensemble cast of self-absorbed guys and girls who drag our hero into ever deeper layers of trouble – I’ll be back to it later, as it inadvertently suggests an approach to understanding part of the problem I’m digging at.

Darling in the Franxx or rather Infinite Stratos meets Logans Run is a return-to-Gainax fanservice train-wreck. Disposable orphan boy and girl child soldiers have to pilot giant Evangelion-ish robots by getting into doggie-sex positions because the mad scientist who invented them is a pervy creep. Also, monsters attack the post-apocalyptic city walls. Also, the part-monster girl babe who wants to be “on top”. The characterisation for all besides Monster Girl are boringly thin, The other pairs can’t “get it up” sufficiently to fight the monsters and only crazed Monster Girl and whatever hapless guy she snares, can. The kids are all named with numbers, their “names” are nicknames. Monster/ Demon Girl is without a nickname and known only as 02. Zero-Ni. “O-Ni”. Wow; subtle…

So; January, February, March 2018. If I exclusively needed guy stuff, aside from Franxx, I would be in despair. I am probably missing some other anime that failed to pop up on my radar and may be full of conventional gendered roles and bro heroics, along with endless level-up battles, try-your-best lessons and buddy-banter. They must be out there somewhere.

Meanwhile I seem to have snuck in a generic “this is what I’m watching this season” anime roundup into this blog, along with a few grumbles about thin pickings. You could go to any number of other blogs or Twitter and get better recommendations.

I need a reason for doing this.

I’ll try grinding on the male gaze or gendered gaze thing. First set out extremes. For the women’s gaze, something like Maria-sama ga Miteru/ Maria-sama Watches Over Us. I made it 7 episodes in before I ran away, creeped out. It wasn’t the soulful friendships between young women that threw me. The Cath stuff snuck up on me. Somewhere in the world there are Catholic high schools that do wonderful work with students who love the experience and cherish the education and the friendships that they made there throughout their lives. I didn’t go to one of those. I’m sure they were plenty worse educational experiences but those didn’t happen to me. My 4 years in a Catholic High School felt like being trapped in the Hitler Youth while secretly being not quite Aryan (and loathing nazi shyte). I managed to get out of there more or less intact but it took a lot of work and emotional turmoil. I’m sure imaginary Japanese’s Catholic girls schools do a much better job of things.

But I digress. Aside from me getting weirded out, Marimite works as a series of slow, intricately built character studies and emotional interactions between young women. Not so much yuri or romantic subtext as much as a fully imagined society. A senior blogger’s recent paean [http://okazu.yuricon.com/2018/01/28/maria-sama-ga-miteru-20-years-of-watching-mary-watching-us/] to the entire opus praises it for among other things; showcasing the development of leadership skills among young women.

Consider Marimite a “women’s gaze” story exemplar.

On the other end of the scale, maybe draft Gintama, Gasaraki and/ or Evangelion. Made for guys. Women characters are there to support the guy main chara and for guys to look at. Perhaps the “which is the most manly-man anime ever made?” debate has already been done to death. I have probably picked the wrong animes but I never got around to Fist of the North Star, so I burn/ (am already…).

Once we get beyond simple surface appearances, we are into the moe thickets and the loli-bait. Looks like a young girl’s magical girl series but is for “older friends”. Then you get Idol schools and finally the current crop of CGDCT nothing-much-happens shows that build on K-on and Joshiraku. Surprisingly, these are easy to understand on a meta-level, especially when one considers extreme variant phenomenon like BL and fanservice yuri.

Meanwhile, a bit more about the original male gaze concept. The observation was that movies were shot from a POV and for the “view” of the default viewer, which usually meant the guy viewer. Other writers and even the original theorist went back and added caveats which can be summarised in the observation that a filmic narrative is uniquely suited to imposing a gaze, including a gendered one, upon the viewer. After all, the viewers are along for the ride, neh? It just seems to be a western conceit that a lot of movies/ videos tell their stories from the POV of a guy, usually a straight middle-class, even pale-skinned guy.

From this observation we can better understand the various “gates” involving games and the noisy butthurt that occurs when say, Ghostbusters is re-done with women charas. The folks pushing back implicitly acknowledge that the default gaze is not set in stone. If they don’t scream to the heavens, they will be “cast on the ash-heap of history” or some other portentous sounding nonsense. At very least, some resources that once went to exclusively pandering to them might be diverted to other audiences and the absolute number of way kewl things made for them could diminish.

Or something…

Note the assumptions in this kind of thought. Creativity is a zero-sum game, narratives can be somehow “contaminated” or “usurped” and most importantly, that there are proper ways to do a guy-view story as well as ways that are not as good, descending on a scale to “recruit you for ISIS” to “make you gay” or… I have no idea. Maybe turn us guys into Drag Queen school busses or robot toaster cats enslaved to feminazis. Also no more Mom cooking for us and doing our laundry.

Or something…

Meanwhile, am I second guessing myself because I find myself bingeing on girl main chara anime? Why am I doing this? Am I secretly lusting for high school girls? I used to be pretty sure this was not my thing; I don’t even jokingly entertain the idea of “waifu“. Overdone fanservice annoys me. I better get back to Japan fast and spend quality time with She-who… The best I can figure is that the stock types of girl main and secondary characters do not annoy me anywhere as much as the limited range of stock shonen guy characters.

It is all about avoiding over-used annoying things.

My sweetie will often remark how she can’t watch an anime because the voices of the girl characters are annoying. Or they use Keigo inappropriately – why the over-polite mode towards everyone including your cat in Flying Witch? Why so squeaky and high voiced in a number of other anime? Other viewers might condemn an entire anime because no high school girl could be so hopelessly inept and helpless as to forget how to ride a granny bike on the first day of school and therefore all the young women in the show as well as the viewers, writers and producers are class enemies!

As a guy, especially a guy who can barely understand 40 Japanese words, I don’t pay much notice to such things. Unless the fanservice hits in a tsunami of pantsu shots and asymmetrical boobie jiggles, I just read the girl charas as “young human, no annoying chara tropes, pray continue.” The girl charas have, by process of elimination (of annoying things) become the “default” characters.

What then has happened to my gaze?

It is as if the condition noted decades ago by Yukari Fujimoto in her “Where Do I Belong? The Shape Of the Heart As Reflected in Shoujo Manga” [fan translation at: http://owlectomy.dreamwidth.org/114796.html ]
regarding the gendering of the female character/ subject in the view of the male has been tumbled butt over teakettle.

I want to see the cartoon young women of “A place Further” make it to Antarctica, have an exciting time of it and get back safely. I hope the first of them doesn’t have to experience unbearable trauma over the memories of her mother who vanished in an Antarctic blizzard. I really, really hope they don’t find the frozen body! I will cry foul if Mom is still alive, working as a cook at a nearby base and she played dead because bill collectors were after her (a trick used in The Otaku’s Daughter). Otherwise, watch them go on an expedition. Girl #2’s best friend was all clingy, secretly tried to sabotage the mission and tearfully repents. Ok, I’ll buy that. No BL subtext fistfights required. Frenemy should pull up her socks and get on the next expedition. I’ll keep watching this. I wonder how involved it will get?

With Takunomi, I take refuge in prior academic/ sociological studies (3) for context. I also remember the similarly themed Office Ladies Go Drinking manga. So far they have held forth on Ebisu Beer, some shochu, a cat-labeled light Belgian-style beer and some Chu-hai. That’s cool. Hope they get into speciality shochus. I had a buckwheat shochu from Nagano that was really tasty. I wonder if they will do unfiltered sake or farm sake. Otherwise, more background on the Japanese propensity of guys and girls to socialize among themselves in gender-segregated groups plus tips on side-dishes. That “homosocial” thing again. Mixed nights out turn into “mixers’ and those feels like work. Speaking of work, “night out” events are not workplace drinking events; the latter are fraught with hierarchy, difference, seku-hara to be avoided and office politics. More work.

With Yuru Camp I was struck with an irrational worry during the first episode that the Genki Airhead Girl would be denounced in outlander blogs as a class enemy for acting like a helpless idiot. Genki Girl soon redeems herself by proving that eating alone is far less fun than sharing a spicy hot-pot. Using the ubiquitous portable hot-pot gas heater as camping equipment was a good twist as well; everyone in Japan has one of those, although for hardcore campers, such a rig is probably considered too bulky. Solitary camping girl is still ranging farther than the outdoor club trio but we can expect that they will camp together sooner or later. So far no fanservice (that onsen sequence did not count), some light humour and the potential for location tourism in the Hakone area.

This is a a rather restrained example if it is CGDCT. Do young Japanese women watch it? I have no idea if they would zero in on some fatal flaw in the story and/or a character depiction that would leave them cold. As an outlander guy viewer however, it is again mercifully free of annoying things and populated with neutral, sympathetic characters doing interesting things.

What if Psi Nan tried something like this? All the characters, male and female, young and old except Saiki are idiots and extreme character trope types. Imagine them all camping. Or all of them except Psychic Saiki go camping. Chuni guy goes on about “Dark Wing”. Big Oaf guy acts stupid. Rich guy acts spoiled. Ex-yankee guy attempts to not get angry. Perfect girl mooches for attention; go through the checklist. Add some conflict to overcome with friendship and a few try-again-harder gambattes. Psychic Saiki can swoop in and fix things behind the scenes. Rinse, repeat.

Urasai!

I do not want to watch another nondescript guy who has become a NEET transported to a fantasy world and/or trapped in a vidja game with one amazing power and a bevy of comely young women to harem out with. Nondescript grumpy highschool loner guy who suddenly has the hot girl exchange student get interested in him, triggering new interest by the childhood friend girl and then add more girls every episode (if manga every 3-5 chapters) will be a stretch. It might slip by if the writer(s) add(s) something quirky, although we are running out of exploitable quirkies. Zombie Apocalypses and/ or everybody must fight to the death cruel survival game thingies can just fuck right off.

Guess that leaves nothing but Lupin III.

It appears that there is a cost to being written as the default main character with the entire story built to rotate around your… axis. Character development atrophies.

The two guys in “Just Because” were a teeny bit better than the normal cyphers guys usually trotted out but it looks from here like the real neat characters have of late been mostly women. Miss Kobayashi and Tooru. Violet Evergarden. The entire student cast in Little Witch Academia. The young women and girls of Flying Witch, The girls of A Place Further. Even photographer girl in Just Because was hands down the most interesting of the bunch. I could go on by going back through past seasons.

It is not like manga is devoid of interesting takes on guy characters or that all light novel and game guy characters are paper-thin unoriginal Cardboard Everyslackers or Earnest Burning Youth. But something seems to happen to stories and guy characters when they get turned into anime that is happening a teeny bit less to girl characters. (Or I don’t notice the grinding same-same of the women characters because I am a lazy guy?) Or It could be simple economics. Create an interesting new take on a guy character and guys –might– tune in but you may well lose some of them because new dude does not fit the expected comfortable same-old same-old male MC mold. Hmmmm… Must be there as fujoshi-bait. And truthfully, you wont get much in the way of women viewers for shonen unless you throw in some token fujoshi-bait. Whereas if you center a story around interesting, capable young women characters, you can pitch towards women viewers and you are sure to pick up a good number of guys peeking in; for service, CGDCT or even just mildly competent and likeable characters doing something with purpose.

The young woman character has somehow ended up as the new default pov choice for anime.

I blame the Beautiful Fighting Girl, if only because I go on and on and on about Dr. Saito Tamaki. Once she was no longer a supporting romantic interest to the guy hero, the inexorable march towards character domination took off. Now we are at such an advanced stage of the assimilation that a fan-service-y girl cast might attract even less viewers than serious, sympathetic non-fan-service-y girl/ young women/ women charas. Don’t piss off half of your audience. Exceptions to be made for magical fighting game-based grinders that go on and on and on. The novelty of turning male historical figures into armored fighting girls continues to pay off, even if the occasional crossdressing bishonen hawtie sneaks in. As I have mentioned, I am holding out for William Tecumseh Sherman to be reincarnated as a foul-mouthed loli girl with a serious cigar and whiskey habit.

Meanwhile, try to do something like this so that it makes sense with run-of-the-mill guy charas:

It would still be difficult to trick a bunch of otaku guys into watching the entire run of Marimite, based on the promise of an exciting adventure story and a lot of yuri subtext but such hot-house settings no longer seem necessary. You can get a more up-to-date version of a similar effect from a high school band without the creepy Cath drag.

Fleshing out a character is hard work and chews up precious screen time. The Fate trick is even scarier; we need to find guy charas that don’t end up more interesting if they are turned into young women – fanservice sexy or otherwise. I could watch an anime about a bunch of characters methodically building a garden shed but I fear the conventions of anime scriptwriting — what is agreed upon to be expected — would shonen-out the characters if they were guys. If they were girls, I probably wouldn’t notice the chara clichés as much, so long as it didn’t turn into a fanservice train-wreck or have too many instances of squeaky voiced ineptitude for too long.

In contrast, look what Shinkai had to do to Your Name‘s Taki Tachibana to make him interesting.

Perhaps the angry guys screaming about Ghostbusters are “on” to something, even if their reactionary and inarticulate fear-driven rage is hindering a precise examination and diagnosis of the condition. There is also the deeper problem offered by the paper-thin young guy hero: along with his limited characteristics, he suffers not only from a limited range of behaviour but a limited path to the future. Salaryman or sleeping under a bridge. Ending up magicked away to a fantasy world video game otherworld where he gets to be king is not something to draw life lessons from. Why defuk can’t guy charas get off their asses and go to Antarctica? Or go camping? Even getting out of Japan has been fading as a dream, unless it it by way of magical isekai effect.

An aging manga/ anime/ games consumer demographic may also have something to do with the problem. Who wants to be reminded of what an idealised guy adolescence could have been when you yourself are a 30-something slipping towards 40 guy and the future appears ever narrower ahead of you. In this case, not being able to identify with the young women characters on the screen or page is a very good thing. If we want charas that we can identify with, we will wait for more Bruce Willis, Tommy Lee Jones and “Beat”Takeshi Kitano movies. Undoubtedly 30-plus-something women readers/ viewers might similarly find the girls of the Antarctic expedition and the Camping Club annoying. This continues until the readership all gets beyond middle age and then we can all be as virtually bemused uncles and aunties and finally catch up on the anime and manga we missed.

Designing guy characters for today’s demographic is a challenge but is not impossible, even if an anime is a huge capital investment with hundreds of people working on it. While the pressure to stick to formula is intense and the penalties for failure are severe, innovation is possible. Check out the guys in these sneaky cup noodle commercials. The teen Tombo updated from KikI’s Delivery Service holds his own with teen Kiki.

He hints at substance, at least as much as teen Kiki does, as does his nameless counterpart in this Armageddon Confession that sneakily turns into …. Another damn Cup Noodle commercial.(4)

Goddammit! Lookie at both of them. In the space of a few seconds we have two interesting people painted in a few deft strokes. Sure confession scenes are a big cliché but both parties appear, in their brief instances of screen time, as having their own stories. These hint that creating better, nuanced  characters is not a zero-sum game. A better developed male chara shouldn’t suck the oxygen out of the story for the well-developed woman character. (even with a cameo by an anime Bruce Willis) Crap; these Nissin Noodle commercial are dense texts in their own right. Here someone does a complete analysis, including shout-outs, cameos, character notes (!) and easter eggs: https://youtu.be/-VKFWLn7FlM

If guy charas (or now girl charas) are sucking the oxygen out of the scene, something is off with the conventions of the way they are written. Or is Japan so sex-segregated that the vast majority of its stories must be as well? Suddenly the location (and temporal) separation breached by the body swapping in Shinkai’s Your Name takes on an extra significance. Girl in village. Boy in Tokyo. Each bound to “act” in their territory.

It is great that women and young women characters are being better written and written into lead roles in more stories. These upgraded girls show us that the guys could use an upgrade as well.

Maybe they can build a shed or something for next fall’s season.

“Work remaining on map” Taisei Corporation CM

 

(1) They could ALL be male-gaze and I am hopelessly trapped within my own strictly gendered and class-derived perspective, forever unable to recognise my predicament and escape.

(2) Nomi Joshi would probably make a better anime, see: https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/interest/2015-09-06/new-manga-focuses-on-29-year-old-women-drinking-beer/.92516 ]

(3) “License to drink’: White-collar female workers and Japan’s urban night space
by Swee-Lin Ho, National University of Singapore (2015)
http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/ho%20license%20to%20drink%20egy2015.pdf
Another from the same researcher, which further examines friendship among businesswomen has an edge; “Tokyo at 10: establishing difference through the friendship networks of women executives in Japan“, Swee-Lin Ho (2012)
http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/Tokyo%20at%2010%20JRAI2012.pdf

Profile and links to other journal articles by Dr. Swee-Lin Ho:
http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/sochsl/stf_sochsl.htm

(4) Japanese Commercial Messages (CM) have really been going to town of late.
More in the Hungry Days series:

https://youtu.be/thJBzLyaxTw

https://youtu.be/Q4CxNksGo5Q or  https://youtu.be/PN0hmvuFSd4

Somebody got annoyed with Nissin Cup Noodles:

Hungry Titans
https://youtu.be/LGAZiGTROD8  or https://youtu.be/DoP3iIYSB-0

Noodle-free, with designs by Makoto Shinkai

Z-Kai: Cross Road Special PV HD
https://youtu.be/H8Xd5BiHAa0  or  https://youtu.be/AfbNS_GKhPw

An anthology of more in the same style (Incl the Z-Kai CM):
https://youtu.be/Zscr1k_A36E

Mirror of the collected Taisei Engineering CMs:
https://youtu.be/MXP2aHpIgMM

Advertisements

The Girl I kinda write about is a Sergeant – Violet Evergarden eps 2 and 3

Warning: Violet Evergarden spoilers ensue:

We are 3 episodes into Violet Evergarden and so far it is a loving mix of beautifully rendered scenery, slow character development and jarring holes in the world-building, back-story and characterization. I must tread lightly so as not to sound like I am picking at it, rather than trying to squeeze past the discontinuities while still enjoying the story.

As a whole, Violet Evergarden remains charming and a must-watch for the season; the turn-of-century quasi-European city setting is almost as attractive as the terraformed Neo Venezia of the Aria opus. No one would pick Aria apart, that tale is too satisfying. At the same time, Aria‘s world building and characterization is a lot tighter. There are far few holes to pole a canal boat through. Even Cait Sith can’t break the spell.

With Violet Evergarden, we have troublesome bugaboos, even if they are the kind of thing that one presumes the Japanese anime viewer and/or light novel reader wouldn’t waste a second on – any more than they would fixate on the consistent use of flight technology in Studio Ghibli’s Castle In the Sky. If Violet is to join a profession that will have her and her women co-workers referred to as “Auto Memory Dolls”, beyond any presumed clunky translation effects and problems of reconciling the anime to the light novels, such fanciful conceits are completely within the rights of the author. It could have been stated that in this fantastic turn-of-century quasi-Europe, the profession of typist & public stenographer is called “Giant Robot Cake Chef” and thereafter have no giant robots, kitchens or cakes anywhere within the storyline. Fantasy turn-of-century quasi-Europeans just do that kind of wacky thing (see also: pants, below).

But of course there is more to this. I suspect that Violet’s profession was given its odd name specifically for Violet’s benefit, for the atmospherics surrounding her story – though of course, not –within– the story. In the light novels, there apparently was something about an inventor who created a machine to help his wife when she was stricken with an illness. Episode 2 briefly alludes to this; mentioning the inventor, his author wife who went blind and a machine he invented, all while holding on a still image of a typewriter with a doll behind it.

“Auto Memories Doll: Quite some time has passed since this name created a commotion. Professor Orland created a machine to record human speech. Originally made just for his beloved wife, the machine quickly became popular worldwide and an organisation offering rentals was also established.

If a customer so desires it, I will hurry to wherever they are. I am Violet Evergarden of the Auto Memories Doll Service.” Says a blonde-haired blue-eyed woman, looking as though she’s stepped out of a story, in a voice sweetly ringing with robotic beauty.”
— per show synopsis: https://honeysanime.com/violet-evergarden/

Some confusion between the light novels and the anime adaption has crept in. Why bother about it any more than bothering about the other jarring incidence of “just-so”; Violet’s prosthetic arms and hands? Before she gets down to some serious speed-typing, Violet rolls up a sleeve and changes a setting or adjusts the tension on her mechanical elbow. Violet’s mechanical arms and hands are far in advance of any of the other technologies shown in the story. Was the original doll some similar manner of steampunk techno-magical text-recognition automaton that was not made available in the production model? Once again, the question is moot to the story. Such discontinuities are even characteristic of Contemporary Japanese pop narratives; almost as if the fuzzy parts are dropped in as a hook and/or for reader enjoyment. What is important is the atmospherics; the feeling that the profession’s name casts upon the lead character who is seeking her personal redemption within it. What better way to ease an asocial over-trained girl-child soldier back into civilian life, mechanical limbs and all, than as a pretty, emotionless and partially mechanical “doll”?

We must postulate that the eventual “good ending” of Violet’s story is that she finds her “humanity”; an empathetic, socially aware sense of self that will incidentally be appropriately gendered to the larger society she moves within. Of course, she will still be lethal in a close fight but she will be able to understand love, be again loved and be able to return such feelings as a full human being. To highlight how far she has to go, the story has done a simple trick during episodes two and three:

It has turned her into Full Metal Panic‘s Sagara Sousuke.

This is a wonderful economy of storytelling because we not only get a taste of Violet ‘The Weapon‘ in a civilian setting but we see her accommodation to her war injuries contrasted to those of Luculia’s brother; a wounded warrior who has become a traumatized, survivor guilt-ridden drunk. Again; Violet is immune to PTSD because her barebones instrumental war-child “self” is in itself a far greater trauma.

Kaaaaa-shim!

And yet, the flash of empathy towards a fellow wounded soldier and her characteristic economy of words come together to write the letter that Luculia needed to give to her brother and that her brother needed to read so as to begin working towards recovery. This breakthrough as well redeems Violet’s efforts at the Doll Academy, awarding her the delayed graduation along with her first successful commission. Perhaps she also wins an awareness of the condition of an “other” grounded in, or at least resonant to her own condition. This is “the writing of self through the writing for (and of) others” that I mentioned previously as the over-arching theme of the story and what makes Violet Evergarden stand out from mundane “What is this thing called Love?Beautiful Fighting Girl grinders.

Episode 3 advanced with a mechanical precision and economy reminiscent of Violet’s hands and demeanor. An Auto Memory Doll is not a Lacanian psychoanalyst who practices the “short session” while they type letters. A letter can by necessity only provide momentary comfort to those who request and those who receive them. The second episode took the time to introduce the characters and position Violet as completely at a loss to understand civilian social interaction – and still deeply fixated on the memory of her commanding officer, Gilbert Bougainvillea. The third begins in earnest the pattern for the next few episodes. It does so well, playing to Violet’s experience as a soldier as her first point of empathy with a client, allowing her to write the letter that was needed and that few, perhaps none of her coworkers would have been able to write. The moment before she hands Luculia’s brother the letter, deflecting his crutch blow with her metal arm was a masterstroke of understated symbolism.

violet crutch vs metal arm.jpg

Meanwhile, the plotting hole or narrative space of the “Doll” term looms, whether or not there were advanced steampunkish magic-technological robot maid secretary typists that were supplanted by cheaper flesh and blood women behind a machine that presses type to paper. Her declaration; “If a customer so desires it, I will hurry to wherever they are. I am Violet Evergarden of the Auto Memories Doll Service.” carries with it uncomfortable undertones of gendered selflessness/ “un-selfing” within a gendered profession which further complicates Violet’s project of creating/ writing her own self. Then again, sex role expectations are already being messed with in the nation of Leidenschaft; her male patron’s first name is Claudia and the guy stripper pants and high heels on the delivery rider Benedict are almost as much of a hoot as the dangerous putt-putt moped he drives.

For me, the wonky moped cinched the show. I had one something like it in my youth. Restored to somewhat ride-able condition from “basket case” condition while out west then crated up and brought home, I even found an old-stock OEM over-size piston and bored out the engine with the help of a friend who was heavily into classic English cars. I then drove it around town enough for it to try to kill me a couple of times before it was stolen out of my garage one night.

The episode 2  scene with Benedict’s putt-putt moped threw me into a fit of nostalgia and occasioned hours of net-searching until I was able to find pictures and then a video of a 1952 Villiers New Hudson. Note the handle-bar arrangement: they are prone to vibration-induced metal fatigue and can snap off at speed. Meanwhile the lever throttle control remains wide open. Lunge forward, grab the front fender, hit the fuel cut-off with your knee and hang on for your life until the evil thing coasts to a stop 3 blocks later.

It didn’t corner for shit either. Skidded over nicely though…

I don’t miss it at all. I am alive today because it vanished into a long-past night. Still, I am a sucker for any anime with something similar in it.

High heels? Ventilated Chippendale’s pants? WTF?

Komi-san and everybody’s crossdressing best friend

Komi san wa komyushou desu / Miss Komi has a communication disorder
by Oda Tomohito. Comedy, Romance, School Life, Shonen.
7 Volumes; Shonen Sunday. Magazine, 2015 – ongoing.
https://myanimelist.net/manga/99007/Komi-san_wa_Comyushou_desu
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/KomiSanWaKomyushouDesu

Mild spoilers ensue:

On the first day of high school Hitohito Tadano (his name a pun of “just another guy”) is smitten by the class beauty Shouko Komi. Still reeling after a clumsy introduction, his sixth sense kicks in and he realises that the school’s cool, aloof beauty is a girl of few words only because she suffers from crippling social anxiety. Tadano-kun rashly introduces himself to Shouko Komi and promises her that he will help her overcome her social anxiety and make 100 friends

Komi-san wa komyushou desu (Miss Komi has a communication disorder) is a cute, chaste high school slice-of-life shonen manga by Oda Tomohito. With over a hundred chapters and seven collected volumes it is well-liked, even if some readers have grumbled about the stock characters and the overdone situation setups. Itan Private High School is chock full of trope characters; the big guy mistaken for a thug – he has his own anxiety issues, the chuuni girl (there’s a chunni ninja guy too), an over-enthusiastic sports girl, a low self-esteem glasses girl, a yandere lesbian and the first friend after himself that Tadano-kun tries to get Komi-san to meet: Najimi Osana (長名 なじみ, おさな なじみ) a mysterious person of an unknown gender who is also a phenomenal networker with an ability to get close to anybody after just a few minutes of interaction.

Osana-san is literally “everybody’s best friend” (1) (most of the chara names are puns). As far as the reader (and most of the school’s teachers and students who care) can puzzle out, she is a female-presenting non-binary person with a DMAB body; in simpler terms, a crossdressing guy who may well have “the heart of a girl”, even though she will at times still identify as a guy. Or she might be a gender-fluid person with a DFAB body who used to present as male. Osana-san aint telling. The mangaka obviously heard of the X-gender phenom and decided to work along similar lines.

Welcome to another installment of Mudakun’s “why are we making up queer characters with tiny super-powers for our straight stories?” Osana-san could have been a cisgendered (heterosexual) girl, except that as childhood friend, she would then be in an immediate set-up as a rival for Tadano-san’s affections. Osana-san has no romantic interests whatsoever that they have let slip (beyond some initial teasing of Tadano when they meet on the first day of classes); they are far too busy keeping up their social calendar and making new friends. They never forget anyone they meet and they can listen to seven conversations at once. They seem to enjoy introducing people, promoting new groupings with entertaining dynamics and occasionally stirring things up.

Osana-san’s parents moved around a lot due to work so they seem to have gone to most of the nearby schools that feed into the private high school’s catchment area. They used to present as male but now, given the relative freedom of an elite school seem happier with girl-mode. The school we later learn, accommodates her, with a gender-neutral bathroom and changing facilities. During the onsen trip, Osana-san will bathe first, although she will bunk with the girls.

Otherwise, she is always within earshot. She is the school’s or at least the first year students’ social organizer, the assistant class rep who knows everybody and gets along with everybody.

Osana-san isn’t superhuman; she is sometimes exhausted and often selfish. Komi-san initially was a personal source of trauma to her because when younger, they had never clued into Komi’s problem and had agonised over their inability to befriend her. Komi-san also has an overpowering eye-contact stare when she is trying to nerve up to say hello. Osana was bedridden with shock for a week after this first friending failure. Komi-san makes amends by staring down a pest who was mashing on Osana and thereafter Osana-san is %110 on board with the 100 friends project. As well, she soon begins to prod our two leads towards noticing each other.

In her role as an all-purpose story advancer, she is ubiquitous.

Although gender-nonconforming and/or genderqueer and asexual, Osana-san is never an object of ridicule. She is deployed as a subtype of gender diffuse character; the magic-pixy social secretary and relationship expert. She gets to be a younger genderfluid version of Auntie Mame. Beyond teasing Tadano-kun on the first day, she has never displayed any romantic interest in anyone and therefore is an exemplary “queer” character for a chaste heterosexual setting. Non-normative, over-the-top desire instead comes from Ren Yamai’s overdone girl-crush; which is physical, psychotically jealous and prone to inappropriate, even violent actions. As such, she is treated as a ridiculous, sometimes dangerous joke. Ren Yamai is a junior psycho lesbian and a creep. After her Valentines Day antics, she is a pitiful panty-hose swiping creep.

Given that there is very little youthful sexuality and desire deployed in this story, the role of most characters must necessarily balance between friendly sociability and transactional utility. This is about making 100 friends, not resolving a harem or a love triangle. Cycle through the stock events of a high school year and steadily introduce new quirky characters. Sports day, Onsen trip, Kyoto trip, School Festival, Valentines Day. There is something soothing about a relatively conflict-free progression through the rites of high school education, although it is jarring how Tadano-kun suffers one class clique attack and one psycho lesbian drugging and kidnapping.

Narcissist guy may be confusing as well but he is too self-absorbed to show interest in anyone but himself. He is however up for spontaneously organising a he-manly (or burning male youth) topless muscle-posing photo session during an onsen visit. Near as I can make out the story was he was sharing exhibitionism tips: Try it; all guys should be exhibitionists every so often.

Huh? That was odd.

A closer reading of this work must focus on what the manga leaves out. There is minimal conventional fanservice and also very little in the way of trifles tossed at the rotten gaze (manly topless posing aside). Instead it is mostly Shouko Komi, the tall, shy, demure and beautiful Yamato Nadeshiko over and over and over again; considered from Tadano-kun’s vantage point. Questions of desire and sexuality are uncomfortable distractions, even intrusions into school life – at this time. Anything that carries the slightest vibe of such worrisome feelings and urges is going to be used to set up a situation built on a base of this discomfort; that is how high school rom-coms work. The kids are new at these feelings, therefore they will make a mess out of them.

Osana-san got mashed on by a delinquent from a nearby school. Tadano-kun is avoiding his feelings for Komi-san by pursuing an overly ambitious project for her. Why shouldn’t the mangaka take an old chestnut like a high school yuri crush and make it ridiculous and extreme?

Uhhh…

Because it is a throwback to a nastier time, a cheap shot and lazy writing. And because it is so, it risks the good will of the reader and the suspension of disbelief needed to keep the story on track. The wires are showing and they ain’t pretty. And the mangaka keeps going back to them by recycling the same gag. If the mangaka cannot figure this out – or worse has, but brushed it aside because they needed a fresh gag for the next few chapters….

It is disappointing.

Just Stop it.

 

1) Her name おさな なじみ, Osananajimi means childhood friend is the same word for the verb なじむ, Najimu means to be acquainted or adapt.
http://komisan-wa-komyushou-desu.wikia.com/wiki/Osana_Najimi

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.

Many Happy Returns: Spotted Flower Ch 20.5

Will Spotted Flower become Genshiken Sendaime?
Spoiler lamp is on for Chapters 20.5-21.5(?)

The latest English scanlation of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower has surfaced. Chapter 20.5 is just plain wunnerful. It has been less than a year since the Genshiken ended and it looks like Kio Shimoku is getting busy again. Our win; we get 16 pages of alternate-universe, ten-years-later fujoshi fanning; starring a recognisable genderbent ero-dojonshi-mangaka and their manager, plus a new character (their editor for their commercial output) and some old friends at Comiket. Kio-sensei packs a lot into those 16 pages, along with the an overload of boobie jokes.

A brief refresher on Spotted Flower. Because of its publication in a different magazine, owned by a different publishing company, Spotted Flower could never be an “official” follow-up to Genshiken. Contracts and intellectual property issues. “The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions…” Unofficially, Spotted, which has run for 7 years of three-times-per-year shorts, most recently as a regular in Hakusensha’s Adult/ Josei Rakuen Le Paradis magazine (and later collected into 2 tankobon volumes) has always served as Kio-sensei’s personal AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic and spinoff of his Genshiken. With the source story ended, Spotted is free to seek its own destiny. I hope that the mangaka and the magazine are thinking about permanently expanding the number of pages for each release; becoming in effect a full series. A web and Twitter search has turned up news of further larger chapters. 14pps in the March 2017 volume 23 of Le Paradis. Volume 21 carried the baby naming chapter 20.

The upcoming Volume 24 of Le Paradis threatens to release 28pps + 4 bonus pages (ch 22?) on June 30 (2017). See: http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol24/

Spotted Flower chapter 21 looks like the old gang visiting the new parents. As well, alt-Hato’s editor is about to find out more about her rising star BL auteur. We will have to wait. The 0.5 numbered chapters are devoted to alt-Hato and alt-Yajima, the whole number ones to the happy couple.

A few oblique observations on Spotted Flower:

Boobies as text:

Kio-sensei knows that guy otakus like boobies and uses them as signifiers for “sexy” and “womanly”. Sometimes one would prefer that he spend more time on the entire character rather than mashing the boobie button. He spends far less time on say, legs, butts or curvy hips (though alt-Hato, following perhaps on the Nidaime anime, has been given an impressive silhouette). When he bothers, his adult, especially adult female body chara renderings are varied and respectful – especially for larger frames. As well, he can deploy incredibly nuanced facial expressions to depict emotion. But those boobies! Alt-Ohno’s overdone nursing breast explosion. Alt-Hato and Alt-Sue’s assisted developments. Breast size is also marked as one of the stereotyped things that female socials are supposed to natter on about and rank themselves /display envy about. For a mangaka who inventively and respectfully depicts different body types, especially women’s body types, this trick feels like a throwback or at least a concession to an earlier form of stupid, easy service for Chads.

The entire Sue the pettanko western girl doing exploratory feels of well endowed Japanese women joke – which had gone on for years – is a reversal gag on a hoary manga/anime fanservice trope. It might even have slipped into reality. A friend reported that it happened to her for realsies in a women’s public bath in Korea but any envy/competition reading strips off complex layers of social interaction within the act: “Oh look a foreigner in our bath. How do we break the ice? This will be something to compliment her on, talk and laugh about and thereby welcome her into our social.

Nope, just competition and jealousy in the hen-yard. Fail!

Angela Burton(!) The sleep-over at Yajima-san’s parents’ house. And now, alt-Merei’s tender service to her lover interrupted by alt-Hato’s (at first impression) idiotic blundering question. Add to this all the Madarame-sempai interaction: “I have no breasts”(!) from Hato. Sue feeling under-endowed and therefore somehow inadequate in his eyes. While Mada might mutter to himself that it’s no big deal; lolicon, otokonoko games, etc., he neglects to open his pie-hole, announce the point and set worries to rest. Mada=otaku. Otaku=boobies want. A simple equation; the burden of more personal, more fraught exchange avoided.

Boy Detective.

Genshiken Nidaime turned on the character of Hato Kenjiro, the boy who wanted to be a fujoshi. Not a Fu-Danshi but a fujoshi. From this ridiculous conceit, everything he has (been written, etc) done followed naturally. And so continues to follow alt-Hato.

I though BL could make everything come true.

Fer krissakes! Unreliable narrator is unreliable! Google is your friend. Science can’t do that yet. If it could it would kill you and besides, an ero-dojin-mangaka could not afford it. Still, this kind of foolish banter is perfect and poignant for the worries it lets slip. Folks are growing up, settling down, having kids. Sempai is a father?!? Note the obvious (fertile, clock ticking, ticking) unsaid in the room. Nope! Didn’t notice it at all, La La La. Poor alt-Merei, like she needs another handful.

My thanks once again to long-time correspondent B.Sellers for not only giving me the heads up about ch 20.5 hitting the sites but for citing the venerable 90’s manga Family Compo in the report.

The problem of course lies squarely in the lap (ooops, yeah, but for now lets stick to metaphor) of alt-Hato’s (and their creator’s) unique vision of genderqueer. Whether to avoid drawing the attention of IRL tojisha folks or to grind off the serial numbers and avoid a trace-back conformity audit to source material, alt-Hato remains a “mostly” cis-gendered, heterosexual male person who does not think that they can “be” a woman. A Fujoshi? Perhaps, and fujoshi is all that Hato (and alt-Hato) ever dreamt of being. This of course is extremely problematic but Japan (and the mangaka) pretends not to worry about such things. It is possible, along the furthest edges of considered western non-binary, genderqueer activism to respect this dream. Hato will be Hato. Fuck everyone’s categories and nasty self-serving infra-tribal battles. Queer is as queer does. Leave the ero-dojin-mangaka alone.

Until editor-san finds out.

“If the fujoshi ever found out I was a guy…”

What a fun plot twist! As a dojin artist, alt-Hato could remain as anonymous as they wished. You can hide all manner of participation within a “dojin circle” Going pro means entirely different levels of public accessibility and interaction. The editorial staff are the first hurdle. Then come interviews, signings and publicity. Kio-sensei knows all about these challenges; his nom-de-plum and his standing plea to his fans to only photograph his hands can serve as inspiration. A booth at Comiket need only feature a someone or two, perhaps wearing the ubiquitous Japanese allergy/cold mask(s). Once in the spotlight, the pressures on alt-Hato to conform to ancient and annoying Japanese stereotypes of public behaviour for persons with ‘deemed male at birth’ bodies who present as female would be intense. Alt-Yajima’s “Host of a TV Entertainment show” suggestion and alt-Hato’s “No Damn Way!” must be considered in the light of the Japanese entertainment industry’s past ‘use’ of such.

Going public would again open up the confusing question of sexuality, this time on a far more dangerous stage. Crossdressing + breast enhanced guy BL ero-mangaka? Must do guys, right? Likes girls, or one particular woman? This is confusing – wouldn’t that be Yuri? The situation is as troublesome but not identical to all manner of internal shit-fights within western activist feminist and trans communities. Those controversies have been ongoing for decades. Japanese practice removes much of the heated activist controversy and replaces it with brutal commercial objectification and exploitation. “New Half“? “Okama“? “XXX Resbian Sex Secrets“? Crossdressing Gay Actor“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihiro_Miwa] “Hard Gay“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaki_Sumitani] An ero-mangaka can keep one foot in the exalted realm of “the author”; the man or woman of letters; Nihon Bunka — Japanese Culture with a capital C. …Even as the other foot dances along the edges of “the floating world”. The latter might float but it always was and remains brutal.

Alt-Hato as a trans-fujoshi virtual lesbian might work as a manga character. For Hato Kenjiro’s creator, the character served a number of useful functions, including testing the limits of support and accomodation that a “good fan club” and a fujoshi social could offer. Let’s run the setup once again and see how it could be adapted to the meta of a character that is an “out” genderqueer ero-mangaka:

Women enjoy BL and Yaoi even though the tangle of fictional, sexed bodies excludes representing them. Numerous women who like women share in this enjoyment, even at one further remove from IRL desire. Within the Genshiken/Spotted Flower verse, the old line explanation of BL/yaoi as a pure fantasy of desire and romance holds like an absolute game engine rule. Why should Hato/alt-Hato have to desire 3D guys just because ze enjoys women-written fantasies of guy-looking characters fucking? Sex with a 3D guy for Hato and or alt-Hato is a non-playable character, even if the Hato continuum has built their lives around the enjoyment and then connoisseur-ship of fantasies of such intimacy. Therefore it is not improbable that Alt-Hato likes girls, either as residual straight guy or virtual lesbian fujoshi. Mada always was part of the fantasy. As “the only man I’ll ever…” he remains so. The only loose end would be the ero-mangaka’s 3D immersion/ performance/ commitment to the romantic ideal of the genre. Does this mean that alt-Yajima has put on a public “butch” or “tachi” persona? Family Compo Redux!

It could be more complicated; the Genshiken could have had furries.

Oh snap! Scrag the furries jokes! This is serious! it is all fine and fun to speculate on well-worn story tropes in Japanese anime, games and manga. And then to speculate how to cookie-cutter these into a manga. Behold the violence of the database. In meat-space the way trans/ gender-nonconforming folks are represented can hurt. Can be complicit in real harm: even more so than most obnoxious fictional otherings. The kind of things that authors, readers and societies have to learn not to do any more, if only because we now have better, more exciting and more nuanced replacements for these chestnuts.

Kio Shimoku created a complex character who only wished to expresss as a female subjectivity within the context of fujoshi fandom, for a number of internal story-mechanics reasons. Now a reflection of that character re-appears and they (are written, etc.) have built their entire life around living in that fandom and presenting as a woman. Kio-sensei may in the future have his character self-identify as a transwoman, a  transwoman who is a fujoshi or even the improbable idea of a trans-fujoshi. Or as something else. What interaction alt-Hato now has with anyone removed from their immediate circle of aquaintances is either as an anonymous female person or as a (gendered as female) fujoshi-ero-dojin-mangaka. The character remains fraught with internal contradictions – why shouldn’t they/ their character be given the space to breathe within them? Can Spotted be both libidinised low comedy and aspirational fiction?

I can only hope that Kio-sensei does not “reveal” the initial impetus for both alt-Hato and alt-Sue’s “urge to augment” as fallout from comments by a very dense alt-Madarame who brushed both of them off for being flat-chested. Note to Kio Shimoku: Please Do Not Go There. Even Madarame’s legendary and insufferable “spineless perv luck” has limits. I remain puzzled by why either of them would bother with augmentation. A ridiculous rack is a pain in the back – for life. Any of their women friends should have (been written, etc.,) told them this on numerous occasions. Boobies remain problematically over-inscribed in Kio’s story-worlds.

The Strongest Fan

Sue Hopkins and her alt-Sue incarnation has always carried within her character a large measure of inscrutability. The outlander woman fan/ fen as Force of Nature. Purposefully opaque. Trouble with capital T. Ariel the magical spirit. Her lore is deep, her reserves of magic yet to be revealed You saved my life so I will save yours 3 times, then go my own way. In the meantime she observes, prods, samples, tastes and gorges on experience, even as nothing touches the core of her being. None shall ever know moi. Were she native Japanese the mangaka would turn her into another Benzaiten manifestation.

Impatient. Unconcerned with social mores and prescriptions. Beyond good and evil. Grabs boobies.

Poor alt-Hato! While alt-Sue is a good-looking woman (character), it is not her bod and new tits that make her attractive. She radiates. Anyone would… And so alt-Hato lets slip his clumsy insecurities. This was wonderfully handled, even as the poor jerk reveals his fears and delusions. Yes your manager loves you… Asshat! Lookie at all the up-with-you-put she has to lavish upon you and your misbehavior. Yes, you are massively dependent on her arts and her charms.

Don’t fuck up!

Nope: your mad genderbent lurv skillz have not turned her into a lesbian despite your new tits, stylish wardrobe and constant rotten-girling. That means that at least for now, she is not going to throw you over for alt-Sue, even if alt-Sue is amazing. All this may carry a crude whiff of some idea of virtual-lesbian fujoshi-dom, even as it denies any same-sex desire by alt-Yajima. Whatever. Women in Japan, regardless of inclination still get stuck carrying the relationshippy bucket. Yo alt-Hato-chin; you should consider a grovelling apology for vamping in front of your old sempai while your manager had to stew in the next room. Reason by analogy time. If you became worried and insecure…. wait for it… Duhhh!

Kio-sensei has always been better at showing couples chafing than at being lovy-dovey. Also falling apart. Lets hope he keeps that one in the bottom drawer.

Alt-Sue is undoubtedly chief assistant to alt-Ogiue-sensei, the successful commercial ‘mainstream” mangaka. A voracious consumer of women’s pop libidinised fiction. The uber-fen. Probably does not like girls “that way” if only because the creator of this ‘verse seems to go out of his way to avoid “realistic” lesbian desire – whether from a fear of clumsiness with yuri tropes, to hide one of the main sources for the making of the Hato character (cf Mizoguchi, 2005) or out of a larger predisposition. So how is alt-Sue doing?

A digression with Lost Extras:

Has anyone noticed that we thieving leeches have not yet laid our mitts upon any English-translated Genshiken Volume Extras since volume 15? The extra panels from volumes 16 through 21 remain un-scanlated. These are traditionally whomped up as a bonus by the mangaka as the originals are re-formatted for release in a tankobon. I have gone out of my way to secure all 21 volumes of the original Japanese run of the Genshiken. There they sit in a neat pile. Sorry about my complete inability to understand Japanese. Google photo-recognition translate is a mess. No, I am not going to bring down the wrath of the big K upon myself and this blog by copying them and plopping them onto the web. Besides, If I did so, I wouldn’t admit it; I haven’t yet figured out how to chain VPNs together and wouldn’t trust the dodgy new owner of 4chan not to track IP addresses of image uploaders in any case. I can never get Tor to work and remain suspicious of it.

The only images I upload here are by way of critical comment, study and analysis. Even the parody ones by a dodgy eastern-European (or something) scan-group, who insist on putting their own wrong words into the dialog bubbles, are presented by way of example of fannish secondary production. As I hold an art degree and have given at least one conference talk on these matters, this is pure “fair use”. Have another fricking Zizek quote, just to hammer it home. Lookie at my Academia.edu account. No 3.1416-R8-cy here, nothing to see, move along.

I declare that the yet-to-be processed volume extras will remain as a way for us outlander fans to prove our devotion and appease our curiosity by buying up all the official English releases when they finally hit the shelves.

Whenever something finally happens, we will all be able to see that one page in the volume 21 extras (or was it the bonus leaflet cover?) that looks like Sue dragging Mada off, perhaps to silence any speculation as to exactly how things are going with them?

Did I mention the extremely irritating spineless perv luck effect? Sarraryman-boy privilege at 9000, again! Be sure to accompany her home, Casanova!

Perhaps alt-Sue is not a kiss-less rotten-girl wizard (sorceress? witch?) with a boob-job. I wish her chara well. May she have snacked on all the 3D cuddles she desired as she gorges on 2D yaoi-smut.

As for Alt-Saki, the wife, not the child; despite petabytes of online fan speculation it was ridiculously easy for Kio-sensei to pair her up with alt-Buddy Boy. The volume extras for Spotted Flower are instructive. Again, the woman had to do all the work. Perhaps Spotted Flower ch21 will have ‘the ex-boyfriend” casually mention how he still does not feel the urge to start a family. Wham! You didn’t have to disappear Kousaka-san or have him screw around, go gay or get hit by a beer truck. He had only to stand in the way of a ticking fertility clock. Women DO that kind of thing in manga, otherwise Japan sinks, -urrr- suffers irrecoverable population decline. Can we all say rigid gender role expectations? Stories are easier to plot out that way. All together now…

See also: loser-dog women, christmas cake women, the unmarried, amazingly hawt but still single and slightly psycho 29-year-old woman high-school teacher. Cross reference with Merei’s mom’s comment upon first setting eyes upon Madarame and Kuchiki.

Why this digression on sexuality and gender expression in Spotted Flower (with carry-over from the Genshiken) characters? I must point out that despite featuring a transwoman-appearing character, their virtual-lesbian-appearing partner, the libidinized BL/yaoi fandom they work in, the discussions of improbable male-pregnancy plot-lines, the flirting with alt-Mada and the hints of his married-life kinkeries, that Spotted Flower remains the most heteronormative “queer” manga that I can find. Buddha on a Bicycle! This thing is about having a baby and becoming a good child- raising couple. Alt-Ohno and the yet-to-be-met Alt-Tanaka (was he there in ch20’s hall somewhere?) already have two kids. And the pressure will be building – I predict – for our lesbian-appearing couple except that, yes! Japan will have no problem whatsoever registering their marriage certificate. Meanwhile, all the queer-appearing characters drop caveats and disclaimers: “Nope we still… and/or nowhere enough… not.

“I’m not gay, it’s only you.”

Spotted Flower must provoke all manner of mixed reactions within the Japanese queer community. If I ever get wind of any these reactions, I’ll try to repost/ mention them here. For now, I stick to my side of the street. As well, despite alt-Hato’s breasts (and possibly hormones) all the Spotted Folk are earnestly vanilla. Cosplay and Stripsu Pantsu. Otokonoko games. Alt-Hato is drawing dojins that follow the kind of historical story-lines that Yoshitake used to obsess over. Alt-Hato and alt-Yajima cuddle (and presumably bonk the old-fashioned way). Happily boring; male bodies with female bodies trying to stay together trying to find some small measure of contentment – 1.2 times per week (barring pregnancy).

Genshiken‘s Saki-prime once mentioned that she had gay friends/acquaintances. Alt-Saki/ the wife seems to have forgotten them. Fer krissakes, Kio-sensei; the dog was barking before with the absence of IRL lesbians in the Genshiken. This also masked the absence of IRL gay men. That pooch is now out in the courtyard howling. It is going to look rather insulting unless someone in the new Spotted-verse, even a peripheral someone likes members of their own sex.

Over here in the outlands, it is called “erasing“. It is considered a not-good thing.

On the other hand, if you clumsily represent, you risk doing a different not-good thing.

Oh heck! This is complicated!

You don’t have to make Kousaka gay. Or Sue non-binary (newfangled speak for ‘Bi”). Any of the female editorial staff at the publishing company can be a fujoshi who likes 3D women. Or you can whomp up an honest to goodness gay male BL fan character. Some do exist. Go get that handy fan-fudanshi study “Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]“. by Yoshimoto, Taimatsu.The author still sells copies and has a website for orders. [http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm]
It has testimonial interviews that you can swipe. The research is much easier now. Then you can have everyone feel uncomfortable when the editorial staff meets the mangaka and assistant.

Profit!

Since I’ve switched on the infamous ‘playset field’, it’s time for:

How the mangaka got their verisimilitude back!

We outlander types can peer in on (parts? of) chapter 21.5 as a web preview on the Rakuen Le Paradis web site – at least for now. Click on the cover image to load the pages.

No, here: 
http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol23/trial/0424_kio/index.html?pagecode=1

Forget the problem of creating a believable otaku university club crammed with 2017-era geek guys and rotten girls. Instead, why not use a contemporary adult social; something that you can get research notes on. Say, the offices of a manga magazine publisher. Far more interesting too. The following in no way reflects upon the real conditions in any division of hakusensha.co.jp or its staff.

I like Le Paradis. They keep putting sexy adult women on their covers. All of them look like they are in the middle of torrid, romance-drenched assignations. Very grown-up and steamy. A fair amount of yuri, some BL and a noteable amount of heterosexual romance. Some backsliding, as the works inside have their share of teen characters. A josei magazine that can interest guys too – and I think that goes a bit of the distance towards explaining why Spotted Flower ended up there. Spotted might have been one of the lightest of the regular offerings. Time to up the game, now that the happy couple have their new child to deal with.

Then again 14-sai runs in Le Paradis, So do works by Takemiya Jin, Rendou Kurosaki and even of late, Kōji Kumeta. Yipe! I could run this entire blog solely on their output. I am now a convert to “Neo-Josei“! Fer krissakes, make a licensing deal with Crunchyroll Manga Service for simultaneous translated releases or something. Give me advance preview peeks and a pittance and I will regularly sing/ blog forth thy praises. Retain an aged outlander!

YO Hakusensha!!! I for one welcome my new Josei overlords.

Not holding my breath.

May I first suggest putting a hard link for Le Paradis at the bottom of your main magazine listing page? It is one of yours, right? Why are you hiding it? If the gravure bikini model pics mag gets a link, why not Le Paradis?

Towards an expanded topology of contemporary fen praxis

(Whooo-boya! I got to use praxis in an essay, again!)

Please review the Ogiue Maniax re-reading of the original Genshiken; [https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/return-to-genshiken-volume-3-stimulation-simulation/]

This is an excellent examination of the details that went into making the original mid-2k’s Genshiken a beloved classic. Note how the blog’s proprietor highlights how “infra” the game discussion gets (even as the English translation struggles to keep up with it). The youtbe clip of the fan-made fighting magical girls game drives home the weirdness of hardcore fandom at the time. As I have previously noted, behind some of the old-guard male fandom’s vitriol about the women-led second generation’s club practice lay the obvious conclusion that Kio Shimoku knew very little about what fujoshi and women otaku actually enjoyed and DID when they fanned out. (To be fair, fujoshi socials were a lot more secretive in 2009 than they are today.) The boy Genshiken followed anime and manga, read naughty derivative dojins, played games and derivative fan-games, constructed plasmo, even gunpla models (Plastic models, a subset being models from Gundam franchise) helped out with female-led cosplay events and wrote TLDR fan essays for publication and kept up with online fan BBS’s.

All the guy readers were perfectly willing to put up with girls running the club if they could peek in and pick up some anthropology. More fun then K-on; Fujoshi-raku. Perhaps they could then make interesting small-talk if they ever ran across a real live fujoshi. Instead: BL, BL dojins, pairing talk and unconfortable sparks between a young guy who wants to be a fujoshi and the leftover uber-geek. WUT?

Where are my secret fujoshi secrets revealed?

BLergh! “It’s all rotten stuff now and THAT TR*P!”

I have also pointed out that No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (WataMote) had more female otaku verisimilitude in it than all of Genshiken Nidaime. And a magic wand personal massager too!. Criticise New Game as Cute Girls Doing Karoshi, but the idea that games for women, made by women are a robust market and not just a niche shelf of silly otome games involving pigeon boyfriends (or butler vampire dogs) offers glimpses of what Genshiken Nidaime missed. Women do Gunpla. There is a huge game market for women. Voice actor audio, Net-broadcast extras. The merchandise. The Cosplay. The online fandoms. The posters and limited edition whatevers that come with the BD release.

The whole effing spend your entire adult paycheck Media Mix.

This requires field study!

Now we have an ambitious young genderqueer mangaka and their very able manager/ assistant, with an editor pushing to mainstream their output. Opportunity seldom knocks twice. Played right, Spotted Flower could expand into a full mad romp/ game map through the entirety of the beat-a-property-to-death process that is modern Media Mix Marketing in CVJC. Stick to the women’s side of the avenue. You can still pop back every chapter for at least %40 coverage devoted to Otaku hubby and wife raising their first child hijinx.

Kio could get to do a manga (partially) about making manga, the holy grail/ old chestnut dream of all mangakas – if only because there is always plenty of material for next month’s chapter close at hand.

Oooh, A signing for the mangaka.
They are planning an anime!
Seiyu! Production committee meetings.
Marketing Department!
Theme music by dodgy Talento agency bands.
Console and phone game versions
Lookie; a spin-off light novel series!
Bonus audio disks, posters, key chain fobs,
Figurines, CM’s, PV’s, online forums, fanfiction.

Long walks down Otome Street to take notes.
A scene where the editorial staff gets to meet and query a group
of grown-up, employed, married contemporary fans?

Why should Saekano have all the fun. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saekano:_How_to_Raise_a_Boring_Girlfriend]

Welcome back, we missed you!

Gripe, gripe, gripe. Picky fans are picky.
We wouldn’t pick if we weren’t already completely, hopelessly sucked in.
Urusai!
Wait – the contradictions have sucked us all in… again!
Sensei knows best.

Hey? Are you gonna give the characters names?

 

Update: See also: Astro Nerd Boy‘s review, if only for the “Brian” graphic
(damn! forgot that ‘un!)
https://anime.astronerdboy.com/2017/06/spotted-flower-chapter-20-5-1-manga-review.html

Chapters 125 & 126: Ghost Pain

“The author should not pull a Rame when writing about Rame pulling a Rame.”
– Forum comment, ch 125

HNK that right web

Warning! Spoiler lamp for chapters 125 & 126 is on.


One chapter left before the curtain comes down on the second generation of the Genshiken. I suspect that at this point, Kio Shimoku is writing with an eye to a smooth adaption for any potential second cours of an anime. Those of us who were used to more robust plotting and longer setups must look at the rushed, even forced concluding chapters with mixed feelings, once we get over the initial shock that our beloved franchise may be, if not terminated, at least on extended sabbatical.

Continue reading

Chapter 122: Kobayashi Maru Jigoku Omiai

Wherein mixed metaphor and weeaboo Japanese collide to pick apart the ruins of Madarame’s romantic prospects. SPOILERS ENSUE

I’m cheesed off.

I didn’t think I’d be so cheesed off.

I am also cheesed off for being snookered into being cheesed off

I am cheesed off at Kio Shimoku for putting me in cheesed-off land.

That so-and-so can write.

On the surface, chapter 122 looks simple, almost sloppy. No way: it is a finely crafted little bear trap, well sprung. This one was made to take a leg off. If something is there, it is there for a reason. What I tell you three times is true and will be on the test.

I am furious.

Deep breath!

Why so surprised when chess pieces move the only way they can move.

I am a good, right-thinking person. Why point that thing at me?

This needs to be taken apart. Examine all the sharp, shiny little pieces.

Where to start?

First, visit Ogiue Maniax for the latest corrected excerpts from the 4chan/ tumblr script for Chapter 122. Or you are reading this long after and the usual well-crafted English fan-translation is already available. I hope the scanlating crew is not mightily chuffed at all the amateur dodgy attempts that floated around. They have taken umbrage before and considering the work they put in, this is understandable. Yet the urge of the fans to find out, especially for this chapter must be equally understandable and ultimately, forgiveable. Nuance suffered, folks had their ships and their hearts broken. What did we learn from all of this? How did it play out?

destroy c95p17.jpg

Lets put this sucker up on stands and tear it apart.

Thanks for all your support

Think wayyyyy back. When Ogiue was conflicted and Sasahara was interested, the club did not impede. It supported. And it gave them room to work things out. No one piped up that if you don’t chose Ogiue, perhaps you should stop coming by the club, get a job and move away. While there definitely was a bit of “matchmaking” from Saki and Ohno, no one chased them, ogled and spotlighted them.

talk to herC45p28.jpg

Madarame Sou-uke.

Although adopted enthusiastically by Hato upon joining the Genshiken, it was originally an Ogiue fantasy, as detailed in the infamous yaoi episode in the second season of the original Genshiken anime. It is, in effect the latest and last manifestation of Ogiue’s original sin and one that Ohno and the original female Genshiken crew are complicit in. ( Ch44, p27)

You started it c34p09.jpg

A crossdressing fudanshi or male fujoshi or a trans* fujoshi?

Hato Kenjiro will not be “male” in the Genshiken. The Hatos have learned from bitter experience how males are “accepted” in female-exclusive fan socials in Japan. Not! As well, Hato finds something in BL that strongly affects him and wishes to process it as close to the original as possible. The distinction would be between the theoretical scopophilic (or scoptophilic, K. Nagaike 2005) and the threat of participatory engagement in fujoshi fantasies.(1)

The male-ness of a fudanshi imposes a different calculation upon the enjoyment of fujoshi stories. His participation within a social that values exchange of these stories imposes a strong presupposition that he will share his experiences, at least in abstracted form. It would be hard for him to avoid becoming a vehicle through which the female members of the social would enjoy how their cherished scripts and tropes play out.

What do you mean by Fu-Danshi

K.Nagaike’s improbable Japanese heterosexual male BL fan aside, what exactly does the term “fudanshi” connotate on the street or in the aisles of Comiket, among Japanese fans. Is it “I’m a guy who reads BL” or is it “I’m a guy who probably is interested in guys and reads BL“? Unfortunately English language academic reports list few examples of fudanshi/ male BL fans. One mentioned in an early McLelland article (2) is nominally heterosexual. The Nagaike article that speculates as to the existence of straight fudanshi as “herbivore males” still eludes my grasp, but the summary smells fishy. Over %90 of the Japanese audience for BL and yaoi is reported to be female. The remaining %10 is a mystery but if one estimates by the two existing amateur studies, the heterosexual and asexual male readership makes up only %1-%2 of total Japanese readers. It could even be less. Noted Bara artist Tagame Gengoroh is listed as the co-author of the follow-up 2009 study and ventures therein that it would be reasonable to assume that some of the respondents who self-identified as neither “gay” or “bi” could be “closeted”, given the stigma still attached to male homosexuality in Japan.

 

How does this apply to Hato?

Betcha this question sounds stupid. Fer chrissakes, Dude, you are reading the gay pr0ns. You like, right? Hato always previously denied real-world same-sex interest. Fantasy is fantasy. This also added an extra plot excuse for becoming-fujoshi; the “containment field”. Maybe it is “a guy who reads BL but is too scared to really try real guys“. Who knows? The confusion is Kio Shimoku’s fault; he has gone out of his way to make Hato non-conforming to categories, even non-conforming to categories of non-conformity.

Hato’s identity: Hato.
Hato’s sexualty: Hato.
Hato’s gender expression: Hato.

Real guys don’t do that” aside, there is always the strong suggestion that the fudanshi is adapting fujoshi stories to his same-sex desires. Whether or not to call them gay/bi/non-binary/pansexual/would-consider-romance-or-fun-with-a-male-under-certain-circumstances varies by individual social context, but in the end, yuppers, they are, as Hato is, “gay”(etc.,). At least in the eyes of the Genshiken fujoshi.

Is Hato trans*?

It is a stretch to consider Hato a “full” “conventional” transwoman. Not yet. At best, Hato is an emergent trans-fujoshi, at least; a “fujoshi world field exploration module”, an “avatar”. Hato’s denial of real-world same-sex desire leaves only the problematic “I’m not gay it is only him” canon BL pronouncement to explain his developing feelings for Madarame, as well as the confusion and conflict surrounding these. If Hato was to decide that ze was deemed male at birth with “the heart of a girl” Hato’s desires would be, after surgery and hormones, heteronormative by law if not custom in Japan. Note that the Stands, as subconscious guilt-complexes consider Hato male. If Hato was at core “female-souled” the BL shipping urges would be, as above pointless. It might work if Hato had two souls and the Stands were out to excise the “accursed remainder” but that gets too twisty-psychological to follow in a comic book story.

The older Hato variant in Spotted Flower is gender-queer but eschews a fundamentally female “core”. The idea of breaking and surpassing identity rather than fitting into one remains imperative. The goal of becoming a cross-dressing male BL mangaka is what unifies the project.

Affective and Transactional membership within a fujoshi social.

The position of a member within a fujoshi social will be a mixture of the these two concerns, as in any activity-related social. The closest studies available to mortal outsiders of such Japanese socials would be those of female executive drinking groups. (more here) Note that in one study, a member was excised from the group when her emotional neediness became a burden on the group. Friends will help to a certain degree, after which point the burden becomes too great upon the “wa” of going out and getting hammered on the weekend to de-stress.

In the case of a male fudanshi, the transactional demands would easily overwhelm the bonds of friendship. Even in the case of Hato-as-fujoshi, in full female-presenting mode, the friendships are tenuous. Yoshitake Rika values Hato as a novelty and as a pro-level producer of new and spicy smut drawings. Valuing the Hato output and advancing club interests is seen as one in the same goal. She considers a pairing between Hato and Madarame-is-a-loser as dangerous to the club and dangerous to Hato’s output (and possibly to his mental stability). Curiously, she does not see a pairing between Hato and Yajima as threatening to the club social or to Hato’s output.

Whether she sees Yajima’s layout and pacing skills as complementary to Hato’s drawing skills or whether she can approve a slightly variant heteronormative pairing, or has, even unconsciously framed Hato-chan as a virtual lesbian and slotted Hato in a neko to Yajima’s butch girl/tachi role is beside the point. Hato’s presence in a social that Yoshitake has anything to do with – and remember she is exemplar of a tendency, not it’s sole adherent – depends on a fully female-presenting Hato. Lesbian fujoshi are not a problem; they are still women and the desire discussed in the social is abstracted. “That happens in all-girl schools, no big deal.”

No Boys allowed

I had long groused about the lack of emotion and longing displayed by the supposedly crushing Hato, especially Hato-as-chan. The Niko trip chapters have whacked me upside the head for not realizing how overwhelmingly constrained Hato was when participating in the club. In rotten-girl mode Hato can do demure or can do fujoshi-overload. That’s it. Anything else risks the great project.

At Comiket, when only with Madarame, Hato could doff and don the wig as needed, otherwise Hato’s presentation becomes a straightjacket.
Comiket is “Holy Ground”; a truce operates within its boundaries.
The one time Hato ventured, in girl mode in the clubroom, to list the reasons why “loser Madarame had moe” Yoshitake’s urge to sanction the transgression was set in motion.

Adorable C95p18.jpg

Hato-as-chan is so committed to her project and yet so insecure about its fragility that she can literally only discuss attraction for Madarame in the context of acted out BL tropes, of othering her his-self as exchanged fantasy. This is probably the cruelest trick of the internal consistency laid down by the author. There is absolutely no way Hato-chan could ever consider mentioning to the rest of the club that Hato spent any innocent social time with Madarame, even as Hato-as-kun just hanging out with Madarame.

Doing so would break the spell. Hato would no longer be “passing” for a fujoshi. Hato would be an odd cross-dressing gay guy with a boyfriend who needs to fit in with a club full of women.

Only in the light of the enforced girl-mode of the Niko trip does the magnitude of the cruel joke become apparent. Instead of facilitating and encouraging male:male romance, it effectively adds further levels of prohibition against it. If you date a guy -poof- you are back to being a guy and guys don’t sit well with the club as it is. Hato loses all.

I wonder if Yajima Merei now “gets it”. How does she feel about how she kept after Hato to drop the masquerade?

Fantasy as fantasy as a reactionary force.

I have previously quoted critics and essays which have echoed Saki’s chidings: the male-male desire fantasies of fujoshis do not necessarily include comfort and familiarity with real-life male gay people, let alone real-life, politicised LGBTQ+ communities. Kio Shimoku’s renderings of them echo these observations. Realistic concerns may even be seen as intrusions against the structures of these fantasies. This is in marked contrast with ‘western” slash communities that long ago adopted a more inclusive and politicised stance. After all, approximately half of slash fan readers are male, presumed in some degrees “queered”, by all extant studies available. (Pagliassotti. Aoki/Viz)

The Japanese fujoshi social is not anti-gay. It is merely real-life-gay avoiding. Males, gay or not are raw material. Gay males are still seen as males with male privilege and freedom available to them, as long as they pay token obeisance to Japanese rules of hierarchical male social organization.

Gay males who might take umbrage at their portrayal in extreme BL/yaoi narratives are a threat and a nuisance; they heckle the stories or get angry about portrayals even if no real etc., are being depicted. It is just guys asserting their male privilege, again. Password the forum, post a disclaimer and switch to silent running.

Elsewhere in Asia, fujoshi enthusiasms end up as being conflated with homosexual practice whenever a government clampdown rolls around and the fujoshi are an easy target. The distancing effect is powerful, multifaceted and hard to counteract.

As for gender-queer, gender dysphoria, non-conforming or minority gender expression, these are interesting as varieties of raw material to the fujoshi project, but any momentary real-world consensus over status, presentation, rights, etiquette, let alone “political correctness” or solidarity just gets in the way of a good hawt tale. At best, it might make for a few points of verisimilitude in a story. Why bother; it will just draw attention and bring the spotlight back on the easy female target. Progressive social movements are useless and always end in internicine mayhem, circular firing squads and clusterfuckery. Why stick your neck out? This is not relaxing. Best to avoid it all. We’re just here for the skin and the feels. Did the guys ever worry about similar concerns in their pr0n?

Note for the purposes of the Genshiken, these tendencies, remarked upon by academics and commentators are exaggerated and simplified.
Kio Shimoku does his research to create his fujoshi Genshiken but it always hews towards the larger, broad-brush tendencies within the literature.

History stalls without electricians… rusts…

For all I know, contemporary fujoshi socials in Japan liaise with LGBTQ+ groups and turn out for pride marches and the Genshiken is completely lost in the past. Perhaps there is even a gay male blogger in Japan who is rating BL tales on a scale of hateful shit to ridiculous fun to sensitively realistic and supportive, in a parallel to the great project that a certain lesbian blogger has undertaken in the west for yuri. If not perhaps there should be. Godspeed!

Such a real-life, politically engaged fujoshi group would never find itself caught in, let alone setting up a classic unwinnable Kobayashi Maru exercise.

Whereas Kio Shimoku slipped one over on us. How much of it and the extent of his purpose remains to be seen.

A test of character for the command-track candidate and the club itself. How better than to expose the weaknesses in the group?

Wither Madarame?

Madarame has been constructed as being very shy around women; recovering from a 3 year fantasy crush on Saki-as-Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad; prone to fugue episodes of pre-emptive over-geeking with women he considers attractive; a mildly pervy fan of loli and now jousou/ otokonoko fantasy pornography and lately severely unmotivated, to the point of loser-dom.

Couselling 101p12.jpg

Yet he does have good friends, he tries to do the right thing and his insistence on the individual right of the fan to like and enjoy what fantasies they fantasize over has built him into a figure of admiration among the Genshiken readership, and not just male readers.

It was a shock to hear Madarame described as being “wide open” and “full of openings” or unguarded. Being ungarded and open is generally considered a good thing, except when male privilege is exposed by placing a poor schlep in the sights of a male-male rape (or at best forceful seduction) fantasy.

Those “forceful” pairing conventions are sacred within parts of the fujoshi fandom. How else is a conflicted, emotionally inarticulate hunk of testosterone supposed to express societally forbidden, overwhelming, madness-inducing desire? Just don’t point that at women. Here you go Bowser, go nuts on that pant leg.

Deeds not words.

Kio also raised the ante a bit while throwing in a few blocks and dodges. Hato-as-chan is the only one of the harem-ettes to break the embargo and visit, clean and cook for an injured Madarame. (Kio you sneak: you slipped some sanitized Hurt-Comfort into the tale!) Sue appears only as chaperone. Keiko; you blew it – Keiko would never get domestic for a guy. Angela might, but we never saw any evidence of this. Only Hato “made miso soup” and cleaned up the mess.

Beautiful Fighting Girl

Too bad Hato’s Nadeshiko no Genshiken is not exactly Madarame’s favourite fantasy girl. Sue is closer to the physical form, but Saki, especially as the vengeful Chairman Ritsuko busting an upskirt creep, was closer to the ideal of a heroic female character. Do not mistake Keiko’s dismissive cynicism for an engaged heroic stance. If Hato-as-chan had presented closer to an engaged, active female character; say in a persona closer to the sassy, teasing Suruga Kanbaru of Monogatari fame; as long as Hato became flustered when confronted with the possibility of affection, Madarame would already be shacked up with Hato. Too much demure femininity triggers Madarame’s hesitancy and self-sabotage fugue reflexes.

The end result is that Madarame finds the male Hato persona far easier to talk with, to discuss any feelings that he thinks he has developed or sensed from Hato. To this end, Madarame accepts that his desire might end up being same-sex, if not “gay/queer/bi/etc.”. However the circumstances are so wildly out of normal bounds (not: Holy shit, I suddenly find guys of this type attractive!) as to be beside the point. For shy, unlucky-in-love Madarame, this is like winning an all-expense paid trip to Comiket on Mars. It is not going to happen again, so why worry about social categories.

Hato’s mistake is thinking that Madarame has fallen for Hato-as-chan and that this will be a thorny path because Hato-as-chan must be Hato-as-fujoshi and society will frown doubly on a romance with a gay fujoshi transvestite. A secondary issue also pops up, as it looks like Hato doesn’t have much experience with male friendship.

Madarame’s mistake is not seeing how intensely Hato as superficially an emerging- gay- male- fudanshi- who- crossdresses is invested in a far more complex project of becoming-fujoshi while in female- presenting mode. Mada should have made it clear that he prefers to talk with the male version; that his curiosity and interest considers the male persona dominant, or at least co-equal and that the male version is, for now who he cares to “let’s see what happens” with.

“The girl version always fans out too much. She should drop the sou-uke stuff! She makes me nervous!”

Madarame is diffuse as to his desires. He wants to “try it” and see what happens. Who is this Hato creature? How did he end up like this? What is in that BL stuff that turns his crank, that hides behind and lies beyond the weird butt-sex and dominance drawings? What really does Hato get hawt & bothered about? Will sex work? How and how much? Is it needed? Perhaps all night drinking and game-playing is a good enough consolation prize if the sex stuff proves too terrifying.  Is the lad huggable? Will it feel good to be hugged? How much romance and how much bromance? Will stripesu work when they are “packed” panchu?  Is there anything in all those BL stories that doesn’t have seme and uke and just has two guys that like each other? How do two guys make out, or even kiss? What happens? Questions, questions, questions.

Who knows? In fairness Kio Shimoku could have done more on these kinds of questions. He already had Madarame’s guy posse holding vigil with him after the wrist-break and discussing the hawt bits of their newest doujin score. An exploration of how and what boundaries would get pushed past with a guy who can also crossdress and “likes you that way” would be novel. Were they too far off in “No Homo, well perhaps Homo a bit, hey, but only you so far“, for Kio to manage?

But Kio can sure as all heck give the general impression that Madarame considers Hato a once in a lifetime chance to find out without taking any major hit-points.

Who says, beyond hard-core fujoshi and male ‘phobes, that a straight guy can’t have gay male friends? Get used to it. You don’t have to jump them and they don’t jump everything in pants, do they?

The easy way to find out would have had Mada and Hato-as-kun hanging out:
“Yo, Hato, why all the sempai? I know “Sempai notice me” but you are really into it. What gives?”
“Eh? long story ‘bro, gimme another beer…”

Too much to ask?

Would such an experiment have broken Madarame or Hato? I doubt it. The problem seems to lie only with the conflict set up by Hato’s project of becoming-fujoshi within the Genshiken social. The Genshiken could have not only made clear that they approve of Madarame and Hato, but demonstrated this by pulling back, making some space for the two of them, discouraging any need to for HatoMadaHato scripts, banishing the seme/uke/sou-uke as it applies to the two and made it damn clear through deeds that Hato-as-chan still has full %100 fujoshi status within the Genshiken, even as Hato-kun is hanging out with Mada on the weekend.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t run a destructive test on the participants or the group social.

For a test, we need Yoshitake Rika, the Genshiken’s own light, polite and stealthed version of Kaminaga. Not exactly Loki the cruel trickster demigod. She even means it well in her own clumsy way. And she does get off her ass and organise things. Still, her views on Hato and Madarame-is-a-loser were plainly set out. She views the pairing as potentially damaging to Hato, and to Hato’s output. And she could really ship Yajima and Hato and hope to see a rebound.

Whether or not she has voiced any more complicated concerns about Hato- as- almost- girl suddenly dropping to a glaring Hato- as- gay- guy- who- has- a- boyfriend- and- who- hangs- around- the club- in- a- wig- and- dress should have been alluded to, but lurks none the less. Such a creature could well be almost as disruptive as another Kuchiki.

When an event is put together to see Kuchiki well and truly out of the Genshiken, why not take the chance to end the harem nonsense? Especially if it resolves Hato and to a lesser extent Sue and gets Madarame and his sorry “I can’t make up my mind” ass out of the way as well.

Will Madarame nerve up to say he likes Hato or Sue? Did Yoshitake ever consciously sit down and factor the chances? Probably not. Angela and Keiko are disposable outcomes. Sue is a wild card, but is suddenly no longer antic and is being shy. It is doubtful that she could stand the spotlight of an organised public “omiai” ritual. Madarame is an indecisive coward who is stuck in “good to be king” stasis. Hato will be in pure fujoshi-girl-mode; easily flustered and/or prone to fanning out. If they really really like each other, they can bloody well prove it under the glare of the spotlights.

This should be a fun group trip. What could go wrong?

So much for a plausible motive for Yoshitake Rika. For the author, all heck is being set up to break lose. This story looks at first like it is all about Hato, but it is also about Madarame and about the Genshiken-as-character/ the “character” of the Genshiken. The chief custodian of the Genshiken is Ogiue as president. She has done wonders in upping the productive output of the club and has not fallen into the trap of the manken, by doing all of the output herself. Most of it, but not all. She can rightfully claim to have mentored and encouraged Hato, Yajima and even Sue as assistant. She has curbed her impulses towards destructive rivalry with Ohno’s formidable cosplay ancien regime; The two tendencies work well together in the current club.

But the harem problem has slipped by her. Hato’s crush is none of her business. As for Madarame, she must know in the back of her mind that she started the sou-uke thing. She has never quashed it or even properly limited it because she is guilty of it and that kind of guilt brings up terrible memories.

choco hit c100p25.jpg

Please note how robust and detailed the plotting of all this is. Mere accident of Kio Shimoku’s ad-hoc plotting? I doubt it. Such attention carries with it risks and responsibilities. No one gives a flying monkey about the plot and motivation holes in UQ Holder, as long as the skin and the magic battles keep coming. Genshiken fans expect more: when something happens and happens the way it does, they impute motive. They feel shocked and even betrayed when events play out in an insensitive manner.

The stage is set. Hato and Madarame and Sue will be in the forefront. The harem is really a reluctant love triangle. Sue’s interest is late in the game and tentative. She is almost shut down by the weight of her emotions. The real action will be between Madarame and Hato. Drunken Kuchiki provides the chance for Madarame to speak freely, if hastily with the Hato he can speak freely with. He declares that he felt something from the valentine’s day chocolates and then with with Hato’s sudden disappearance.

What he hears is a surprise. Hato clearly feels something for him but is pushing him away. “I felt something too and was scared. I am not the fantasy girl you think I am. Compared to the real women interested in you, I am barely able to hold my own as female-presenting. Romance would fail. Chose someone else“.

And then he adds one little bit too much: “Oh by the way, I can only draw girls’ boy-boy porn while crossdressed“. Huh? This is all too ridiculous! Next thing you know, Mada is on top and male Hato, glowing with booze and makeup is doing his best to deny any fantasy implications of the mishap. “Sorry, you get no handful of breast. Sorry that I disappoint.” Fantasy is fantasy and reality is flat-chested and very, very composed.

feeling-existed-c11p7.jpg

And then Madarame brings up BL fantasies and Hato is lost. And Mada’s hunt mode has been flicked on. One Kuchiki bathroom run save later, Madarame is left to consider how it felt. “Holy crap, I took the initiative. Hato is actually kind of cute. Holy crap does this mean I’m gay? Maybe this is a special case because he can also be a shy, chaste otokonoko? Wait a second; there ain’t such thing as a shy, chaste otokonoko; them critters are sex-demons. Hato is a shy chaste something else that looks female. Whatever, I liked being the forceful one. No sou-uke here. Was all the sou-uke stuff so that girly-boy Hato could be sou-uke to a sou-uke? Does not compute.”

Felt good though.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Hato’s brief foray into boy mode only served to point out how tightly he has been sewed into his girl costume for the rest of the trip. He’s sleeping in a room with two other girls, experiencing girl-talk and his cover story is that he is a full, legendary “boy born with the heart of a girl”. Do not break cover. Maintain fujoshi mode at all costs. No slip ups or wig removings allowed. The great project is on the line. All fujoshi, all rotten, all the time.

Only briefly in male attire did he get a chance to marvel that he “was taken seriously” while walking back to Yajima’s house. That part must remain sealed away the next day.

At the temple in Niko, Hato and Madarame can talk for a few moments. Perhaps it would have gone down somewhat the same way without Keiko goading and stirring the pot. Except that Hato is now reeling from realizing that Yajima has developed a crush on (must be) him-as-him. And that ze has thrown the one thing that Keiko cannot process, Madarame interested in him-as-a-guy in her face.

Face to face with Madarame, Hato manages to get out one subtextual bit of “context” or warning. When presenting as female, Hato must devote complete attention to staying in character and avoiding any mistakes that would break the illusion of female presentation. And that means fujoshi presentation as well.

bad idea119p6.jpg

Then after the “thrill of the forbidden” misstep, and some encouragement by Ogiue, Madarame is back for the mandatory thorny path warning. Then Hato fans out as only Hato the fujoshi can. MadaHato, HatoMada, seme, uke, sou-uke. Perhaps Hato is dead sure that Madarame is crushing on girl-Hato. Perhaps Hato is very scared of real male-male intimacy. Perhap Hato feels comfortable enough around Mada the uber-fan to let loose. Or all of these and none. But Hato is still locked into the absolute need to discuss any future relationship in full-metal fujoshi mode. Hato has accepted the stands into her, but here and now they own her tongue. Hato cannot say “I like you.”

Despite all this, Madarame is surprisingly considerate and reassuring. He does not make any promises of soul-mate-ry for life, but neither does he make fun of what clearly makes him uncomfortable. He does not act blunt and dismiss Hato’s fujoshi-voiced desires.(3)

Thank goodness he didn’t. Turns out they had an audience. Even that does not deter Madarame.

This is great buildup. Madarame is treating his desire seriously, even if it is same-sex desire. He is treating Hato’s conflicted feelings seriously. He is also worried about hurting Sue and letting Keiko and Angela down respectfully. He knows that things are getting weird in the group and its “wa” is under threat.

Then something happens offstage and it all turns into shit.

Madarame is overwhelmed. He refuses to announce his decision. His mind plays out the next day; when he has chosen Hato-as-chan and he is left in a cold sweat. He asks if there are any group thoughts on the situation. Did he really want them to decide for him or was he seeking to gauge if there was any consensus on who would be the most suitable choice? Was it only to take that into consideration as he plotted how to how to finesse his decision? Did he already realise that the situation was out of control and unwinnable unless he jumped on the grenade? Choose one, three will be miffed. Choose Hato or Sue and the spotlights will incinerate them.

Angela was always scary and impractical: the language barrier was too much, even putting aside the long-distance problem. Keiko was always out. Sex at the cost of being made to feel like shit continuously. Banter with The Adversary is fun; the morning after you wake up in hell.

If you decide that you are forced to deny any chance at love, must you spell out the true reasons in excruciating detail or can you just give the unforgiving crowd what they will accept and what they deserve?

Angela; “you are too much of a sex bomb for me, and too far away.” Keiko; “you are so goddess-like that you bring back painful memories of Saki”. Sue; (between you and me, you see how hostile this place is to any love, let alone what I was considering, please do me a favour and go along with this excuse:)I like it better when you are pestering Ogiue with fakee-lesbian attention. it’s fun and hawt.” Sue takes the hint and runs with it.

Now that we have made same-sex desire an abstract, not-serious issue we can finesse Hato. Isn’t dating a guy too stressful? (on the other club members’ maturity levels? good job, not Ogiue – enjoy your Sue!) Hato should be free to pursue (the project of becoming-fujoshi which I will not burn to these children, I’ll just call it ) being a cross-dressing fudanshi (and fudanshi means likes the idea of same-sex romance, may or may not be up to it in real life) without having to suffer (this nonsense).

I now take my leave. Your win Yoshitake-san, enjoy.

(“The more sensitive among you, once you digest it, might get the motive and the subtext of my excuses. Thanks for all the help, oh club of fans who will dream of queer romance but trample any real manifestations of it.“)

Oh Shit, not Kuchiki!Gehhhhhhhh! Phhhtt! Phhhhtttt!

Guess he bought the story.

kkobayashi-redux-web.jpg

Or Madarame just sputtered “Hah-hah I was just joking” gibberish to get out of a jam and then Kio had Kuchiki drive home the point. Released on the Easter weekend by chance. Thank goodness Japanese folks don’t understand Easter and the fuss surrounding the whole passion thing or there would have been roosters crowing.(4)

Fans who cared deeply about the emerging, fierce individualised queer-ness of Hato and the long slow build-up of Madarame accepting that there was something between them recoiled at the crudeness of the Hah hah hah, No Homo vibe that came out of nowhere like a slap in the face.

And it hit me too. I was really surprised how it hit me. It took a while, and the testimony of concerned fans to process the depths of why the fail shook me. Even if you don’t think that Hato was right for Madarame, you don’t shit in people’s corn flakes, repeatedly. …Just because you can and it is an easy gag ending to the harem arc. Even to do so to hammer home a point about how your fictional fujoshi social is unworldly didn’t need three bowls of shit-flakes.

Unless we were supposed to taste the shit in the subtext.

Madarame did win a few maturity points from this bruising exercise. He is little more confident around women he is interested in and he can control his impulse to self-sabotage. If anything, he has seen how tragic such impulses can be. He was not afraid to think of dating a guy, even though he never felt he wanted to before; he did not go into “gay panic“. He took his desires seriously. He could politely pursue, even manage some polite “forceful” behaviour, which is expected of courting Japanese manly males.

He has lost once more on the fields of love but he is not defeated. And he has learned a lot about the need to keep one’s affairs of the heart private. He does not have to be forced into a relationship, he retains the agency to decide and to reject easy, yet problematic opportunities. He may empathise too much, as an excuse to avoid troublesome situations – he will have to learn that sharing one’s heart with another will always be complicated and fraught with the possibility of hurt – but the impulse is better than pure horn-dawg “gimme naow!“.

However he did let himself be bamboozled into losing the chance to explore with afforded respect and privacy what would have happened, not just with Hato, but with Sue and even Angela. His fault for going along with the much-too-public harem omiai set-up.

What of Madarame and Hato?

Even now, while I have difficulty seeing a fluffy vanilla BL romance happen easily and naturally between Hato and Madarame, goddammit they should have had a chance to fuck up properly trying! How does a straight guy navigate friendship and maybe a little bit or a lot more with a gay or non-binary or queer male friend? Maybe that’s a story that Kio Shimoku wanted to tell, but couldn’t. And he couldn’t let them bumble off into the sunset.

Anything could have happened.

Everything was prevented.

talking c100p13.jpg

Plenty of old-school guy fans are uncomfortable with Madarame “going over to the dark side” and make a big fuss over what never threatened male status and privilege in earlier eras. I wonder who and what has jerked their puppet strings. Probably nothing more than a bunch of other schoolyard losers yelling “fag”. A serious 1950’s “beat” or 60’s  guy-o-the-world wouldn’t give that kind of chickenshit a second thought. “Part of the road, enjoy the journey…  At least it was real.”

Worse, they don’t have the time or curiosity to see the critique and examination of a female fandom as a logical extension of the critique and examination of the male fandom that the original Genshiken was. They see only Hato, the “annoying trap” flailing around, freak out and miss the nuance; the valid observations of female fan productivity (yo, dudes, aside from trolling 4chan, what the fuck does the reactionary male fandom produce? As in make? Like, uh, stuff?), gained at the price of the range of interests; not much gaming and model making or fan- reviewing in the new club – only cosplay defends the earlier multi-modality of the Genshiken.

They also miss the biting critique of the isolationist tendencies in the fujoshi homosocial as well as the part of that critique that has just played out to bitter disappointment among the western fans closest in approximation and outlook to the fujoshi members.

It is a crying shame that chapter 122 hit the diaspora Hato-supporting fandom so hard; they have struggled to put their early isolationist impulses behind them. The troll brigade hates them not only for their “queer” but for their social engagement. Fuck the troll brigade; the only author they respect is Ayn the Reaver and her petulant, narcissistic cant. Reavers make lousy fans.

The Doctrine of Authenticity was, for brief time being effortlessly honored in the Genshiken. If Madarame could convincingly be portrayed as being interested, then he should have had the in-story freedom to do so. If Hato, for all his confusion dared put at risk his single minded project to become a fujoshi in a fujoshi social because he and she started to feel something they couldn’t understand toward Madarame, would the ‘verse have imploded because of this slight glitch in sexualities and gender roles? It looks like they never were taken seriously enough to have the in-story free will to try. The hammer came down and decreed that that kind of feeling is too complicated or too troublesome or can be papered over as a joke.

Original sin Ch4419.jpg

And the Genshiken, the club that would not betray its members, as Ogiue’s high school friends betrayed her, as the University manga (manken) club betrayed her, as Hato’s high school art club betrayed him, failed. Failed miserably, tittering and tee-hee-ing over the small chance that two guys might feel something for each other, even if it only turned out to be friendship, in in-verse “real” life.(5)

The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a fictional test of character in the face of certain destruction.

The Genshiken; Ogiue and Ohno as executive officers, Yajima and Yoshitake as bridge crew and the rest of the assembled members performed below expectation. Hato was the sacrificial hostage, the eponymous damaged ship. Madarame’s performance was nuanced; on the surface shockingly below expectations, even if his excuse to Hato can be translated and subtext-read as “I only want you to be able to have a trouble-free love that leaves room for you to pursue your great project.” The Sue bullshit excuse either damned his performance or telegraphed that he considered the rest of the club the enemy within. And Kio’s framing the entire night, with Kuchiki breaking the tension but reinforcing the dismissive mood, walks the same dangerous knife-edge.

Chapter 122 was meant to question whether or not the club was truly as accepting and safe as it should be or claimed to be. What instead went down looked to many as small and ugly.

 

 

Endnotes:

(1)  It is a position beyond that of a male yuri fan. The most I can so “participate” is as fantasy, manga or anime voyeurism, making note of a few tips regarding foreplay and perhaps absorbing some of the ambience surrounding the romantic melodrama of the stories. Unlike the fujoshi experience however, yuri works better for me when written by a tojisha author. The fujoshi artifact has yet to evolve to the point where many gay male authors are successfully melding realism about gay male behaviour with the female “feels’ and interpersonal character dynamics/ drama that fujoshi readers prize.

This distinction is not that important; the fujoshi project has other aims. Contrast to realistic lesbian identity graphic novels in the west to yuri.

(2)

“One high-school boy says that “It’s not that I’m gay”…. He goes on to say that he and a group of two or three girls buy these magazines and share them. The girls ask him “Ma-kun [his name], how about turning gay (homo ni nachaeba?)”, to which he replies “they say such irresponsible things but, basically, if it’s beautiful then either is OK,” a statement which is followed by the character warai, signifying laughter (presumably the speaker is suggesting an ironic stance to his last statement).

Males who read such fiction, he observes, do so in a context which brings them into proximity with women (as in the reading circle described above). These men are exposed to very different constructions of masculinity than those they would find in a reading circle comprised of other men. Moreover, the images of masculinity present in shōnen’ai fiction are obviously attractive to many women, so a man who is sexually attracted to women, may, either consciously or unconsciously, seek to cultivate them.”

Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities p.246 Notes [https://books.google.ca/books?id=5SssBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246#v=onepage&q&f=false]

More on the idea of the straight Japanese fudanshi would be more readily available if the Nagaike article was not locked down behind academic paywalls. The Google Books excerpt seems to indicate that the actual study of Fudanshi was done by a japanese aca-fan in 2008-2009. Approximately %20 of the respondents identified as “straight” or “asexual”; which would mean they comprise appx. %2 of all BL readers. Nagaike seems to impose a reading of “herbivore men” on the practice and -to my mind, distressingly – follows up on Dr. Saito Tamaki’s excursion into shota, which she does not differentiate the otokonoko/jousou  genre from.

Do Heterosexual Men Dream of Homosexual Men?: BL Fudanshi and Discourse on Male Feminization by Kazumi Nagaike pp. 189-209 IN: Boys Love Manga and Beyond History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker (2015) Citation: https://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781626740662
Excerpt at: https://books.google.ca/books?id=QAIbBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PT235&ots=IEOdW_57SF&dq=Do%20Heterosexual%20Men%20Dream%20of%20Homosexual%20Men%3F%3A%20BL%20Fudanshi%20and%20Discourse%20on%20Male%20Feminization%20by%20Kazumi%20Nagaike&pg=PT235#v=onepage&q&f=false

I would not be surprised if Kio Shimoku has his mitts on the Japanese study.
The rest of us will have to wait until someone translates:

Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.

Note that the 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
http://doujinshi.mugimugi.org/book/396607/

More: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/taimatsu_torch/

https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.ca&sl=ja&u=http://picnic.to/~taimatsu/index.htm&usg=ALkJrhhoWTTK5M2pzzo0fAcy12Xjt_wJ7Q

Note that for both studies, sample sizes ran to 100-110 respondents. Finally, there is one further avenue for situating a Japanese male in somewhat sympathetic relation to the BL genre, without necessarily positing a fudanshi:
As a Cosplayer: if you cosplay bishies, you are going to be up to your neck in subtext.
As well, the urge to provide a bit of fan-service to female supporters must be extremely strong. As in cross-play, it would be clumsy to impute sexuality to the participants without first-person testimony and survey data.

 

(3) Perhaps Mada should have just came out and said: “Isn’t it a little early for pillow talk? Sorry lambchop, I don’t put out on the first date… ” But camp impulses aside, not going there was a real good idea. Hato was convinced that Mada saw him as some fantasy, and not as “just a guy”. The only other odd thing that does not fit was Yajima encouraging Hato to bring up HatoMada when Hato met Mada later. I can’t believe that Yajima was calculatingly trying to sabotage the meet. More of an “authenticity” issue I guess. I doubt that Hato needed he permission, but the reminder was there.

(4) Btw; never never mention to a famous American crime reporter in Japan the parallels between the Christian Harrowing of Hell subtext in the Easter story and the Buddhist “Ksitigarbha/Jizō Bosatsu” vow of forgoing Buddha-hood “until the hells are empty“. The tale predates the xtian mythos and is an obvious influence. Maybe it has some other local meaning in his situation – he’s known to be in a long fight with a very persistant troll, but he blocked me on Twitter for mentioning it. Come to think of it he blocked another twitter account of mine last year. What the heck did I do wrong? I give up!

(5) LATER:  Another thing that really bugs me. The great harem ending works against the “Helmut” option. Honestly, these two losers need to to be friends more than they need to fumble with each other…

Talk Talk

“Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer.”
— Slavoj Zizek

Kujibiki Unbalance Rakugu Shinjuu

… Something came up. Go on ahead and I’ll catch up with you later…

pulp scifi flowers

“The thing that is obvious to many not-young women is that no guy is owed anything just because he has an idea in his head of what he’d like. This is a very serious problem globally, apparently. These guys feel that their sincerity means they deserve the girl. And, to some extent, that is how this scenario is presented. Touko’s feeling are honest and sincere, so of course Yuu will come around to falling for her. But why? If Yuu doesn’t feel it, why do we assume she must eventually do so? This bugs me a lot. In real life, on Quora and in media.

Which leads me to the, I think, obvious conclusion about Yuu. What if she’s asexual? If so, she’s never going to have those feelings for Touko or anyone. She might come to love Touko and continue to admire and like her, but never have sexual interest in her. So, then I can’t help but see Touko’s coming on (to be crude) to Yuu as another burden, rather than a blessing.

Both these things nag at me while I read this manga. And I worry that Yuu’s agency will be stripped from her as the narrative continues.””

-Erica Friedman, Yuri Manga: Yagate Kimi ni Naru (やがて君になる )
Review in OKAZU, January 6th, 2016
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2016/01/06/yuri-manga-yagate-kimi-ni-naru-%E3%82%84%E3%81%8C%E3%81%A6%E5%90%9B%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B/

“The dream which one comes up with on one’s own is a fantasy that is ultimately not possible to share with others. Although, of course, imposing it on others is always possible.”
Furuhashi Teiji, quoted in Mizoguchi, 2008, Ch6.

“Even if I might just be trying to force my own desires… All of our desires are just… Things we force on others anyway.”
-Hato Kenjiro, Genshiken ch 66

 

My previous post went over like a lead balloon. One more time; I have no knowledge of how the heck Kio Shimoku is going to play Chapter 122.. Jeesh, why do I even feel like I have to write that? It was pure speculation rendered as fanfiction; partly because I smelled a set-up, partly because there were problems with MadaHatoMada and also because there were a few things I wanted to work on – including that dreaded “default position”. I was not gloating, or if I was, it was over figuring out a plausible resolution, rendered as an overdone snippet of Mada speechifying.

I even had Mada go out of his way to emphasise that he was leaning towards Hato, before he pulled a noble (chicken-out) sacrifice. Amirite about Hato’s first love or not?

I have been true to my project. That solution was pure “Myth of the Oarsmen“; duty, honor, planet Genshiken. The alternative is scopophilia, which is presently manifesting itself to excess.

As for fanboy tears, most of us are too fascinated with the imminent train-wreck to shed much. Just because Genshiken is now about fujoshi fanning and features a boy in a skirt, it is not a work from Slash-land or a radical genderqueer manifesto or an allegory of feminist empowerment.

Hato is not going to wake up like Neo in a pod to discover that she was dreaming the entire Genshiken after a bullshit virus-fever and that she should go back to virtually running the algae photosynthesis factory controls for her wimmens-only cyber-dystopia that mixes elements from Joanna Russ, The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell, and completely leaves out men. They all died off last world war.

“OK, I remember now, but why does my avatar now look like this?”
“We found some old records while you were sick and voted to switch over our avatar design specs. It was all in this amazing ancient book of wisdom titled “Dykes Like Us”.”

My grumpy fanboy brothers; the Genshiken could be far more hostile or even oblivious to our patronage. Just sayin’… No Homo or not, it is still all about us guys. Note too all; spend too much time counting scalps and you’ll miss the razor blade in the shiny shiny apple.

Whoops, a sci-fi yuri-esque digression or two. I wonder how that wandered into my train of thought?

“Look, call it denial if you like, but I think what goes on in my personal life is none of my own damn business.”
Robert Mankoff cartoon

Like it or not, the heart of Hato Kenjiro is front and center in the dramas surrounding the new Genshiken. Without him (and her), we guys are just peeping into the sacred spaces of a female fandom; we are Kuchiki. If you want more Genshiken, you’re stuck with Hato, the fujoshi planet field exploration unit. It would have been so much easier, if not boring to have made him a femmish-presenting out gay male.

Unfortunately, Hato Kenjiro is not “gei”. Hato Kenjiro is a fujoshi, which is like saying that he is a duck that thinks he is a cartoon robot cat from the future. The simple declaration of his desire to “imagine desire and so desire as fujoshi women do” is such an insane defiance against the order of forms as to reek of privilege if not madness, were he “real”. It would be like Donald Trump announcing that he could get pregnant if he so chose, because he is very rich and has the “really really best scientists”.(1) Perhaps it is even more extreme; like a male middle-class teen in some midwestern American town deciding that he could become pregnant because, “Hey! if Donald Trump wanted to, he’d do it, so I should be able to!” And this doesn’t have anything to do with thinking that he is two-souled or born to the wrong gender either, just to notch up the count on the impossible delusion scale.

Give the kid a John Varley anthology and tell him to go back to studying for his college entrance exams. Hopefully he will figure his life out and not get rich enough to do something hurtfully stupid to other folks in the pursuit of remnants of his teenage dreams. (2)

Hato Kenjiro as a well-behaved construct owes much of his appeal to this kind of fancy. There must be a few guys out there who like reading BL and yaoi and probably most of them would enjoy the chance to fan out with other fans, even or especially if these other fans were rotten girls (or rotten women, or.. etc..) But how many would crossdress to do it? (Aside: I hope the Hato Kenjiro character has not caused any IRL pressure to be brought upon them – c’mon Stan, you’d look great!) And how many would deny that their real-life desires ran towards the guy side of the avenue?

At this point, anyone so ensnared in such customised and bespoke desires would be driven to consider, examine and elaborate them. “Why yes, it seems that I am more drawn to guys than girls, but the muggins gay scene does nothing for me. For some reason I really like the way the relationships play out in this, that and the other BL stories and those yaoi dojins. Oh well, such is fate, now how do I get me some?

It could make for very odd advice columns in gay male magazines. Dear Doc Feelygood, I grew up in a small town in rural Japan and…

Eventually either the fantasy or real world physical desire would win out. All groups socialize their members or the disaffected withdraw from the group.

The larger question remains. Why the heck, beyond weird storytelling is Kio Shimoku doing this?

I think we must include all, including nominally heterosexual fantasy otherings by the fandom as subject to his project. We must also consider isolating homosocials and the isolating effects of fandom from a larger riaju world, both in its satisfactions (safety, friendship, enchantment/ re-enchantment) and discontents.

Do issues of real world desire and gender expression come into this tale? Beyond “otokonoko” hobby crossplay, I don’t think very much does, at least on the surface. Kio Shimoku has been very clear about tossing out disclaimers. They may strain real world credulity but they are more than sufficient for a romcom manga.

In Hato’s case, fantasy and the social surrounding it are far more urgent to hir desires than any needs of the flesh that involve another person. Hato definitely cares about Madarame, but the uniquely Hato-ish way that care comes out is custom-built for serial comedic failure.

This is sleight of hand by Kio Shimoku. We would have no trouble deciding what Hato was if this was kinked heterosexual desire. “Uh, I have these fantasies about you in rubber underwear, cat ears, tied down with octopus tentacles, singing show tunes. And we’d probably switch roles once we got to know each other better, just for variety and by the way, I insist on blabbing about these romps to my friends before and after, if you go out with me”.

“Cause I really like you.”

I’m not saying it couldn’t work. It would just make for a rather specialized Tinder profile. If the vehicle of these desires was a hot girl, she would get a post-punk band out of it. (Ask me about the short-lived 1980’s “Dover Beach Young Communist Faction“, “Natasha” and her leather-boy posse sometime… Or not, as it was pretty well was what was on the label.)(3)

Beyond the questions of non-traditional desire, same-sex attraction, non-binary sexualities and non-conforming gender expressions lies the question of whether the desire expresses as paired intimacy, group bonding, hobby social activity or even competitive sport. Of such things, sweet dreams are made.

Who am I to disagree..

I may be pushing the analogy too far. Plenty of healthy confused young’uns mess up their first crushes with the usual bucket load of commodified fetishisms that they have absorbed from web pr0n. Usually someone they know will eventually “well Duh! Smooth move, asshat! What the fuck did you think would happen?” them.

Part of the blame for any Hato & Mada train wreck must fall on the Genshiken social itself. The harem sweepstakes have become crass; plenty of lobbying and side-bets on who would make the most interesting pairing but very little pre-emptive harm reduction. Ogiue and Ohno in particular have let this slip by. Both have executive authority, seniority and experience in somewhat functional relationships. It might be a bit unfair to drop the load onto them but why is Yoshitake doing all the pot-stirring? Why is Yajima Merei the only one who seems to think that it will hurt like heck? As one Genshiken fan has noted; very creepy but in-character with what can go wrong when University clubs turn into soap operas.

The Genshiken has featured at least two other fannish socials that have gone bad and hurt people. Is Kio Shimoku taking the dangerous mountain road turn too fast to make a point?

And let us not forget that “Madarame sou-uke” was not a Hato invention. That one carries over from Ogiue’s  SassMada dojin. In many ways it is the last or latest manifestation of her “original sin”

Is this set up is meant to suggest that a lack of practical real-world relationship interest/experience by fujoshis, plus the oddity of same-sex crossdressing fujoshi-but-a-guy pining, plus their drooling need for BL fannout has kept the rest of the Genshiken from raising any caution flags? The closest thing to harm reduction might be the entire Yoshitake-inspired plot as battlefield surgery. Fail the HatoMadaHato story as fast and hard as needed and rebound Hato at Yajima. Who Madarame ends up with is of no importance as long as it isn’t Hato. Best if he shuffles off stage. Ditto with Kuchiki. I wonder what will Yoshitake do if any new males show up wanting to join the Genshiken? She appears to have no qualms about defending an exclusive female space. I doubt if even an “out” gay male fudanshi with super drawing skills could slip by her shields. I wonder if a lesbian fujoshi could. In some ways she is an outwardly sympathetic steathed Kaminaga.

Meanwhile, as passionately pro-Hato correspondents have pointed out, we could view Hato and the Mada crush as the best an inexperienced, conflicted and confused crossdressing, “I’m not gay, It’s only you, No I don’t think I am a girl trapped in a body deemed male at birth, I made the female me to isolate, contain and process my enthusiasms for BL and yaoi, participate in the socials that surround and perpetuate the genre and experience the desires that are stirred in me thereby. One day I hope to try a variant of them in real life, eventually without the wig and dress, if I can only find someone who wants me the way the characters in my fave dojins want each other” young person could manage.

Whew! Tall order.

“Oh, and I’m going to blab about it and draw it into dojins so I can share it all with my fujoshi friends!”

Jeebus Buddha and Bob! This is going down the rabbit hole again. At least I have come up with one neato residual from the exercise. The next thing that Kio Shimoku or some ambitious BL author should come up with is a raunchy comedy wherein the uke is a gay guy BL mangaka, the reluctant seme-draftee is a shy gay-leaning civilian male and the mangaka is mining their relationship hijinks and tribulations for material. Add much trope overload. What made for an obnoxious yuri tale (Manga no Tsukurikata) could be retreaded into a bucket o laffs for a rotten audience because watching guys run themselves through the wringer is a hoot for the gals.

Just credit me as Character Design consultant and forward a reasonable fee via the contact form.

Given how nasty it could have played, Hato was being exceedingly, (even touchingly) earnest in their crush by dropping plenty of formal cautions in Madarame’s path. Unfortunately these came out like melodramatic romantic clichés: “I push you away, sacrificing my love, because I am conflicted, pursuit might sway me/ I need you to chase after me“. Then came the too-much-information flood as fannish excess. This too could be read as touching, because Hato trusts Madarame enough to think that Mada will understand the fanning impulse behind the weird. Unfortunately that was probably too much to ask of a celibate straight geeky guy.

The “shut him down hard” solution has not been used.

Dammit Hato, you used up all of Madarame’s “weird turn pro” reserves. Mada overload. Coolant leak, core shut-down. Emergency power reserves dropping.

Nor has the famous Hato-chan self-control slipped. Hato-chan’s self-control never slips. Hato-kun might blubber and teeter on the edge of bat-shit crazy; Hato-chan is bullet-proof. The worst that will ever show is a blushed face.

The Hato continuum is crushing hard, but never hard enough to let go of their first love.

If only Hato could shut up about the sou-uke and seme stuff. Of course hir can’t. The seme/uke convention is the currency of fujoshi exchange and Hato wants to participate in that exchange more than anything else in hir life. What Hato finds lacking in “gay” and in “straight” is hiding in BL. Hato want! Once Kio Shimoku came up with this algorithm, all manner of neato consequences popped up.

I have noted that there is something excessive, something that meets the bet and redoubles it about Hato deciding that it was inevitable that Hato-chan would end up as girl-bottom. To quote professor Rod Serling;

Who eats the sins of the sin-eater?

Did Madarame have to be conscripted as sou-uke just so that Hato could become sou-uke to a sou-uke, the ultra-uke or uber-uke. The lowest of the low, the lower depths, donzoko, a prince (and princess) of hell? Jigoku Otokonoko?

De Profundis:

“In the empty clubroom, I sat down and wept”

The lore of BL and yaoi makes the uke the most interesting character of any pairing. The ukes are the ones who get to crank all manner of conflicted emotions to 11 and beyond. All the girl emotions of the nominal readership, plus all the conflicted guy emotions that the girls consider exclusive male property and project onto male-dom, because in real life we disappoint and definitely need an upgrade. Just don’t point that mess at women, please.

“He protected me when I was crazy and I protected him when he was drunk.”
– Sherman on his friendship with Grant.

The Hato ship is a powerfully romantic idea, for at least a significant part of the fandom but its foundations remain ridiculously unstable. Hato is wonky. Of course everything will go sideways. Mada isn’t exactly Mr. stability himself, but at least he is predictable. And I’m not going to give up harping on how BL enthusiasts hold any male friendship in such rarefied regard that they must conflate it with incipient lust. Any Mada and Hato interaction needs a lot more work getting the two together to see if there really is anything there before asking if there is anything that needs “it”, and before they even consider “it”. Banging Mada and Hato together minus acclimatization is sloppy and cruel, as well as a sure fail. Unless the fans want and consider such details irrelevant.

The infamous Genshiken second season Ogiue yaoi fantasy bypassed vanilla BL take-it-slow setups in favor of an occult freemasonry imputed to all males. Betcha didn’t know this but if the yaoi requires it, all us guys invariably prefer man-schmex to girls. Only a super-freak like alt.yaoi.Kousaka cares to play both sides of the street for louche fun. Told ya this stuff was heavyhanded.

“I’m not gay, its only you” looks more polite, but is there for the contrast and the heightened shock when the madness strikes. Even if carnivores only kill one member of the herd at a time, they still regard the entire herd as ambulatory food storage. Oh well, we’ve been doing something similar to womenkind since the neolithic, so a bit of enlarged perspective might annoy, but won’t kill us guys.

One counter-intuitive aspect of assuming a default state of male swing-any-way-ness (magic BL lurv madness or too much beer may be required) is that on the surface it doubles the absolute potential for pairing breakdown via infidelities and dumping. It is assumed that women favor stable, monogamous, OTP (one true pairing) endings, if only because the real world imposes social and economic penalties on women who fall out of relationships while giving a free pass and/or praise to males who play the field.

One more time, with expository notes:

Hoggamous, Higgamous (guy audience porny) yuri (and heterosexual harem grinders) polygamous.
Higgamous, Hoggamous (gal audience, at least serially) BL (as shoujou/ romance derivative) monogamous.

The idea behind the “could go any way, anywhere with anyone” baseline is to isolate the deterministic, transactional variables of sexuality and gender so as to run simulations on the adhesion properties of various iterations of “romantic love”. Somewhat like computer modelling the search for new antibiotics in moldy dirt samples. If it invents and refines new delusions about how to run the romantic process it is considered to be worth the extra complications. Bonus points for hawt artwork.

Unfortunately few pairings, straight, BL-ish or otherwise offer any absolute guarantees when put up against a mangaka with a mortgage. Angela or Keiko instability easily sets up Spotted Flower. Either can vanish at the drop of a hat and all that remains is the Disappearance of Kousaka Makoto for the pieces to roll plausibly into place. Hato or Sue, as most complex offer a small hope that the author will have more material with which to drag out the story before moving on to the next arc, but this in itself points out a further structural bias.

There is a virgin-angst vibe in the Genshiken, as with other Kio Shimoku works that posits the beginning of intimacy as the beginning of the end of love. Only Ohno and Tanaka seem immune. Saki-Kousaka and Ogiue-Sass give off as much heat as Yajimacci’s mom and dad. This is by no means unique to Kio Shimoku, but his works favor the rule.

Once Angela or Keiko lapse, the current harem fuss could quietly reset and begin all over again. Magic Madarame syndrome.

Along with stability/ fidelity, one should as well consider privacy and it’s enabling condition, normative behaviour. Riajuu is boring, therefore the more riajuu a pairing, the more it will get more privacy.

I wanted to spin out another MadaHatoMada fanfic to consider an  alternative to an Angela ending, but couldn’t get much further than Hato and Mada realising during their continued walk, that if they announced a “try it”, they would get absolutely no privacy ever. That wasn’t as much of an issue back around chapter 119 when I buried a short fluffy scenario at the end of the second addendum to the post that would not die. But now the no privacy effect has been further cranked by the Mangaka.

Sempai! We are going shopping for some thick sided rectangular god-of-the-corporate boardroom seme glasses for you. And a suit that fits and then a visit to a hair stylist!” Cue the paparazzi. “Hato, Hato, how fares your fundament this morning?” Next door Sue would stalk Hato, the rest would take turns stalking Mada. Soon both Hato and Mada would have to sweep their premises for microphones. Hato would have to switch to illustrating technical manuals, lest every single panel he drew be scrutinised for hidden context and clues. Tubs of lotion and econo-sized packages of rubbers would be left at their doors.

Could classic sparkling fluffy BL play out under withering spotlights?

Hato can’t keep quiet during Chapter 121. Maybe they were both planning to say nothing until they could each mull over the other’s drawings and hentai games? Mada now has to come clean for chapter 122 and Kio Shimoku is being unfair. I am not saying that HatoMadaHato should be hidden in a closet, but sheesh, a little discretion would have gone a long way.

Why is Kio Shimoku highlighting naff club behavior? Saki is matter-of-fact about having real-world gay friends. Madarame, now in self-imposed bohemian mode doesn’t seem to think that a cute otokonoko-ish boy-girl-friend is as much of a hurdle as dealing with forceful female desire – at least until mechanical concerns are brought up. Something about being open to all manner of fantasy otherings vs IRL conservatism, reticence even fear is being suggested.

Could Kio Shimoku be advancing the concern that the very process of fantasy othering carries the risk of reducing one’s capacity for real world empathy and openness to new social arrangements?

Is the fandom truly more open-minded than the riajuu? Was it all an illusion and the Genshiken members are just a few steps away from passive acceptance, even support of right-wing retrenchment? Gate, Thus the JSDF etc. has tons of BL gags, even as the latest anime episode features a snickering corrupt Japanese journalist who is even harder on the heroic military than the “foreign reporters”.

Bad domestic press, Bad!

Awww heck, the Stargate franchise had its asshat militarism too, we still lapped it up and forgave it. Of course it had big-bads that were a lot more powerful than the American military industrial complex. Fantasy pohos with swords and spears tack a bit too close to the The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere for comfort.

Holy right-wing sound truck parade Batman!

Is the Genshiken truly a safe space for “live” same-sex couples? If Mada Hato happened would things get uncomfortably juvenile in the clubroom? Does a freak couple deserve any tatemae, or is it just a case of Madarame’s lack of tatemae privileges infecting the pairing?

The club members and alumni make twice yearly pilgrimages to Comiket. Would they muster to show support at a pride parade? Could they even back off and let the two be?

They (as proxies for their Japanese readership) should get their heads up and their game on. Some rightists in the current government think that sexual minorities are unnatural freaks and that too many women are shirking their baby-making duties. Abortion is illegal in Japan. There is “only” the widely used exemption for “economic hardship”. Contraceptive technologies are less widespread than in the west. Wink and small freedoms could vanish. Would Genshiken fujoshi be able to process the threat to their freedoms? Could fans be silenced if another right-wing governor of Tokyo decided to hit them in the Comiket if politicised dojins started to show up at SEALDs demos?

One further extreme question: by over-adopting canon of BL scripts is Hato Kenjiro acting out a “safe” form of self-hating denial. Is this an ultimate fantastic blowback, in effect a “new sin” of the genre that arises from the complaints first posited in the yaoi ronso debates made two decades previously?

Because if HatoMadaHato were ever to happen, Hato’s unstoppable need to share would move from self-sabotage to self-harm. And there would be Mada harm o plenty.

Hato and Sue are about equally matched for a “lets take things real slow and not hurt each other” relationship, but the lack of discretion that comes with Hato messes things up. Hato is a leaky bucket. Yoshitake pokes Hato, Hato blushes, then spills. Hato-chan is custom-built to exchange BL gossip with the other club members. Same-sex intimacy has no intrinsic value to the fujoshi field exploration unit, only exchange value.

It was my nature, cried the scorpion as both sank beneath the waves.

If Yoshitake pokes Sue all she’ll get is blushing, running away or an obscure anime quote. Poke Angela and you’ll get an enigmatic smile. Poke Keiko and you’ll get braggadocio and /or a punch in the snout, depending on her mood.

the Stands may have left the stage, their terrible legacy remains. Hato’s desires remain abject and alien to the core of their being; the Hatos must be danced through them, as a puppet is made to dance. And a puppet’s face bares scant signs of turmoil.

Clearly Hato needs some consciousness raising. Hato needs to believe that they deserve the formal respect and privacies of honne. The entirety of Hato has yet to give themselves permission to desire their desires and to love.

Hato-as-chan rarely (dojin production night shadow was another) lets down their guard to others in desperation. In the moments after Sue released Hato from her pin and looked through the MadaHato drawings, we saw a Hato who could express emotional turmoil. The honesty and raw pain of the moment frightened and shamed Sue. A similar moment of truth would have won Madarame.

How to arrive at one during this drunken evening at Yajima’s house? Can chapter 122 preserve the goodness of the club and get the club members to shape up, support, encourage and make safe a place for whatever happens?

Ye gawds that reads like mush, but the Genshiken is guy-written josei-ish slice of life manga. You got to admit that it is making a damn good go of slipping weightier themes in with the yuk-yuks.

Can fantasy support and inform reality so that reality can act better? (4)

 

 

(1) Don’t think too hard about this one, unless you are heavily into that variety of slash.

(2) The son of a Japanese billionaire, Mitsutoki Shigeta decided that there was a far more efficient way to become the father of a large family. http://www.thenational.ae/world/southeast-asia/thai-surrogate-offers-clues-into-japanese-man-with-16-babies#full

(3)”Natasha” (names changed to protect the foolish) was young, tall, thin, beautiful, crazy and enjoyed drinking her posse under the table. The few stock commie phrases she yelled out were a fashion accessory, like the hand-painted red hammer and sickle on the ass of her tight leather pants. The rest of the faction‘s program involved conspicuous intoxication, mild fetish exhibitionism, 2.5 chord guitar rock and trying to get into Natasha’s pants. Too exciting for me, but sure was fun to watch at the bar.

(4) Earlier I had a low probability notion that Kio Shimoku would take the easy way out and have Madarame collapse into his usual self-sabotage routine. At that point, some of the women-folk who are taking this seriously would be tempted to step in and break the stalemate. However this approach fails because the group still misbehaved and the breach needs to be healed.

Also I smashed the Hato ship and this time neutered Madarame in the process. He had it coming. Mada should have dragged Hato off to a hotel earlier that afternoon, before the little fool could indulge in dramatic self-sabotage. Even a simple “I like you” from either of them would have sealed the deal. Or end it there, humanely. There wasn’t anyone left after Hato’s “date”. You couldn’t buy a used scooter with this level of hemming and hawing, let alone attempt a hookup. It was a freaking miracle that Madarame didn’t just collapse and go along with another drawing of lots. He probably was too afraid he’d get paired with Keiko. Seriously disappointed in Mada(/his portrayal), especially after he showed some backbone…

Whatever. this was too much fun to trash, so here it is as addendum:

Heavy Object.

“Let me make one thing completely clear…” Madarame took a deep breath, a gulp of beer and continued:

“I didn’t want to insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. I had long ago given up on any chance of having a 3D relationship. Every time I felt even a little bit of interest in a girl, I always screwed up and wound up being the jerk or the insensitive guy or the creep. I took a vow of “2D forever”. Even so, Saki slipped in under my defenses and look what happened. I thought I didn’t mind the hurt. I fell for a fantasy of Saki as Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad and was content with that. But of course everyone knew, including Saki and it ended up hurting her too. She had to keep up the pretense that I felt nothing towards her. After it was all over she cried, just for a moment. I didn’t mind hurting, but that made me feel like shit all over again, on top of ending it.

I am not up for this romance thing. At first I felt only at ease with Hato. Now that things are getting serious, it is all complicated again. All I could do was try to keep the balance in the harem and hope everything would stay friendly. If only one of you were interested in me I probably would have done my usual super-geek-out thing and frightened you off. Or creeped you out. I am used to that. It doesn’t hurt any more. Or maybe it does…

Now I’m in a real-life harem game. At least on the surface. Real life is far more complicated and random than a game. The harem genre is a well-defined structure…

Madarame took another big gulp of beer.

…But with this setup, it looks like a harem but all the characters are off, there are no save points and the stakes are too high. The harem genre has stock charactes that add a reassuring, even soothing feeling to the experience. There is the childhood friend, though perhaps I forgot her when someone moved away when we were still kids. There is the cool aloof beauty who will step into the tsundere role. There is usually an athletic girl character. Sometimes she even looks like she might be interested in one of the other girls but she will decide that the lead is interesting. There can even be the cute male underclassman who is often mistaken for a girl, like in “Girls Are Dinosaurs” or in “Lovecraft Aliens Love Comedy”. His role is to provide a manageable whiff of homeroticism. Many harem stories also feature a clingy little sister to add the spice of forbidden desire to the plot. The point being that the main character should get to experience a full range of desire, from pure to forbidden.

As harems go, this one jumbles up all the character types. It is too complicated for me to even…

“Madarame-sempai, stop!” Yajima Merei held up her hand. She looked angry.

“What, uh?”

“You heard me. Stop talking. shut it!.” She stood up. “I’m fixing this. Hato is mine. Both versions. If you two idiots were hot for each other, you’d have done something already. The rest is drama. You are going to do “we-should-no-we-shouldn’t” and the “I want my fantasies” forever or until you both go crazy or jump in front of a train. Chose him tonight or not, the drama will just keep going until one or both of you get hurt bad. And the rest of us will all feel like shit for having encouraged it. It stops here.

She turned and glared at Hato.

I am the only one here who can put up with your nonsense… And for some reason I don’t even understand, I like you.” She looked out at the rest of the club members and then back to Madarame.

“Hato mine!”

“So sit down. Or do you want to fight me for him?”

“Uh Yajima, why are you…” interjected Hato.

“You too. Be quiet!” Yajima looked back at Hato. “Do YOU want to fight me? Arm wrestle?” she flexed her right arm. “You try any judo nonsense and I’ll sit on you. You’ll probably like that. In fact I know you’ll like it. Too many sou-uke boys in this room.”

She then noticed her mom and dad staring at her.

“Oh! crap… Mom, Dad, we’ll talk later.” Her face was flushed with annoyance and embarrassment. Steam seemed to float up from her.

Yajima-san, please…” said Madarame.

“NEKOYASHI… SIT!” Sue yelled out. “SIT!”

Madarame looked at Sue and dropped to the floor. He let out a loud sigh.

Yajima looked over at Sue and held out a thumbs up.
“Good job Sue!”

Angela clapped and made a whoooping noise. “Not sou-uke! Susie’s Uke… Uke no Susie!” Then she looked over at Hato. “YajimaHato!”

Keiko looked annoyed for a split-second then grinned. “Told ya so!” she said, leaning back and crossing her arms.

Sue returned the thumbs up and exclaimed: “Good Job!” She too had a fierce grin on her face.

Hato’s face was full redder than red.

Yajima still standing looked again at Hato, then around the table. “Any questions? I now declare harem season over. Please enjoy the hospitality of my house.

I think I need more beer.”

She sat down. Hato edged closer to refill her glass.

-30-

Anyone have any other alternatives aside from a zombie attack? Less than 2 weeks left if you want to throw your version into the guess how Kio Shimoku pulls it off hat.

Win an internets.

LATER: Don’t skip the comment section

Cascade point

A short note on the newly appeared Spotted Flower (episode 17):

Kio Shimoku is a master storyteller. I am in awe.

He still has it; the razor sharp steel right below the surface of the light comedic touch. I am impressed with the mid-late 20-ish Hato and Yajima gappel-sans but the tension between gappel-Mada and gappel-Hato is powerful and rife with “the sadness of the folly of men” all at the same time.

Note how gappel/not-Hato positions herself as her and his own gender expression. The male part is there still, not an accursed remainder but part of a whole. All of gappel-Hato is locked in a never-resolved dance of what could have been with gappel-Mada. And as for gappel-Mada; why does he wander over seeking advice from the person who is in some ways less than and other ways much more than a friend?

Can I wrap my head around such a BL-ish longing? I think the mangaka has invented a new one for the lore. The wanting is far more powerful than the having.

Gappel-Yajima knows that the obsession is etched deep into her lover’s soul. It will not be easily, if ever done away with.

And so, she becomes practical…

Shut up and keep rowing.

Gappel-Yajima is mighty.

I like borrowing the gappel-(donger) conceit for the Spotted Flower verse. Zetsubo Sensei’s Kōji Kumeta is a friend of Kio Shimoku and the farcical undertones of his invention carry over. The title conceit references the very first short stories of Timothy Zahn, wherein a probability shifting space drive let the pilots see ghostly images of their alternate lives and drove them all to depression and despair with what might have been. One of the tales is a update on Cordwainer Smith’s “Burning of the Brain”, but done with regrets as waypoints. There is a metaphor and a cautionary tale in here somewhere, but I’ll let it run off into the night.

Small gods

On “then he woke up a girl” genderbending stories..

Why oh why? (mild spoilers ensue)

Of all the varieties of bent gender and desire manga tales out there, the magic vanishing wee-wee is generally considered the lamest. Yet they remain popular. A wizard did it (It’s effing magic!) The guy MC reacts in shock, runs around and has to learn how to be that most curious type of being; a female or rather a shoujo.

Merlin web600

Put aside cross dressing stories and clumsy depictions of might-be m2f transfolk. The god/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids instant sex change cuts to the chase. Buddy boy is now a %100 cis girl and it looks like he will stay that way for a while. A new life waits for you in the outer colonies. No more wake every morning and give praise to your sky-daddy that you were not born a woman. Suddenly half the world’s population is a threat and huge swaths of organised belief systems’ followers consider you as merchandise. It is a wonder that most of these magic m2f tales don’t end in serial carnage. Step one: make friends with Koko Hekmatyar and Murcielago. Step two: PREEMPT!

Hold on a sec! We read silly comics like this so that we can avoid all the really horrible, heartbreaking, depressing, anger-stoking, soul-sucking REAL crap that is going on in the world. Don’t bring grim reality into the discussion, please!

Your average he woke up and now he’s a girl gag manga will not have the main chara on vacation in Turkey (c.f. Orlando – see below) waking up in a seaside resort room to find that he is now a girl and then taking a stroll on the beach where she will find the washed up dead bodies of children who died when a refugee smuggling ship capsized.

Or…

The plucky journalist intern now-heroine will not wake up in a hotel in Iowa for some American political primary thing (on a cold winter morning when the nearby river has frozen over c.f. Orlando – again see below) to face the horrible realization that every single candidate running for that party’s nomination in next year’s presidential election is deeply wounded, flawed, dangerously incompetent or wildly out of their sphere of competence, mendacious to the point of schizophrenic delusion and beholden to Bond-villain billionaires (except the Bond-villain billionaire who has cut out the middleman and is running himself – “Expect Mr. Bond? I expect you to MAAAAAKE AMURRIKA GREAT and VOTE for ME!”) and that all are out to win the votes of angry violent scared mostly guys who look at the franchise as an excuse for some nihilistic therapy theatre that, incidentally involves kicking down on women… Except for the one woman candidate who royally screwed up a major corporation, left with a golden parachute and ran a very stupid and amateur tv campaign last time she tried for public office, involving an actor with glowing red eyes crawling around while cosplaying a sheep. And… that one of these crazies might actually win and screw with the life support systems next year!!! Of course there is the other party. The socialist might win. If the ex-Secretary of State Secrecy wins, it will be five years of unrelenting trench warfare backlash from the party of “Everyone we hate and fear must be our slaves! Only then can we feel safe and happy!“, as it was when a black man got elected.

Crawl back into bed, draw covers over head. Stay there.

Or you could be in Japan. Maybe magically gender switched main character wanders into a 200,000 person strong demonstration that no politician will ever listen to, no right-wing newspaper will ever report, and the few centrist news sources left are too scared of a tax audit or pressure on their advertisers to make much of and that half of what they report can be retroactively classified as “secret” to land any reporter or blogger who mentions it in jail and despite that, the next thing you know she is on a viral nico-nico clip and she will be kicked out of University and never get more than a temp job for the rest of her life.(1)

Or maybe she will get lucky and just die in a shootout between yakuza as a bunch of 70-year-old guys fight it out to see who can control all the prostitution, woman-trafficking and loan-sharking in Japan.

Maybe everybody will get lucky, the global economy will melt down and some Chinese generals will go nuts and try to start a war with Japan to distract their citizenry and seize power as everybody’s life savings, food supplies and job prospects turn into dog shit.

Or they’ll just be another earthquake, tsunami, floods, mudslides and a nuclear meltdown.

Oh Fuck!

Escapism, you say? What’s wrong with a little escapism?

So, there is this nice idyllic high-school or university situation, and this guy with friends and someone he is nerving up to start chatting with…

Ahhhhhhhh! Bliss… What could go wrong?

If the work is a webcomic called The Amazing Girl-Boy’s Adventures in Femininity, expect the First Law to be enforced.
-TV TROPES – The First Law Of Gender Bending http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FirstLawOfGenderBending

It is always good to process the received wisdom from TV Tropes early on in an analysis. It gets the generally agreed upon stuff out onto the table. Along with the first law (Buddy Girl is not going to get to change back soon or easily) the second and third laws are worth considering as well: eventually new-she will grow to think “this isn’t too bad” and manifest some degree of acceptance. As well (3rd law) circumstance will manifest so that full gender-appropriate behaviour will be nudged at the MC – otherwise we won’t get any cognitive dissonance, bathing suit pages or even much of a story

I must exclude wish-fulfillment tales of magical medical M2F procedures; making sport of them would trespass on the dreams of people who wish it all could be that easy. Everybody is entitled to their aspirational fiction and dreams are sacred, so I’m declaring a no-go zone and sticking with the rude comedy versions where the MC gets blindsided by the change. Conversely, I will also exclude magical take-backs that involve water splashing, etc., as not fully committed to the cause. Similar problems plague the body-swapping genre; the new body is not really “theirs”. The double-double universe Japan with lawd-knows what pheromone cues (?) that cause some folks to fall into a torpor and emerge from cocoons a year later as an X (usually a girl) gets a conditional pass, even though the “natural-ness” of the occurence takes away almost all of the comedy potential. It misses most of the evil gags. Being girl-ified has to be a cosmic mishap or it ain’t scary-funny.

[Hachimitsu Hana_wa_Nisemono_c04_15 Web600

It should be noted that the magic change saves the author the trouble of making up new and odd ideas sexuality and gender, so the potential for some really clumsy and insulting depictions are reduced. A full gender-swap avoids issues of gender dysphoria. Overtly nasty institutional and individual oppressive male behaviour will similarly be avoided, because males – we guy readers are good people; there is no profit in making the male readership feel like we are all one step away from being evil scum. And it makes writing in a villain easy. As well, any and all guy author misapprehensions of women can be saved for Buddy-Girl to act out, because she used to be a gormless guy and there’s plenty of uncomfortable joke material to be cycled through playing with this. The usual problems of a guy trying to write female heroes and about female socials are turned from a bug into a feature.

God/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids turning the girl permanently into a boy stories are much rarer. Often the girl is swapped as part of pair and she turns into a jerk.

LATER: Although the “mistaken for a boy” stories generally are more sympathetic: Boku wa Ohime-sama ni Narenai and Ouran Host Club spring to mind.

Why no boy who turns into girl becomes a real be-aytch and causes gossip, drama and comeuppance among the mean girls who deserved it? An ex-guy could never pull it off. Why no stereotype raging drag queen gets turned? Too weird, too insulting, not funny. There is one weird variant where a town full of high school girls are turned into mid-40’s salarymen but I have never been able to wrap my mind around it. A+ for imagination though, even if later I found that there is a small niche of fujoshi who really, really like stories involving steamy romance between mid-40’s rumpled males – but why start with high school girl raw materials? Instead of first menstruation horrors, will the fujoshi readership get to laugh at the terror of prostate biopsies? (Don’t ask.. ) Come to think of it, none of the Buddy Girl manga I have run into have our hero facing the stirrups and the lady-parts exam. That might be just too much for the male readership, though I dimly recall a Girl Saurus arc that had a young scared protagonist getting drafted into accompanying his mom to a ladies health clinic. The woman mangaka who penned Girl Saurus was ruthless when it came to scaring boys.

As for rotten girls: why no enthusiastic Rika-kun boy-for-a-day/ week/ month?

Turning a fujoshi into a guy would be a natural, one would think, right? Many laffs ensue, much bumbling around, importuning males, trying to find a suitable straight guy to put though heck (we assume she is hardcore and pestering a gay male just wouldn’t be enough fun). I suppose that rotten girl dojinkas wont do it and mangakas that want to lob a few stink bombs at fujoshi have easier targets.

Insensitivities aside, the reason we keep getting these stock weenie-vanish tales is because they ARE funny. Easy funny. Plenty of laff material. Lots of uncomfortable-enough that can be mined for whew!

There is even one scan group that seems to specialize only in m2f gender benders. What oh what do their loyal readers get from the stuff? I wonder what the demographic is? They practically have a lock on the back catalogue of m2f mischief stories, which make up a subset of the gender bender opus. How long does the genre goes back?

Mishima tried it in his Sea of Fertility with re-incarnation. Heinlein did a medico-supernatural m2f tale how many decades ago(?) complete with a spanking fetish (one of RAH’s minor embarrassing faves, whatever…) John Varley went overboard with his exiled-from-earth by alien dolphins humans getting sex changes whenever they felt like it in a number of his short stories and in his Popular Mechanics Guide to Suicidal Depression; Steel Beach. His characters remain essentially male, even when they suffer miscarriages. Virginia Wolf’s Orlando [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando:_A_Biography] seems to find few modern analogues in CJVC, or they aren’t filtering down through the grey reaches of the world-wide intertubes;

Aren’t we inventive? We guys have been making up our own ideas of the feminine for eons.I have always considered Wolf’s detached treatment far superior to the way us guys go about it. No spanking kinks needed.

Why oh Why?

Magical castration is funny.

Mild ecchi/ service/ auto-sekuhara. Wow, I finally get to fondle boobs and what’s-all-this-now down here? Wheeeeeeeeeee! As the goddess said to Tireseus: STFU!

Curiosity/ tourism/ girl’s locker room. Ex-guy finally learns how to make friends.

Rom-com to 11 ending in reassurance.

A few pokes at what constitutes identity formation in the modernist subject.

“It immediately raises the question of what is expected, or anticipated, of a man.
It immediately raises the question of what is expected, or anticipated, of a woman.”
https://1000paperwishes.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/miscellaneous-musings-on-gender-bender-and-transgender-manga/

Well, duh… Cut to the manga.

Hana Wa Nisemono by Hiroko Sengoku (love that pen-name)

At first glance, this little manga looks a bit too thin to build an essay on. Its quirks redeem it. God-swapping the sex of one of the guys in a tentative young gay male couple at first seems cruel, but it is all handled tastefully enough. The young University-going couple is just getting over their shyness enough to think about… Then Blam! Kami is an iron (Doddering Kami-sama is just trying to help) This one is a pure shoujo variant, which makes it very big on thinking about the relationship that just got messed with. And it doesn’t shy away from physical considerations. New girl gets cramps, her period and blood leakage on her new white skirt. Oh Heck! More to the shoujo is the obsessive over thinking about relationship etiquette; what would the beloved want/ need as best for him, blah blah blah. Finally they nerve up enough to “try it” just as kami- sama intervenes again and switches both of their sexes. BLAM! Virtual Yaoi-us interruptus. Boyfriend is even more shocked than MC was, even though he gets a ZOMG girl body. Next day kami-sama throws up its (his) hands and restores all. Do the lads finally make the rotten girl readership happy with tubs of lotion (if you try to find sex-lube for sale in Japan you will come up rather dry until you look for “lotion”) and pages of weird positions? Not that kind of manga! The now-restored to guy-ness couple spends a few more days talking it out. They consider things a lot, they are very consider-ate. (The Jane Austin effect) One would think they will eventually retire to a hotel to discuss environmental policy ethics and play euchre. S-class BL.

A look at the discussion forums for the scans shows a lot of folks wondering why the MC doesn’t go with Y or dump X or whether the relationship can continue because of the self, vs the societally dictated and hormone driven preference: in short, relationshippy discussion ensues, as it should for a relationshippy story. I will not try to guess the genders and sexualities of the correspondents, but the whole discussion gives off a very shojo-ish vibe. It is interesting how the tiny questions that pop up with the vanilla grade transformation story get a more considered airing when the couple are young gay males rather than the shocked straight boy and his crush. We really need rule 3 above, plus eventually rule 2 to keep a straight boy transformation on track, otherwise kami-sama is just creating a whole bunch of bifauxnen lesbians and/or soon to be trans-men (no, I really am a guy trapped …)

At this point, one can also point out that rule 3 needs to be expanded or even given a subsection. Rule 3.1 should mention that god/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids do not create ugly or even plain girls. The unfortunate MC may be a bit androgynous, may not get a D-cup, but she won’t be fugly, overweight, gonk-ish or deformed in any manner. She will not be a female body builder or even a plain girl who has to load on the make-up, like Genshiken’s Keiko, in order to properly present as a good-looking female. A rule 4 would be useful too, as previous, that nasty realistic catastrophes do not intrude into the story.

What one could miss if one zipped through the manga is how our hero misses his male homosocial. Sure he’s gay but his male social isn’t sexualized, his buds just want to hang out and do guy things. The girls hang out and do girl things, but that’s part of the usual welcome to the world of girls thing. The focus on the guy’s social is good storytelling. Losing that hurts the MC almost as much as the cramps. Also, given the oddity of the gender swap, the attraction between the two young guys calls out for a sympathetic and respectful treatment (even if a bit of Jane Austin effect creeps in). As the baseline that needs to be returned to, it is what is normal and what needs to be put right. Well and tastefully played by the mangaka!

So yeah; not getting this kind of odd in western comics, or maybe you do now, at least in webcomics.. Ok, yup, some activist comics by folks who are making some point or doing the make visible thing might be doing something like it, but vanilla grade straight boy and girl mangakas doing a well-worn trope up for gags and a reassuring happy ending???

I don’t see it and have not heard of it.

Maybe they stuck it in GLEE. I have been scolded into thinking that they put everything queer-lite in GLEE and that I should be off to the re-education camps, yet I have somehow refrained from downloading and marathoning GLEE from grey sites. I avoided it too while it was on tv, not out of phobosity, but out of Fox-loathing. The last thing I tolerated on the local Fox affiliate was the Stargate franchise and even then I felt dirty. Even if our local Fox station is considered the one damn commie outpost of the Fox Empire and they keep it local and only sneak a teeny bit of wingnut bullshit into the feed… Fox has much to answer for.

But I digress. Back to OMG where’s my phallic signifier.

Compare Nisemomo to Boku Girl, by Akiro Sugito, https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=105986 see also http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/BokuGirl

…where our hero wakes up to find that his guyhood has literally fallen off (or did it bounce out of the bed sheets and across the room?). No menses gags yet. A brief, early bit of idiocy on how to piss like a girl using a western style toilet. A maliciously juvenile rather than a stodgy confused deity. The new transfer student is named Loki Asgard, really? Well I hope she behaves better than last years The Joker Murderous Psychopath-chan. Having to deal with the family and then friends rather than a magic “nobody remembers me as a boy except my crush” situation presents its own plot mojo.

Where Nisemomo trades on pseudo BL for a shoujo vibe, Boku Girl presents the dilemma as a shonen-ish challenge to be overcome, like a video game. Both are somewhat oblivious to any notions of inadvertent hurt/ annoy they might cause to folks who are out collecting micro-grudges and position themselves as light comedy; Boku Girl goes for a bigger side helping of titillation. Readers get to see the better-than-an-otokonoko character in gravure magazine poses and watch everyone squirm as best bud becomes more and more “aware” of the sweet young thing that used to be his ‘bro. Meanwhile our hero sees his crush slip from his-now-her sights to become their new BFF, while they wonder what the proper frame of mind is for navigating the girl’s side of the onsen.

Nisemomo at least has “love”. The characters did long for each other a bit, or were cautiously, tentatively trying to work through the beginnings of love.

A digression on romance:

Boku, like the majority of younger character stories has everyone ticking off the gotta do this to grow up list while dealing with hormones. Desire is a biological effect/ curse that suddenly makes one notice someone like that when they had never before. The crush on the girl is because she is superficially pretty and personable, she might as well be a car. The girl’s crush on the cool boy is similarly superficial.

Like Genshiken with Mada getting bent out of shape because he worked up enough booze fueled courage to try a man-smooch after falling on Hato, he jumps around a lot but he doesn’t get sick to his heart over wanting his one true love. It’s all about me self-consciousness rather than “fuck! why does this hurt so much? This is making me sick in the head and the guts and I can’t stop because I really, really want (her, him, ze)!”

Nobody stops coming to school because they are lovesick. Sometimes shoujo girls stop when embarrassment as a side effect of a crush kicks in but otherwise it is all zoo animal maintenance and husbandry. You need to get into Shinso old-school Yuri to get pining. Or BL. Heart of Thomas starts with a school-boy suicide born out of unrequited pining. Come to think of it, the only time really heavy melodramatic romance-hurt manifested in Genshiken was in the anime’s BL parody sequence. Ogiue and Sas come close, with Ogiue tearfully running off into the woods, but no collapsed on the street in the rain sobbing “I’ve lost you, I’m tainted” shows up in the “real” Genshiken-verse. Window jumping does not count, that was also self-conscious shame, like the run in the woods, rather than pining.

Rom-com teens are considered too shallow to really get severely bent out of shape by love. That makes the mangaka’s job easier too.

Again, I want to emphasise that I am not working through the permutations to amass a collection of meaningless complaints either. I am just winnowing out the obvious non-essentials. The thing about the genre is that it remains dependably funny and new variations still seem to find un-mined veins of hah-hah while reprocessing the tailings for even more yuks. The formula works and it works well. Even if we groan when we see the same gag one more time, we will still let slip a smile. Reassurance is reassuring.

Jeebus and his saggy eared flatmate! Buddy Girl can’t figure out how to sit on a pot and piss? Duh!

At this point, I want to add Tomo-chan wa OnnanoKo! by Yanagida Fumita,
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=120945 into the mix, for purposes of triangulation. It is very simple and funny and no has need to tipy-toe around potentially insulting misrepresentations of anyone. No one has to have their gender changed for laughs. Tomo-chan is just a run-of-the-mill strong tomboy girl who gives a rats ass about girly stuff, relationship stuff and couldn’t read a tense high-school girl’s clique-battle-vibe to save her life. Why bother. “Buddy boy is my childhood friend, who else can I scrap with if he ain’t around?

It is refreshing. Tomo, the ultimate tomboy friend (that name) is too dense to notice the mean girls who want to snag her ‘bud, (and strong enough to scare them off any ideas of bullying her) or the sweet dumb blonde who isn’t really all that sweet or dumb and wants to snag… Or that her one female frienemy confidant has mixed feelings about giving her advice but thinks that watching Tomo-chan try to figure out her teeny tiny developing feelings for her friend (as well as his growing, hard-to-suppress feelings for her) is great entertainment…

I really want to see her work up her concern and resolve and declare to her buddy that “when the time comes, and he starts to get uncomfortable feelings for girls, that she will volunteer to be his girlfriend to protect him, because he is too pure and as a girl, she understands these things and she could not stand to see him getting his heart-broken.” Meanwhile, much blood will slowly drip out of his mouth from his bitten tongue. Aesop for guys: More dudes have found happiness by keeping quiet at the right moment than by opening their yaps. I’m just playset-ing, but if I nail it, I expect to win an internets for my Cpt Obvious insights.

Back to curiosity/ gender tourism/ girl’s locker room/ make friends the hard way

“In all three stories, the only way that the male protagonist is able to get near the girl he likes is to become a girl himself. All three boys have difficulty with dealing with the opposite sex. They, like most men, simply fear rejection. Hazumo confessed his feelings to his love, and was crushed when she couldn’t love him back. Akira and Rando are too timid to even try, so they just sit on the sidelines and dream about the relationship they can be having. This is a fear that many teenage otaku know all too well.
[later…]
This feminine kinship gives the hero, as well as the reader, a voyeuristic opportunity to catch girls off guard doing things they wouldn’t do with men around. Most of the time, this just involves nudity. As the girls change their clothes in the locker room, or bath[e] together, the men get a front row view without ever getting in trouble or punish[ed] for it.
Sophomoric? Maybe. Pathetic? Highly likely. However, it does provide some nice fan service. When you’re going for a romantic story aimed at young men, sex is a necessity because it is a very dominate [oh fer spellcheck puh-lease!] urge for the audience. And by making the other girls completely comfortable with (though still ignorant of) being naked around the male protagonist, this somewhat lessens the shame of voyeurism.”
http://animealmanac.com/2008/02/20/androgyny-and-gender-bending-part-iii-boys-become-girls/

As well the new-girl cheesecake gives the readers an extra perv-lite thrill. Somewhat like cross-dressing or gender-dysphoria stories, the readership gets the “but she’s really a boy” frisson from otherwise gratuitous service scenes. Suddenly they are not just plotless displays of female flesh. Admittedly, the readership we are talking about here is presumed male, which is why the POV catered to in Nisemomo is interesting – theorists have long gone on that BL males, nominally gay or not, very easily slip into being “upgraded males” in the sense that while they lust like guys, they consider and do romance in a way more enjoyable for the female fans. If this gets confusing, just think of it as if one kami already got to Nisemomo’s couple before the kami in the story messed about.

Oh heck, brain beginning to hurt!

In some ways the (male-gaze) readership also gets a funny-light version of all the horrible fear-mongering levelled at transfolk and to a lesser degree at those who have same-sex desire; bathrooms, change rooms, peeking, voyeurism, improper glances, the potential for assault and the disturbance of the division and enforcement of gender and desire norms within the social order. Recall that some variants of world religions consider male locker rooms full of nominally straight males immodest.

Wanna really stretch out this line of inquiry? Perhaps the comedy of such situations lies even deeper than gender separation in Japan’s sacred nekkid spaces and derives from the breaking of unspoken norms of societal cohesiveness, japanese-ness and same-ness. A skinny middle-aged gaijin guy with a stooped back and no tattoos is tolerated in the men’s side at a resort onsen, but shunned at the neighborhood sento. He gets into the pool, all else leave. He goes into the steam room, all else leave. Didn’t he make a show of scrubbing himself 3 times clean all over? It is not like he is hung like a horse or anything. How uncomfortable. I wonder if he should complain bitterly about the experience over on some outlander blog? Better to warn those who would follow that Japanese sentos do not believe in chlorine. Keep your head above water unless you want a nasty ear infection. I am sure that the neighbourhood old dudes would get used to him eventually. The MC’s new body sets up a same-ok/ not-same uncomfortable oscillation in the readership that could go deeper than gender or sexuality. We outlanders might be missing something during the Genshiken sento scenes; a correspondent who taught in Korea notes that her breasts were often a subject of curiosity in the women’s bath, which now must be looked at not as envy or curiosity but a ritual excuse to welcome her into the social.

Too much speculative pop sociology!

Note as well that all of these gender-swap stories also assume that women are for all practical purposes, by guy standards, mostly asexual. Even freaky pushy harem girls who want to catch a boy are not really sexual per se, as their desires are really for societal scripts of marriage, fulfilment, love capitalism or at best romantic love as a precondition to bedroom antics. The idea that a female character would want to just DO the guy because say, his fingers are sexy and he elicits physical desire in her makes Genshiken’s Angela a bit rarer than first glance suggests. Usually such forward sexuality is the realm of the scary older woman or plain plotless smut. Fortunately the busty blonde outlander girls are incomprehensible trick can cover the lapse in Genshiken. The guys, even the guy who got zapped is assumed to still harbor a jack-rabbit libido, held only in check by crushing shyness.

Worse, if the shoujo ever evinces desire, it is towards the aloof or asshole alpha and not the loser guy (now girl) pining in the background. More disappointment. No wonder guys like Yuri; the girls at least show desire that we can somewhat understand, while we cheer on any directness – although the better variants handle it in a far more classy way than we would try. In the case of the gender-swapped MC he-now-she ends up dealing not only with his leftover male want-now sexuality, but with the new normal of how girls are supposed to desire, plus the it feels gay effect if his new body’s hormones find his attention wandering towards his best buddy. It would all be easier if he-now-she just became a lesbian, but that never works either and the girl of his ex-dreams is not about to encourage it. She will never suddenly up and declare that the change is wonderful, because she always thought he was girly-cute, but never cute enough for her to bother with, due to her own quietly bubbling away preferences, but now…

In a cheesy and ridiculous way, the nominally straight, nominally male readership gets a chance to vicariously explore gender confusion from a subjective, but safe point of view and perhaps even empathize with real folks caught up in their own non-conforming desires and identities. Because “god”/ unforeseen external random circumstance imposed the change, arguments about tribal ideas of morality fall aside. Buddy Girl didn’t just decide to go queer to act depraved against all scriptural laws. But Buddy Girl is definitely queer in a working sense. She has girl-parts and girl hormones rushing through her brain and body, so it is natural that she would start thinking about that guy. But the “I” is male and to the guy mind that feels “gay”. The “I” also remembers desire for that special girl, and in the locker room it is still embarrassing because It is checking out the other girl’s bodies. Damn, It checks out its new body all the time too. Or the more ambitious obverse is going on, as in Hana Wa Nisemono.
Then there is ex-special girl/ new BFF. The new female-ish special friendship is so intense, almost intimate – is this normal? Does Buddy-Girl’s residual guy mind betray it? and where is all this wimpy proper consideration mull it over, try to figure out all the options stuff coming from? Hormones? A newfound sense of morality? Chickenshit narcissism? A realistic fear of physical and social sanction if she acts too direct and aggressive?

Confusion is accentuated to make a point, but confusion, even if it is the natural state of human existence is BAD. Recall the Book of Leviticus. Don’t mix stuff! This is good, that is bad! Don’t mix them! This behaves this way, that behaves that way or the tribe should kill you! Even wonderfully polytheistic Japan has its elaborate rules of Shinto purity and defilement to keep dangerous categories apart.

A final digression: 25 years ago Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist Hothead Paisan [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothead_Paisan] was walking down a grotty sidewalk with her new girlfriend when a big drunk guy starts hassling them. Before Hothead can shoot him and cut his nuts off, lanky-thin girlfriend straight-arm punches the fool and leaves him in a pile of bleedy-crushed face. Girlfriend then reveals that she is a post-op transwoman (who has a mean snapping jab of a punch) and apologizes for not yet having the time to mention it. Hothead looks her up and down, shrugs and then takes her hand and they walk off into the sunset (and later to a truly horrific meet her family scene, which would probably be impolitic today, but hey, you got problems, take it up with the author). Proof that you can find some real classy treatments of the same old same old when the author isn’t completely pulling minority sexualities out of their ass and writes from the heart.

hothead paisan collection cover web600

Aside cont: The collected HP works are not really for squeamish guys; the plucky heroine does not like any males at all. It seems we are all prone to unforgivable lapses of rudeness. She doesn’t even tolerate gay males but usually refrains from maiming them. Daphne however is the girl who Hothead likes and everything else is just bullshit. Hooray for romance! It was an interesting read for me, way back when. Straight women friends of university going age seemed to find her adventures hilarious and somewhat cathartic. See also: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/bring_back_hothead_paisan_homicidal_lesbian_terrorist

A romantic comedy with extra low comedy on top.

You can’t avoid the appeal of the comedy bits. The Shazzaam you’re a girl is a step up from plain vanilla rom-coms or teen sex comedies. It is hard enough to figure out who the hell you are during those years. Hard to figure out attraction, dating and romance. Add gender identity confusion (no, not the serious kind) and by inference sexuality and you get a slow motion train wreck. Boku Girl at least has the sense to drop a malicious godling into the stew so as to lampshade the elaborate slapstick setups. Her job is to keep you from groaning over the mangaka’s sleight of hand. Given that the MC will now be a girl-ex-man of constant sorrow, it’s a miracle that any of these magical gender-swap victims ever venture out of their rooms once the whoops takes place. If these stories were more ambitious, each would start with someone being sent to deliver notes to the class hikikomori. All manga and anime hikis should be magical gender-swap victims. (or they think they are.. hmmmm.. story potential! The everyone remembers variant vs the no one remembers variant…)

“I’m now a girl! You always were, No I wasn’t! Well you’re one now. But I still like girls!  Everyone in class knew that you were THAT WAY Keiko, please come to class, no one will bully you… My name is Takeshi! Sure, Takeshi. Keiko, whatever…

Adding gender-role norm screw-ups to a teen romcom is like stuffing extra scoops of ice cream into a too-small cone. If there was a way to then cram all of this fun into a harem grinder as well the otaku population of Japan and then that of the rest of the world would go into a state of catatonic bliss, except for the folks at studio SHAFT who would have to pull all-nighters to make an even weirder and more annoying version than the manga. (Hmmmm.. there was a new Nyarko OVA out recently, missed opportunity, diff studio, dratt!)

How about a further variant on the appeal of the new-girl character as lazy otokonoko/josou genre story:

“So setting aside preoccupation with gender, josou shounen anime characters are typically even more feminine and approachable than actual girl characters are. The argument may be made, in this case, that cute is cute, regardless of gender. But if that’s the case, why would heterosexual otaku supplement or even supplant attraction to female characters with josou shounen characters? Some otaku may be partially shifting their interest in cute anime girls onto cute anime boys that look like girls because the later provide the same opportunity for moé obsession without the need to respect conventional masculine and feminine gender roles.”
http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

Well, that might play a bit to the popularity of the genre, even if all the surface action is the MC’s “new confusing plight”. It also serves as a good intro to one final take on the popularity of the genre: it is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but whothteheck!

For Science!

The pop-lacanian trauma re-visited. Note the assumed gender of the readership:

“Even though these characters are still male inside, their outward female appearance allows the reader to fully accept them as girls at times. This presents a very unique experience for the reader that is very rarely felt with other types of comics. When the reader focuses on the hero’s motives and personality, he identifies the character as purely male. The reader relates with the hero’s desire for love and sex when being around so many beautiful women, and this creates an empathic admiration from the reader to the hero. But when the reader focuses on the character’s physical appearance, he can’t help but to identify the character as female. Not only female, but a very cute and attractive female. When this happens, the male reader actually becomes sexually attracted to the protagonist.

This switch between platonic admiration towards the boy-side and sexual attraction towards the girl-side happens very quickly when reading these stories. It could even take place while the reader’s eye goes from reading dialog in word bubble to looking at the drawing inside of that panel. This constant toggle between the two feelings eventually merges together until the reader no longer distinguishes the gender of the hero. The reader loses himself into the fantasy of manga and forms a unique feeling towards the hero for being both male and female.

Is this the same kind of unique feeling that girl get when reading yaoi? I’m not sure. But as we can see, androgyny and gender bending in anime and manga is a pretty interesting experience for both male and female otaku.

Just another example of why I love this medium so much.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 at 8:04 pm by Scott .”
http://animealmanac.com/2008/02/20/androgyny-and-gender-bending-part-iii-boys-become-girls/

Which, despite the naive presentation is a damn fine bit of testimony that tries to tease out a very subjective take on reading the stuff. It is also a good approach, with suitable tweaking, to toss on the “why do the rotten girls?” pile as well.

Of course it leaves out the next step, the Dr. Tamaki post-lacanian ‘wound”; the “Holy shit! What did I just do to my desiring wiring?” feeling as well as the “Why do I feel like this about a cartoon character?” hysterical (hah! nice word choice) trauma that must then be mastered, reproduced and shared.

It might well be that a taste for this kind of jolt is what fuels the essential pervy-ness of Japanese visual culture fandom. The flip side of “iki” is the wide range of virtual walk(s) on the wild side(s) available to the readership. Even without the cult of Lacan messing things up, one can at least say that the gender-swap genre is a fine trick for feeding boy readers some warmed over shoujo leftovers.

Of course the things can be read as modern fables and just for laughs as well. Ambitious storytellers will spin out profitable tales.

As alluded to above, the main engine of continuing fun is our newly minted heroine’s quest to get back his manhood. Of course he also wants the girl he was crushing on before the change, and then there is the problem of his friend looking at him that way, but if he were to give up and accept shoujo-dom the game ends (rule 2 is kept around if you need a quick wrap-up). The story needs the treadmill to keep buddy-girl running. Unlike stock rom-coms that trade on insecurity and shared recognition of the absurdity of desire/ dating fail, but then give us a happy ending to confirm that it is all worth it, the gender swap tale can go on for an absurdly long run. Few rom-coms alone can work on such a stoic note.. All fail, all the time but the journey is worth it for the absurd yuks. The MC will end up ronery no matter what, so forward, make like an idiot and enjoy! MC must somehow not give up and throw self off the school roof.

Quit not thine day job!

What else can be said about the fantasy nature of the genre? All of the charas are destined for penury if they don’t get their priorities straight. Capital knows very little compassion. Any lifestyle is a commodity you will pay for it, one way or another. If however, they get their priorities in line with contemporary economic trends, the story ends. I would venture that even the most conservative Japanese parents would put aside concerns over their child’s sexuality and gender expression if the child was a super swot and looked like they could snag a full scholarship at Tokai.

“Heh Keiko, you back at school?”
“Yeah, and cram school after until 10pm, every night and all day Saturday. English lessons Sunday all day. Fine! I’m a girl, whatever… Boy or girl, what I am not going to be is dirt poor. What about you Takeshi, how’s the top surgery?”
“Doesn’t hurt so much now. Shit, I wish I could have gotten some of your magical swap stuff, but I still will be a man, even if I have to do it the hard way. See you at cram school.”
“Yeah, getting settled with your gender and sexuality is great, but unless you learn how to be a software engineer with a side interest in start-up financing or a math wizard into international currency markets and A.I. modelling how’s a girl or boy to eat? Japan economy ichiban clusterfuck! I figure whatever I want will be a lot easier after I make my first billion.”
“Yup! Money first! Money is sexuality! Money is gender! Money is freedom!”

LATER: Random intrusions from nasty reality

(1) Blacklisted for life? It’s happened before in Japan, Some SEALDs consider the possibilities today:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/30/issues/sealds-student-activists-worry-not-getting-hired/#.VgxonuxVikr

SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy): Research Note on Contemporary Youth Politics in Japan by David H. Slater, Robin O’Day, Satsuki Uno, Love Kindstrand, Chiharu Takano, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 37, No. 1, September 14, 2015
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Chiharu-Takano/4375/article.html

How pop music sneaks into Japanese activism: Music in Japanese Antinuclear Demonstrations: The Evolution of a Contentious Performance Model by Noriko Manabe, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 42, No. 3, October 21, 2013.
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Noriko-MANABE/4015/article.html

Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan by Robin O’Day, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 37, No. 2, September 14, 2015
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Robin-O_Day/4376/article.html