Darling in the Nippon Kaigi

“What’s done to the children is done to society.”
— Buddhist proverb

Spoiler warning: much to do with Franxx will be spoiled. As well there will be TLDR; on Japanese politics and revising the Japanese constitution, or not…

After watching the final episode of Darling in the Franxx, I like many viewers (and bloggers) leaned back and shook my head as if to wake and throw off a troubling dream. Sure there were parts, large slabs of it in fact that warranted examination but once you get past the action scene animation or the curious fighting robot/ mecha designs (Tittie bots! Giant fighting robots with girlish tittie bumps – ok, guy-ish robots have done worse but… ) and the cringe-inducing notion of doggie-sex positioned girl-boy pilot pairs…

Oh SNAP. Dealing with Franxx is like dealing with a crazy president. The weird shit just keeps getting thrown at you. You really don’t have a chance to deal with one bit of weird before another bounces off the wall and flies past your left ear. The overall “shape” of the whole remains somewhat consistent: some form of updating/ tribute to epic sci-fi anime franchises of decades gone by, but the bits appear to have been slapped together while the vehicle was already in motion using whatever was in the back seat or could be snagged off the side of the road with poles when they slow down to take a curve.

Ecological dystopia, domed cities, cynical ruling cabal, mad scientist, child soldiers raised in Brave New World creches, ever escalating levels of incomprehensible monsters, giant girly looking robots/ doggie-sex position piloting and

One Demon girl.

your Franxx was strong but you wanted proof…

Code/ name 0-2; Zero-Ni. O-ni; subtle-not. At least she doesn’t wear a tiger stripe bikini to go with her fixation on her “Darling”. Zero-Ni is the heroine of the story, lad notwithstanding. Of course the lad be captivated but this essay is NOT going to do Zero-Ni as Übermensch, so just stipulate and keep moving. Zero-Ni is so strong that she can even power up one of those giant robots (tittie version or boring on-spec version) herself – which as well could lead to strained metaphors which will not be indulged. Zero-Ni has a snarky “pro-from-Dover” attitude, follows orders whenever or not and seems to have enough privilege to get away with minor misbehavior because she is very good at killing the incredibly loud monsters (rendered in English as Klaxosaurs). Driven to kill in fact. Kill obsessed.

Beside her, all the other kids, pistils, stamens, post-gendered squad 9, adult-ish minders and the mad scientist Dr. Franxx pale. Also they get used a lot as plot road-kill. Boyo’s original partner Naomi is soon hustled off stage. As she departs, she gives our hero her belongings to distribute to her ex-comrades as if to say; “I ain’t coming back from this one, they are going to euthanize and dissect me or something, so fuck it.”

Time to bring in the interesting analysis of gender essentialism and disposable queer characters considered in an essay on Anime Feminist: Discourse: Childbirth and Politics in DARLING in the FRANXX by Caitlin Moore (September 7, 2018)
https://www.animefeminist.com/discourse-childbirth-and-politics-in-darling-in-the-franxx/

Moore wisely sticks to her thesis and doesn’t TLDR; out and wander all over the map (hold my beer) but notably links a lot of the attitude as to the proper roles of characters in Franxx to current real-world-Japan trends in politics and society. Specifically:

“A few weeks ago, Japanese lawmaker Mio Sugita stirred up international controversy when, on-camera, she chuckled about queer Japanese youth attempting suicide. She said that, since same-sex couples don’t reproduce, they are “unproductive” and not worth taxpayer money.

Her remarks sparked outrage, and thousands came to protest on the doorstep of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s headquarters. Although the LDP has disavowed her comments, other members have said similar things before.
[…]
In June 2018, the LDP’s secretary general, Toshihiro Nakai, said childless couples were “selfish.” Only a month before that, another LDP politician said that newlyweds should focus on having “three or more” children, and that single women are “letting the country down.” Another stated that women, rather than men, should be in charge of caring for children. Meanwhile, women who take maternity leave, especially politicians, face maternity harassment.”
— Moore

It had been hard to miss the recent glaring example of misbehavior by some of the ruling LDP party’s right-wing howling dogs. Imagine my surprise, when I was looking through chapter synopses of a new, open source academic anthology of essays on Japanese feminism and I run into the snippet intro-ing K. Hemman’s ch10 essay:

“In July of 2003, former Japanese prime minister Mori Yoshirō stated that women without children should not receive welfare benefits. “It is truly strange that we have to use tax money to take care of women who don’t even give birth once, who grow old living their lives selfishly and singing the praises of freedom,” Mori explained in a speech addressing Japan’s falling birthrate, which had reached an all-time low of 1.29 children per woman…”

Dangerous Women and Dangerous Stories: Gendered Narration in Kirino Natsuo’s Grotesque and Real World by Kathryn Hemmann; Chapter 10 of Rethinking Japanese Feminisms, Editor(s): Julia C. Bullock, Ayako Kano, James Welker, University of Hawai’i Press. (2018)
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctv3zp07j.17

Clearly this “unproductive” manzai routine has a long history within the right-wing ranks of the LDP. Re-stating it and recycling it is alternatively a phatic gesture; a dog-whistle and a shout-out tribute to a senior faction player (now heading the 2020 Olympic Cttee — expect disaster) as well as being a calculated and cynically deployed lie. However Mio Sugita is more telling as symptom rather than as cause.

“It must be said that Sugita is not qualified to serve as a member of the Diet — a person who yields power to make laws as a representative of the people and make decisions on how to spend taxpayers’ money.

Sugita has made absurd arguments in the past. For example, she criticized moves seeking more day care centers, use of different surnames among married couples and support for LGBT individuals as acts “driven by the Comintern (an international organization of communist parties) to destroy Japanese families.”

LDP legislators are constantly making socially unacceptable remarks under the almost unchallenged long-term reign of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. They include unruly statements such as, “Moms are indeed the best people to raise children,” and, “Cancer patients don’t have to work.”

Sugita was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2012 on the ticket of the Japan Innovation Party. She lost her seat in the 2014 election, but was re-elected as an LDP candidate on the proportional representation list for the Chugoku region in western Japan in the 2017 general election. She now belongs to the Hosoda faction of the ruling party, from which Prime Minister Abe hails. The LDP bears a serious responsibility for leaving Sugita’s words and deeds unchecked.””

Editorial: Bigoted lawmaker Sugita not worthy to represent the people
Mainichi Japan, (July 25, 2018)
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180725/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

Why such a recent uptick in LDP wingnuts spouting-off?

Shinzo Abe has just sewn up his internal party election, secured his third term as leader of the LDP and therefore will remain Prime Minister of Japan. Mio-san, like the other rightists undoubtably voted for their patron. His opponent Ishiba Shigeru received 254 votes to Abe’s 553. Shigeru’s platform alluded to past and recent Abe-linked corruption scandals. Right-wingers picked their best friend, a champion of a puffed-up nationalism that serves as a blanket to hide if not legitimise decades of crony profiteering. Perhaps they sensed that Abe-san’s need for their votes gave them an opportunity to slip the leash and do some loud barking?

Mio-san later issued a grudging apology and Abe has remarked that she has is still young and holds promise.

Franxx‘s ruling APE conspiracy is resonant to Japanese viewers if only for its cynicism and ruthless instrumentalism. That its ultimate agenda involves the complete destruction of the earth and the psychic assimilation of the souls of all humanity is a suitably overdone restatement of the gulf between the public pronouncements of Japan’s political elites and their “apres moi le deluge” impulses.

The Anifem essay calls out the gender essentialism of Franxx as mirrored in contemporary Japanese politics and social discourse but slips past the greater, even genocidal instrumentalism that always hides behind extreme manifestations of statist authoritarianism. The Japanese 1945 Constitution is hated by the nationalists – according to the cover story, because it was ‘imposed” by the American occupation. Plenty of scholarship exists that argues that indigenous Japanese progressives; even an American-Japanese proto-feminist had significant roles and input in its drafting:

“We, the Japanese people, acting through our duly elected representatives in the National Diet, determined that we shall secure for ourselves and our posterity the fruits of peaceful cooperation with all nations and the blessings of liberty throughout this land, and resolved that never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government, do proclaim that sovereign power resides with the people and do firmly establish this Constitution. Government is a sacred trust of the people, the authority for which is derived from the people, the powers of which are exercised by the representatives of the people, and the benefits of which are enjoyed by the people. This is a universal principle of mankind upon which this Constitution is founded. We reject and revoke all constitutions, laws, ordinances, and rescripts in conflict herewith.”

https://japan.kantei.go.jp/constitution_and_government_of_japan/constitution_e.html 

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitution_of_Japan

Lookie how the preamble echoes the contemporaneous United Nations declaration and then cuts immediately to a categorical rejection and proscription of the kind of authoritarian absolutism that had marked power and rule in Japan since its earliest recorded histories. To put it in Twitter terms, the 1945 Constitution was written by Social Justice Warriors.

“Beate Sirota Gordon Lecture: “Present at the Creation of Japan’s Post-WWII Constitution” (1/3/2000)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K1ikfxYoO34 (36 min in)

Oh heck, who are we fooling. Beate wrote it.

Meanwhile, the LDP had a committee of right-wingers beavering away at a replacement, properly Japanese constitution. The good news: it did not restore female debt-bond sexual slavery. The bad news: pretty well everything else. As always, any organised tendencies that spit at SJWs are at very least after some dodgy fast money and at worst are wannabe slavers and genocides. Final good news; they went so overboard on it that it was dead in the water the second it was released. Abe & co. now say they will attempt amendments via a stealthy incremental approach.

“As many scholars have pointed out, the 2012 draft rejects all three core principles of the current constitution: people’s sovereignty, human rights and the rejection of war (including denunciation of wars by the Japanese Imperial army). Reflecting historical revisionism, this completely revises the current preamble, which is based precisely on those principles. The newly proposed draft preamble reads:

Japan is a nation with a long history and unique culture, having the Emperor as the symbol of the unity of the people…

The Japanese people, defend our country and homeland with pride and strong spirit,… value harmony, and form a nation where families and the whole society assist one another […]

The Japanese people, in order to pass on our good traditions and our nation-state to our descendants in perpetuity, hereby establish this Constitution.

The 2012 draft thus emphasizes Japanese tradition as represented by the Emperor, the duty to defend the country, and family values. People’s sovereignty is undermined by the fact that the Emperor is designated the head of the state in the preamble and in Article One. Respect for fundamental human rights is constrained by the demands of public order detailed in Articles 12 and 13, and importantly, Japanese citizens are no longer respected as “individuals” but only as “persons”. Needless to say, the principle of renunciation of war in Article 9 is dismissed in favor of establishing a national defense army.

Higuchi Yōichi has criticized the 2012 draft as being worse than the “Five Articles of the Charter Oath” [Gokajō no goseimon], the foundational document of the Meiji regime, published in 1868. The LDP draft, he writes, is “not a return to the Meiji Constitution but rather like one of the proclamations of the Keian era (1648-1652) – the edicts imposed on Japanese peasants and others by the Tokugawa Shogunate].”20 In a conversation with Higuchi, another scholar of constitutional law, Kobayashi Setsu recalls that he once tried to explain to members of the LDP that “the constitution does not exist to constrain the people, but should serve as the supreme law that limits the power of the state,”21 and was taken aback at the politicians lack of understanding of this fundamental point. The 2012 draft is not simply a revision, but the destruction or total negation of principles of the current constitution. In fact, Abe firmly believes that the view of constitutionalism shared by most social science scholars was biased or old fashioned. “”

Prime Minster Abe’s Constitutional Campaign and the Assault on Individual Rights by Okano Yayo, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (March 2018)
https://apjjf.org/2018/5/Okano.html

CRAP! Who would do such a nasty thing?

“At its launch, the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League had 189 members from both chambers. The number continued to increase, and as of November 2015, there were 281 members (mostly LDP), and the members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League were the largest force in both houses with around 40 percent of the 717 Diet members. This rightwing league was behind the launching of the three Abe cabinets. Abe was the League’s key person as party president and prime minister. In the 3rd Abe Cabinet, 16 out of the 20 (80 percent) of the ministers are members of the Nippon Kaigi Diet Members League.

The Nippon Kaigi, with its close ties to the Diet Members League, is now running Japanese politics. One example can be seen in the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which from 2002 has distributed, to all elementary and middle-school children, supplemental educational pamphlets called Kokoro no Nōto [Notes for the Heart] (four levels: 1st and 2nd graders, 3rd and 4th graders, 5th and 6th graders, and middle-school use). The materials promote official moral values, starting with love of country, and are aimed at controlling the minds of children.”
What is the Aim of Nippon Kaigi, the Ultra-Right Organization that Supports Japan’s Abe Administration? by Tawara Yoshifumi, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (Nov 2017)
https://apjjf.org/2017/21/Tawara.html

And:

“The Abe administration’s “education rebuilding” policy was realized with the passage of the revised Fundamental Law of Education in 2006. The policy aims to create “human resources” (jinzai) to carry out the goals of the new law. Abe’s “education rebuilding” policy aims at 1) the cultivation of human resources sought by large corporations seeking to win in global competition; and 2) education that will produce a “national army” and supporters of the same. In both aims for human resources education, there must be inculcated in the schools a sense of “patriotism” and “morality,” and in order to realize these aims, the system of education and type of textbook are essential. The Abe administration stresses that “education rebuilding is the foundation for realizing a society in which there is “dynamic engagement of all 100 million citizens” [ichioku sōkatsuyaku].

Setting up a council to carry out education rebuilding, the Abe administration moved forward at a fast pace with various “educational reforms” to nurture such human resources. The main reforms included: 1) strengthening control over the contents of education; 2) nurturing effective human resources for the sake of the large corporations; and 3) controlling school administrators and teachers.

To accomplish that, the system of screening textbooks was revised. What had been treated as a “special course” of “moral education” [dōtoku] was elevated to the status of official subject entailing evaluation, (on a par with courses such as mathematics). The education guidelines were greatly revised to make this possible.

The next version of the education guidelines comprehensively control the education system with the state setting not only the contents of what is being taught but also the instructional method used by teachers, the way schools should be run, and even the relationship between schools and the home and local community. The system has changed from one in which the dignity of children is respected and the aim is character development to one shifted 180 degree toward creating “human resources” that will serve the state, national interests, and the interests of corporate giants. ”
ibid Yoshifumi  (1)

Also:

“Article 97 of Japan’s Constitution delivers a stirring declaration of the heritage of these rights: “The fundamental human rights by this Constitution guaranteed to the people of Japan are fruits of the age-old struggle of man to be free; they have survived the many exacting tests for durability and are conferred upon this and future generations in trust, to be held for all time inviolate.”

The LDP proposes to simply delete these words. The Party provides no explanation for this in its Q&A pamphlet, so we can’t be entirely sure about its motivation. I assume that Party leaders are most offended by the notion of an “age-old struggle of man to be free.”

Japan’s Democracy at Risk – The LDP’s Ten Most Dangerous Proposals for Constitutional Change 危機に瀕する日本の民主主義 自民党憲法改正案、最も危険な10項目 by Lawrence Repeta (Japanese translation courtesy of Takahiro Katsumi0, Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (July 14, 2013)
https://apjjf.org/2013/11/28/Lawrence-Rpeta/3969/article.html

See also:

CAVEAT EMPEROR – The Religious Cult Secretly Running Japan
by Jake Adelstein and Mari Yamamoto, The Daily Beast (07.10.16 12:15 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-religious-cult-secretly-running-japan

and

Dissecting the Wave of Books on Nippon Kaigi, the Rightwing Mass Movement that Threatens Japan’s Future by Saito Masami, Nogawa Motokazu and Hayakawa Tadanori. Introduction by Sven Saaler. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus (October 4, 2018)  https://apjjf.org/2018/19/Saito.html

Did you think that Franxx‘s evil wurld gummint cabal, complete with stylised monkey masks and “Papa” authority over the child soldiers was overdone?

Parasites?

To push at the edges of heavy-handed allegory in Franxx you have to stay relentlessly within a heteronormative male viewer frame of reference but if you do, you can see a standard sci-fi allegory as critique of instrumental authority — of the kind that the Franxx‘s Japanese audience’s demographic would instantly recognise. The kids in the “birdcage” are a lab experiment to see what happens when you allow a small resurgence of individuality and gender expression. They even have individualised girlish robots and… Lo and behold, one of their number is able to survive more than three piloting sessions with star quarterback demon-girl. They fight like kittens until leveled up but that’s immaterial as long as being with them motivates demon-girl to vainly seek to become more human and less demon by killing ever more of her own kind.

Before this essay bogs down in lefty contemporary Japanese politics articles, we can try to go at Franxx sidewise and note what it doesn’t do. Take for instance that even though we have invading aliens, we do not get the usual ‘Black Ships’ plot – a fave for lazy Japanese pop-cult allegories. Those robots: while they are clearly Eva lineage, rather than the usual blocky mecha lineage, it isn’t the boy who gets to spaz out to super-power one up. It is Zero-two demon girl who goes on solo rampages. Once again, a Beautiful Fighting Girl is trotted out for boy viewers. This raises the relentless guy-Ota-King gaze of Franxx. While not inconceivable that women might tune in to watch Franxx, they risk laughing themselves into stitches. Doggie-sex piloting positions? What nitwits came up with that one? Was not Infinite Stratos bad enough to prevent recurrences of this kind of foolishness? Perhaps there are some bishies worth some fun “transformative” interpretation?

Euuhyechhh. The writers did a clumsy “salting” of same-sex desire and gender politics in the story. Very clumsy. The rotten tribes are infinitely inventive when they get the urge to ship but if you leave a ham-fisted set-up out as bait it annoys them.

As well, Franxx has villains but no Adversaries, save for the late-on-the-scene Klaxasaur Queen who descends from the wires.

There isn’t a whole lot to work with here.

The Childbirth and Politics beat is closer to the nut but elides the only weighty (relentlessly heteronormative) antimony of the story. Sure all the girl child soldiers except the woman-loving one must heroically fulfill their biological essentialisms, just as Prime Minister Abe and the entire right-wing-militarist-shinto-nationalist power structure of Japan has been harping at them for decades…

However…

The world of the evil treat-the-kiddies-as-disposable-child-soldiers-while-the-adults-are-sterile and ruled by a nefarious government science conspiracy HAS TO BE TOTALLY OBLITERATED, a la 1909 E.M.Forester The Machine Stops catastrophe [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Machine_Stops]…

…Before the kids can pappa-mamma.

The lad with misplaced feelings of admiration settles for a girlfriend; the sole lesbian becomes a doctor, the gender-hating squad 9 go off into space to meet their destiny as kamikaze warriors serving as honor guard to Zero-ni, now queen of all Klaxosaurs and merged with a honking giant aryan babe centaur mecha that also needs to vore buddy boy so that it can obliterate the ever-waiting eon-spanning threat of the animation studio logo beings.

Survivors back on earth get to do the Whole Earth Catalog.

“Farming by hand is backbreaking work.” — Slavoj Zizek

At least all of the pregnant and child-raising gender essentialised ex-pilot young women command the full resources and support of the surviving human enclave. The Japanese right may call on the women folk of the nation to be “productive”, may push gender essentialism as part of a nationalist “Heimat” fantasy of family structure but they remain resolutely unwilling to spend any more money on programs or do anything else to reduce the very social and economic pressures that work against family formation.

Ladies, get pregnant yesterday and sign up for a second shift at the 7-11.

Over 50% of Japanese single parent mothers live UNDER the poverty line. Child support is arranged by private contract if at all. Social costs continue to be shifted onto prefectural and local governments, who in turn shift it onto users in the form of fees. Full-time employment with benefits is out of reach for more than %40 of the workforce. You get fired if you want to take maternity leave. %40-60 of men and women of marriageable age have given up on the dream of ever getting married and it aint because they want to marry their game consoles…

Mio-san and the cabal she performs for can spout off about unproductive gays or unproductive single women but most Japanese people under the age of 60 will shake their heads because they know perfectly well that this tired line is a crock of shit. How original; shift all the blame and responsibility onto individuals-as-subjects with a time-worn cheap-ass notion of state authority. Never heard that one before… this afternoon.

Another damming trend:

“Suicide leading cause of death among pregnant women, new mothers: survey

TOKYO — The leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers from 2015 through 2016 in Japan was suicide, making up about 30 percent of the total, according to a survey by the National Center for Child Health and Development and other research institutes.
[…]
Of the 92 women who took their own lives, those aged 35 or older totaled 45, and people who had their first delivery numbered 60 or 65 percent. The suicide rate was higher in jobless families.”
Suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15~39 age bracket. Mainichi Japan, (September 6, 2018)
http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180906/p2a/00m/0na/031000c

Then again, suicide is the leading cause of death for all persons in the 15~39 age bracket.

More:

“Indeed, members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) keep demonstrating their world view is still deeply rooted in pre-war thought, before Japan had a constitution guaranteeing gender equality, popular sovereignty, and basic human rights. On May 10, another LDP politician, Kanji Kato. stated that single women were a burden to the nation and also added that “I always tell every newly wedded couple that they need to have three children or more,” recalling the pre-war slogan of Umeyo, Fuyaseyo (breed more, make more soldiers for the nation).

One in six children in Japan now lives in poverty. Half of all single mother households do as well. The number of people who have regular employment with all the benefits it carries has been declining for years. Death by overwork (karoshi) is a chronic problem that won’t go away and Abe’s latest “labor reforms” are certainly going to make life harder for anyone who isn’t a CEO. In fact, they legalize 100 hours of overtime a month, 20 hours more than what the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare deems dangerous. Some jobs will have overtime pay removed entirely. Technically, you can’t work to death if no one keeps track of your hours, or has responsibility for them, so perhaps that’s one way to eliminate the problem.””

THE TALE OF MISOGYNY: In Japan It’s Now #WithYou, Not #MeToo—But Sexual Harassment Is Still a Venerated Tradition by Jake Adelstein, The Daily Beast (05.21.18 6:13 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/in-japan-its-now-withyou-not-metoobut-sexual-harassment-is-still-a-venerated-tradition

And in recent news: (Google machine translation)

“The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education showed attitude to interview the Mainichi Shimbun on interviews by the Mainichi Shimbun regarding sex education classes in which one junior high school in Adachi – ku, Tokyo explained sexual intercourse, contraception, abortion to third graders. The school will continue classes in the future. In this issue, LDP lawmakers criticize the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, and the urban board of education departs from the scope of the instructional guidelines.

Liberal Democratic Party member Toshiaki Koga, who criticized the class at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. In the past gathering, “purity education to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage is necessary” “values ​​after war to self-decide to marry, do not self-decide in the first place are problems, marriage, childbirth, child rearing contribute to society” etc.”

自民都議問題視の性教育容認 中3に性交など説明
(Sex education acceptance 3 in view of the issue of Liberal Demographics)
Nakagawa Satoko, Mainichi Shimbun (September 11, 2018 21:38)
https://mainichi.jp/articles/20180912/k00/00m/040/101000c

Or, per Twitter user @neko_guruma01
Tokyo Metropolitan assemblyman Koga (LDP): We should teach kids that
– having sex before they get married is bad
– deciding for themselves whether they marry or not is wrong
– marrying and having kids is to make an important contribution to society

Despite all, the ultra-nationalist manzai routine remains very very popular among some factions of the LDP.

Young singles of Japan. If you wish to be able to marry and reproduce without starving or being worked to death, the LDP, the Keidanren [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Business_Federation] and the Nippon Kagi must be stuffed into a barrel and dropped into the sea, preferably from a great height. Vote Communist, subscribe to Akahata today!

Or….

Redefine the idea of family and live in communal poverty while working at shit jobs and shoplifting dinner:

Shoplifters’: Kore-eda’s Palme d’Or winner is an eloquent look at the human condition by Mark Schilling, Japan Times (June 13, 2018)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2018/06/13/films/film-reviews/shoplifters-kore-edas-palme-dor-winner-eloquent-look-human-condition/

And:

Can Hirokazu Kore-eda’s success with ‘Shoplifters’ shed some light on poverty in Japan? by Jake Adelstein, Japan Times (June 2, 2018)
https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/06/02/national/media-national/can-kore-edas-success-shed-light-poverty-japan/

From the less-polite longer version in the Daily Beast:

“Kore-eda, in the course of doing research for the movie, also spoke with non-profit organizations and visited a care home for abused children. It was this visit that stuck in his mind. “While we were there, kids started to come back from school and I asked one little girl what she was studying at school. She pulled out her Japanese class textbook from her backpack and suddenly started reading Leo Lionni’s Swimmy out loud to us. The facility staff scolded her, ‘Everyone’s busy, you shouldn’t bother them,’ but she refused to listen and read to us the story from beginning to end. When she finished and we all clapped for her, she beamed at us with such joy. It was in that moment I thought, maybe what she really wants is to read that out loud to her parents who she doesn’t get to live with. After that, the face of this little girl reading to us haunted me and I wrote the scene in which the boy reads his textbook out loud right away.”

FIVE-FINGER DISCOUNTS – Prize-Winning ‘Shoplifters’: Japan’s PM Hates This Movie Because It’s Just Too True by Jake Adelstein, Mari Yamamoto. The Daily Beast (06.14.18 5:43 AM ET)
https://www.thedailybeast.com/prize-winning-shoplifters-japans-pm-hates-this-movie-because-its-just-too-true

And:

“Ironically, on the day of the Kore-eda press conference, Tokyo police arrested a married couple on suspicion of neglect resulting in the death of the mother’s 5-year-old daughter. The little girl left behind a notebook pleading with her parents to stop abusing her, promising to work harder. The child had been previously taken into protective custody and the police in another prefecture had twice recommended her stepfather be prosecuted for abuse. The authorities kept returning her to her “real parents” until they finally killed her. That’s how the Japanese government protects children.”
— Ibid Adelstein,  THE TALE OF MISOGYNY

If you don’t have a proper Class War (or alien invasion), nobody will be able to marry and all the kids will end up in military orphanages, raised to fight to the death for “Papa”. Or die of abuse. Or survive by living in squalid petty theft communes. At least they won’t be raised by queer parents!

LDP representative Mio Sugito is curiously nuanced in her homophobia. She claims to have nothing against gay people and recognises the historical existence of homosexuality in Japan. It is only when gay, trans and other queer folk pick up strange outlander notions, get uppity and start agitating in the Asahi Shinbum – Japan’s premiere (mildly) liberal newspaper (whom Sugita associates with an International Communist Conspiracy) – do they become a danger to the nation. The next thing you know, brothers and sisters are wanting to get married, people are marrying their game consoles and the libb-rull apocalypse is at hand. Did she not herself once experience a girl-crush in high school? She got over it and went on to a successful career as a reactionary flak. Ladies, pull up your socks and get with the program!

Biology-is-destiny complaints aside, there are plenty of folks in Japan, as in other countries, that would love to have and/or raise children if only it wasn’t economically or legally impossible. LGBTQ folks are as prone to social conformity and competency at family formation and child-rearing as straight folks. If western experience is any example they might well be slightly more disposed to weather the social and economic forces that discourage child-rearing in contemporary Japan. Two moms? that works. Two dads? That might involve adoption but surprise; few people adopt other people’s children in Japan. Japanese practice terms adoption of children as “special adoption” because it is so rare. (2)  I wonder if two dads could remedy this problem. Trans* parents should also have the option to run the baby route, so why not quietly ditch the nazi-eugenics inspired sterilization and full surgery requirements for official gender re-assignment?

If Abe and the LDP want more child-raising family units (and wish to further cheap out on orphanage costs) a simple equivalent-to-marriage civil union addition to Japan’s laws could be passed into law tomorrow. No need to save gay marriage for a soften-up-the-voters trial run constitutional amendment. This is all well-known. Japanese activists know all the grotty details of how their country’s Family Law is messed up, from child support, to the nightmare of the family registry, to nearly non-existent adoption rates, maternity leave, child abuse, discrimination against “illegitimate” children, bullying… The list is exhausting.

Rightists and the Nippon Kagi‘s solution to any of these ills is to exhort Japanese women to somehow “take care of it” for free.

Everyone in Japan knows this. Everyone knows that the right are full of shit. When they spout off, it is the same as with western reactionaries; pump up the thuggish “base” and make a show of power to everyone else. Then cash in on your “patriotism” with some crony rewards.

“You calling me a liar?”

Against this frightening spectre of a modern Japan lurching towards authoritarianism under the influence of a secretive cabal, there stands the powerful and reassuring weight of social conformity and institutional inertia. And the LDP. Surprisingly enough – there are social progressives in the LDP. “Not all LDP” are war-crazed feudal lord wannabes. Japan’s LDP is a multi-party political system in and of itself. As it takes 3 blue moons in a row plus a Prime Minister and cabinet screwing sheep on the front steps of the Diet for the LDP to lose power for a year an a half, all the action in Japanese politics happens within the LDP.

There are factions that are somewhat disposed to grabbing, watering down and rolling out token progressive social policy initiatives, if only to maintain power. Outside observers have even ventured that the LDP makes a home for wingnuts within their ranks and throws token bones to them (as well as letting them run off-leash every so often) lest the rightists go all secret-secret-death-culty if expelled and start doing political terrorism.

Japanese rightists were historically noted for their taste for political assassination, seppukku after bizarre manifesto readings and whipping up lynch mobs against Japanese Koreans after earthquakes. They just do that kind of stuff. Better to have them inside the tent pissing out. Give them a warm blanket, a place by the fire and let them get fat and lazy. Overstaffed Japanese police forces might spend too much time running surveillance and harassment on the few members of the official Communist party but there is no need to re-deploy them against the sound truck nuts. The sound truck nuts are (mostly) well-behaved co-opted allies of the ruling party.

This highlights a further curious happenstance of Japanese political approaches to social policy issues: right-wingers can wave around the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers, Sailors and Schoolchildren because few other factions within the LDP or opposition parties give a flying squirrel about social policy issues. Within the LDP, daycare centers don’t kick back campaign contributions; best to leave that kind of stuff to local governments (3) and/or the Soka Gakkai backed Komeito.

With the power of the local women’s chapters within the Soka Gakkai and Komeito, plus their nominal do-gooder Buddhism image one would think that they would be a continuous force of agitation for social policy innovation. Instead they appear to be curiously reactive. Their ineffective resistance to the recent Casino legislation is typical. The Komeito‘s only political absolute is to ally itself to power and prevent any persecution or interference with the Soka Gakkai. The Komeito‘s sole social policy constant is probably that people should join the Soka Gakkai. One more quasi-religious power bloc scurrying about in the wings.

That leaves the Communists, one or two remaining Socialists/Social Democrats (they and the Communists hate each other) and the rather recent Constitutional Democratic Party [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_Democratic_Party_of_Japan]

More about Japanese parties here: [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_political_parties_in_Japan ]

The CDP is a new party, born out of the disintegration of a previous catch-all party, whose rightists all bugged off to join a new, even more rightist party led by the charismatic governor of Tokyo. She promptly ran away from the mess during their first federal election and left a lot of hacks floundering. Meanwhile the liberal-leaning refugees banded together to form a new, radical party dedicated to keeping the Japanese constitution exactly as it is, with no damn amendments whatsoever. This is radical in Japan. They have also proven to be media and social-networking savvy, so they may yet become a force for social policy innovation. What the right’s cynical use of hot-button “social” and “family” issues proves is that in Japan, as in the west, progressive forces need to develop and articulate a broad consensus vision of the individual and the family, within society. One that features employment, enforced workplace regulations and has social safety net would be a start. Otherwise opportunists and scammers step into the policy vacuum and turn human lives into fodder for jingoism.

Is this beyond Japan’s (and our) abilities? Are such dreams only possible in China?

Anime Your Name’s studio releases trailer for its newest film, which isn’t set in Japan【Video】

Where does this leave us with Franxx? Aside from the unsurprising tendency to fill in the bits between the giant robots vs incomprehensible geometric monster fights with resonant sociopolitical filler, not much. One might as well try to glean insights into trends in Japanese education policy in the early 21st century through a close reading/ watching of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann. That Franxx padded out its story by letting the kids grow up and make babies the old-fashioned way, once the ruling evil old men (and sneaky aliens and sterile, net-addicted adults) were wiped out was a simple and obvious pitch towards the sympathies of Japanese viewers of a certain demographic.

Dammit, we wanted Ota-princes and we got Netto-uyoku

Franxx is a spaghetti-at-the-wall sci-fi epic. It could have had the good doctor live and announce his nifty procedure for M-preg, or that along with the cavern full of washed out pistil & stamen kids in suspended animation waiting to be revived, there were also 90 miles of caverns full of viable, almost to term test-tube babies in suspended animation. Therefore everybody, boys and girls alike got to greet the new era by helping out in the nursery, for decades. Deduct four points for lack of imagination by the writers. Unfortunately, baby-making essentialism comes with the hippie commune Whole Earth Catalog ending; the WEC itself being an artifact of less enlightened times.

Does Franxx plant its butt on the ash-heap of history by suggesting that all or almost all of the surviving young ex-soldier women naturally -must- become “good wives and wise mothers”? Would it have won a grudging pass if more of them were shown to put off the maternity route if favor of exploration, administration, governance and farm machinery maintenance? Does the controversy boil down to ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you have to”? Boys squad to the nursery STAT!

Anything else? Oh yeah: star-crossed love affairs with super-powered outlander girls will NOT yield a happy family life but must end in heroic double love suicides.

At some point it could be instructive to track representations of family in anime and manga over the last 30 years. I suspect it would run from majority “ideal supportive Japanese extended” through “nuclear” to absent father/ single mother and finally parent(s) dead/ vanished/ work overseas, siblings supporting each other households – with outlying horrorshow instances – but that is just initial speculation. Family/home substitutes could use a survey as well. I predict share-houses as the next big thing; an update on ever-popular eccentric rooming-house tropes.

One could even quantify the heck out of this kind of study so that it would smell science-y.

Another interesting exercise would be to close-read-watch the few remaining young-girl-gaze anime properties and note how they build and use character and story (while still managing to sell sparkly plastic toys.) to foster dreams of independent, mature adult femininity with agency and an elaborate (though NOT skeevy skin flashing) wardrobe. And long, thin legs. The fashion model legs seem important.

Have a seat and get comfy, that one could take a while.

 

ENDNOTES:

(1) More details on the push for “moral education”, including nonsense that required erasing bakeries (yes, bread) from schoolbooks!

English subs added to a Japanese documentary on right-wing efforts to control school textbooks and curriculum. Details and transcript:
“Education and Patriotism” (Kyōiku to aikoku). A Documentary
Translated by Collin Rusneac with an Introduction by Sven Saaler.
Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (September 15, 2018)
https://apjjf.org/2018/16/Rusneac.htm

(2) Good backgrounder on orphan care and post orphanage support in Japan:
TT-956 — An Unsung Hero with a Pragmatic Approach for Orphans, by Terrie Lloyd. Terries Take, Japan Inc.com (August 6, 2018)
http://www.japaninc.com/tt956_unsung-hero-with-a-pragmatic-approach-for-orphans

(3) Local Governments Take the Lead on Social Policy, by Rob Fahey.
Tokyo Review (July 18, 2018).
http://www.tokyoreview.net/2018/07/local-governments-social-policy/

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Hic sunt dracones

If the Genshiken is a shadow or reflection of the contested approaches surrounding expressions of minority sexuality and gender in Japan, would we recognize it as such?
Or are these shadows fraught with their own problems?

Fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality intone the Genshiken characters as they dance to Kio Shimoku’s pen-strokes. When some of his readers and fans take his characters or his treatment of them as having real-world resonance it is easy to pull back and exclaim “only a character”. Too easy perhaps. I try to mitigate some of my impulses towards repeatedly raising the cardboard flag by harping on aspects of the internal story limits that Shimoku-sensei has deployed to keep things fuzzy enough that the story keeps rolling along. I use the term “liminality” a lot, perhaps a bit too much, especially with reference to Kenjiro Hato, the de-facto focus of the second generation of the Genshiken.

And then there is the whole “It’s different in Japan”, “No it’s not” argument.

Too bad I haven’t really done my homework regarding the real-world conditions for gay, lesbian, trans, queer and related folks in Japan. It’s undoubtedly complicated there, at least as much as it is complicated here. Their complications are undoubtedly different, but not too different. Anyways, why should I care? Not really my problem. Ok, I could glance at the cheat sheet…

The wiki for Homosexuality in Japan will only get you so far: Monks, Samurai, Kabuki, Takarazuka, Mishima, a local politician, whatever…

From the simple fact that some folks desire members of their sex or know that creation made a slip-up and that they don’t quite fit the gender that they were assigned at birth by virtue of the conventional view of their body bits, things get complicated. Kio Shimoku’s Hato, as all fictional queer characters that go beyond one-dimensional cliché serve an important role. We can displace some of our curiosity onto a cartoon character.

Dammit Kio Shimoku! When are we going to get to eavesdrop on a good long talk between Hato and …. someone(!), anyone… so that we can figure out where in the Hato continuum Hato-ness falls? This is important to us. Unless Shimoku-sensei has an even more ambitious project in mind; to gently nudge us towards the notion that whatever is not really that important: mind one’s own business, behave civilly, respect, and if inclined befriend and support the person, not the tag. Once they decide to clue us in on any personal stuff about sexuality and gender we can then recognise that they don’t eat kittens and that life is better, more interesting and more fun if everybody gets a fair shake, because folks is folks.

That might be a bit too hearts and flowers to fly very far, but it’s as good a place as any to start.

Speaking of flowers; no full-page floral background chara portrait yet! Sadness…

Why anyone would think a cartoon character can give us any insight into real lives is another question. Oh they do; it’s just that the life they give us insight into ain’t the one we thought we were reading about.

This is going to take some shovel-work…

“”The perspectives held by straight people and gay people on straight people’s “reactions” to gay people will be significantly different. Many straight people (not just in Japan) have a reaction that goes something like this: “I don’t mind the idea but don’t really want to have to think about it.” Whereas actual gay people (not just in Japan) would very much like to see others like themselves represented in media, in the public sphere, and in business.””

‘How Does Japan Treat Gay People?’ Quora Answer by Erica Friedman reprinted in Slate. http://www.slate.com/blogs/quora/2015/05/28/how_does_japan_treat_gay_people.html (1)

Allow me to further muddy the waters: I have a sneaky suspicion that few advanced late modernist cultures have “gay spaces” so “colonized” by straight desire as Japan has.

Plenty of straight boys and girls in Japan “really want to have to think about it”, but their ideas are a bit…. odd. Why they feel the need to make up fantastic versions of queer desire for their comic books and cartoons is at least three of the seven mysteries of this high school. Aside from the usual pervy guys who think that “lesbians r hawt!” – either for old-school pr0n exploitation or upgraded Loser Fan Boy/ Yuri Danshi interest; nothing new there to us Westerners – there is also the pervasive effects of 30+ years of fujoshi fantasies, which are now an established pop culture niche market. Western slash fans have nowhere near that kind of commercial influence. Then one can add the entire hobby crossdressing thing, plus the otokonoko/ jousou game genre to annoy anyone with meatspace gender fluidity concerns. A simpler term for the effect; one that carries a whiff of admonition is fetishization:

“Slash is usually written by straight women, yes, and I think it appeals to straight women in the same way lesbian sequences in commercial pornography appeal to straight men. I always say that if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.”
Samuel R Delany

All of this makes for an elaborate, complex and fantastic queer-space of straight imagination that overlays the situation of real-life folks who are trying to find happiness, dignity, hawt fun and warm fuzzies in their lives. I suspect that western queer folks are going to get a whole lot more of this, now that many of the old prejudices are falling, to be replaced by cable networks sticking their ideas of queer into every new property they can think of.

Since this is all about “how they do it”, curiosity remains at a constant level across cultures. However western societal proscriptions against same-sex love and non-conforming gender identities must have until recently served to somewhat suppress representation and interest. In Japan, western categories of gay and queer identities were just so much more exoticism; like nuns in mini-skirts, Santa Claus, vampires and elaborate German layer cakes. Of course Japan had its own folks who liked folks of the same sex and folks who felt not quite comfy with the usual roles that came with their genitalia, but when you start trying to – categorize – ’em according to appropriated nifty outlander notions, things got… interesting.

So what has this to do with the Genshiken?

Kio Shimoku decided to play the Genshiken as a somewhat realistic ensemble story, albeit with light comedy and a few jabs towards fannish excesses. A fujoshi second generation Genshiken may have moved the goal posts a bit, but once Hato was dropped in, the story is now planted at the edge of much larger IRL concerns. At first it was all pervy straight boys, then pervy straight girls but now same-sex desire and gender identity are popping up in the Genshiken’s 3D (in-story “real) world, mostly because Hato, kun and chan wants to try on all kinds of neat ideas. That these ideas are a mish-mosh formed from the weird little stories that everyone was fanning out over can only lead to confusion. Thank the goddess that the rest of the club is not into fan-fiction about Morris dancing.

Is 3D queer desire going to destroy the Genshiken? Are happy endings or evenly distributed unhappy-but liveable endings possible? The first two Genshiken pairings were too easy, almost fated. The next one took a bit of work. This time there will be harem fallout and the possibility of circle queens or kings that could destroy the club. Can Otaku and fujoshi navigate complex personal politics of desire, sexuality and gender in contemporary Japan? Do they, as cartoon characters have to? How much preachy-ness and aspirational story line-ing will we get?

Will we as outlander fans be able to recognize it?

Time for a quick survey of the literature:

“…expressions of male-male sexuality in Japan, coupled with the fact that same-sex desire had multiple forms of expression in homo-erotic sub-cultures during the late 1940s and 1950s, prompts McLelland’s reflection that it is ironic for Western gay liberation activists to assume that all foreign locales have followed the same historical trajectory as they have, or that they alone can provide lessons on how future activism should unfold. While it is true that systematic processes of stigmatisation of same-sex love operated in Japanese society from Meiji on, one does not find an equation of homosexuality with evil in the same way as often occurs in Anglo-Saxon or Judaeo-Christian social and cultural contexts. The work of McLelland (2005), Lunsing (2003), Kazama and Kawaguchi (2003), and others remind us, then, that the foundational concepts of modern discourses of Western sexuality (“homosexual,” “gay,” “coming out,” “lesbian,” etc) evoke very different schemata and connotations in Japanese contexts; they bear new and originary meanings in translations and re-conceptualisations in Japanese language texts, and they exist alongside a wide range of “organic” conceptual categories of non-normative sexuality which can be drawn upon by participants within diverse textual and cultural forms in Japan. This historical overview can also serve as a reminder that “homophobia,” however we define it, exists in Japan in a way that is different from other locales, including those of Western cultural contexts. LGBT identifying individuals in Japan will evaluate the extent to which they want to employ or modify “Western” tactics to challenge inequalities wrought by homophobia, and to what extent they will draw on “organic” historical resources for the same purpose.””

‘Coming out in Japan A survey of attitudes among university students’ by Robert Ó’Móchain   http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol15/iss1/omochain.html

At least weird admonitions from the Book of Leviticus play little part in policy debates about public norms surrounding sexuality and gender in Japan. Japan worries more about a diffuse sense of Japanese-ness. Japan is at least as hung up on sex and intimacy as euroethnic societies but it expresses in slightly different ways. What is allowed in vernacular media by law and tradition is different enough to have spawned global commercial and gift-exchange networks to spread an ephemeral, local pop culture across the globe. Japan, as a non-judeo-christian late high modernist culture is our fave post-lacanian “Big Other” They are our “Rimmer from the double-double universe” with a few more doubles added. The are us, but not us, but they could have been us, and we might have been them. The urge to pick over their stuff for ideas we can swipe is irresistible.

Hit the search box up top for Adrian Piper again if you need more on this.

Normal variations in sexual preference go back through Japanese history as they go back through all human history. Similarly, whatever small statistical range of folks who felt themselves to be not exactly how society told them to be according to the private parts they were born with has probably been a constant all over the world since the paleolithic, but who cared what self-reproducing farm equipment felt? Plant and harvest or die. The few who could avoid agricultural servitude made up whatever they could get away with and if they were good at it, founded traditions. Or the survivors who mourned them did.

Japanese same-sex desire has adapted its public social manifestations to Japanese societal imperatives at least since Meiji times. Mercantilism? Colonialism? Militarism? We got a gay for that! Koha and Nampa stand out as examples on the male side. And then there is all of those outlander concepts to try out, appropriate and adapt. Some losses (or gains?) in translation are inevitable.

“Omit the reference to the unspeakable vice of the Greeks!”

‘Out Gays” or “Shameless Gays”? What Gets Lost, and What is Gained, when U.S. Queer Theory is Translated into Japanese?’ video of lecture by J. Keith Vincent at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko8-FFARvhw

Here is a consideration of the evolution of the public construction of identities surrounding female:female desire that touches on the western imports:

“From the groundbreaking 1894 translation of Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s
Psychopathia Sexualis, translation has played a key role in leading Japanese to reexamine, redefine and reconstruct their sexualities, making possible the establishment of Japanese queer identities and communities in their current form. That is, using borrowed but quickly localized words, concepts, and ideologies, some Japanese have constructed their ownidentity, whether rezubian, gei [gay], baisekushuaru [bisexual], toransusekushuaru [transsexual], toransujendâ [transgender], kuia [queer], or heterosekushuaru [heterosexual]. Even seemingly indigenous words for homosexuality such as dôseiai [same-sex love], and earlier variants, including dôsei no ai, dôsei no koi [both also meaning same-sex love] and dôsei seiyoku [same-sex sexual desire], are in fact translation words that—based on imported notions of sexual perversion (Furukawa 1994, 1995)—represent a shift from seeing (male) sexual desire in terms of “color”, joshoku [female color], desire for women, and nanshoku [male color], desire for men. Perhaps due to the number of loanwords or the distinctions that are often confused in public discourse about gender, sex and sexuality, many queer publications, including every issue of Anîsu, contain lists of queer vocabulary.35 These lists also serve to inculcate prescribed (imported) forms of queer discourse, deepening a sense of community. The words most commonly used today related to female-female sexuality in Japanese are rezubian and rezu, both of which retain pornographic nuances based on their use at least since the 1960s in Japanese pornography (McLelland, forthcoming). Chalmers (2002: 39) remarks that “[t]he connection of lesbianism with pornography is so strong that most women on first hearing or seeing the word rezu (lezzo) associate it with pornography […] denying lesbians a psycho-sexual identity in which to claim a social space in which to move.”
– ‘Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community’ by James Welker http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

More for the reading list:

The previously referenced, ‘Yaoi: Redrawing Male Love’ by Mark McHarry has a quick roundup of historical reference to same-sex desire in Japan, along with its early (2003) survey of the yaoi genre. Note also the footnotes at the end of the essay and appendix, see: http://archive.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html

‘The role of the ‘tojisha’ in current debates about sexual minority rights in Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1213&context=artspapers

‘Death of the “Legendary Okama” Togo Ken: challenging commonsense lifestyles in postwar Japan’ by Mark J. McLelland http://ro.uow.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2551&context=artspapers

‘The Process of Divergence between ‘Men who Love Men’ and ‘Feminised Men’ in Postwar Japanese Media’ by Ishida Hitoshi and Murakami Takanori, translated by Wim Lunsing http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12/ishida.html

Wow, didn’t know the history of the term Hentai as applied to pop culture. Fake pop psychology noodie magazines after the war?

“The second characteristic of the genre was the animated exchange that took place between specialist researchers, amateur researchers and the readers themselves. The hentai magazines frequently organised round-table talks where medical doctors, writers, readers and editors came together.[4] Here the discourse of modern medicine which categorised perverse sexual desires as ‘abnormal’ stood alongside testimony from people who themselves had interest in these marginal sexualities. This queer space of the hentai magazines, then, allowed the official scientific discourse of the sexologists to interact with personal testimony from people designated ‘abu’ [abnormal]. That is, these magazines themselves functioned as a type of ‘contact zone,'[5] in which hegemonic and subaltern representations encountered and interacted with each other. Hentai magazines like Kitan kurabu created readers’ columns that stimulated discussion about articles and encouraged exchanges between their readers. Such readers’ columns not only functioned as personal advertisements which offered people with the same interests the opportunity to meet, but also they enabled readers with different sexual interests to engage in dialogue together.” – Ishida , ibid.

A policy prescription approach:

‘JAPAN: Discrimination against Lesbians, Bisexual Women and Transgender Persons; A Shadow Report, May 2009’
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/docs/ngos/Japan_LBT_May09_japan_cedaw44.pdf

A critical view of the Japanese situation from a blogger who regularly posts a roundup of gender and sexuality issue coverage, mostly but not exclusively concerning Japan and fandom:

“Here’s what this should say:

The Japanese don’t oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds in the same way conservative factions of religions do in other countries. This, of course, just goes to show how heterosexual-identified cisgender people of all nations use religion as a front for their own bigotry, because by removing the “cause” of the queerphobia (religion), we are left with nothing but small-mindedness and fear. Change has come slowly for LGBT measures in Japan partly because queer individuals are terrified of being fired or disowned and have basically no legal recourse other than adopting each other for inheritance purposes. While there isn’t a history of police raids or sodomy laws (which lasted 1872-[19? -moi]80) as in the US and the UK, the school bullying crisis shows that, while violence against adults isn’t to the same level, violence amongst children and bullying to the point of suicide are. So, while one might claim that the Japanese value harmony so much that the LGBT community hasn’t faced overt discrimination, the lack of legal recourse for individuals whose jobs, housing, children, and property are threatened by institutionalized queerphobia are still huge national issues that must be addressed. Shibuya has taken a huge step in the right direction, hopefully one that will spur the national government to action.””

– ‘Japan Gender Reader: April/May 2015’ from The Lobster Dance (blog); http://odorunara.com/2015/05/16/japan-gender-reader-aprilmay-2015/

What of transgendered people in Japan? On the surface it looks like contemporary Japan dealt with the legal accommodation of transgendered individuals quite simply and dispassionately, as a medical condition. Reports however indicate that social acceptance of transgendered people is still extremely problematic. Closer examination reveals that “legally transitioned” can only occur after complete SR surgery, a point that is often glossed over in popular discourse (that one caught me too, looks like I will be going back and fixing a few older posts) At least some schools are accommodating some youth, in some ways, if they get a doctor’s note, sometimes, because the central government suggests that they should, if they need to, and anyway they don’t want any more messy bullying-suicide scandals than they already have.

The first time I saw this, it looked like edgy comedy.

Dammit!

Here is PBS Frontline taking a serious look at transgender teens in the USA: ‘Growing Up Trans’;
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/growing-up-trans/
No idea what it is like in Japan, but it is good that this is available. It might help some young folks.

More:

‘The Stonewall Transgender Guide to Japan, Section 6: Trans-Pacific:
Differences between Japan and the West’ http://stonewall.ajet.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Transgender-guide-final-1.pdf A chatty informative intro to transgender issues in Japan as a resource to visitors, with an emphasis on community. Sections 1-5 are more of a what to do if you are, and in Japan.

More LGBTQIA info for outlander English teachers and other Japan neophytes here: http://stonewall.ajet.net/start-here/
More not-so-recent academic papers (ca. 2006), here:
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue12_contents.html
The difficulties of research into “lesbian” communities in Japan,
some 15 or 20 years ago, A Pilgrim’s Tale:
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

UPDATE: (much later) The City-Cost blog, in a round-up of LGBTQ issues in Japan provided a link to
Takurei’s Room: LGBT experiences, resources and news from Japan
http://takureinoroom.com/
Informative,  tojisha, aware, looks like a valuable go-to.

Wow, that’s more than enough research at least for me, for now. Not even an undergraduate first year survey course reading list, but at least enough to get the beginnings of some idea of what is going on in Japan. Enough to squeeze past any initial “whoaah; don’t need to know any of this, it weirds me out”. “Weirds me out” as an excuse is kind of lame, embarrassing  even.

As the above point out, queer folks in Japan are working things through, while trying to get the gummint to smarten up and while working on ways to cajole everyone else into realising that the sky won’t fall if a kid gets two wise mothers, or fathers.

A few things work in favor of a Japanese “best practice” solution: Not only is there not much nonsense about the Thang o Leviticus, but big science seems to still carry some weight, or at least offer ammunition for pissing contests by blustering old guys in Japanese political debates. It looks good to be on the side of doing the scientifically right thing. As well, some writers have suggested that outcome in Japanese social forms are at least as important as the characteristics of the individual practice, so while much needs to be adapted and tested out, adaptation is possible. Disneyland is all well and fine; what will it take to get a Shinto shrine to innovate?

Finally, when looking to the rest of the world, there is the unexpected benefit of the United States as negative example (in the way that social issues become fodder for the culture wars). This effect works nearly all over the industrialized world. I don’t think Canada would have ever moved its slow sorry ass on marriage equality if not for the ugly negative examples set south of the border.

Fiat judicia et sniff at those crazy yanks.

Maybe the old guy pols who run Japan are so far behind that they won’t off-their-ass on legal rights until they see how the recent US Supreme Court ruling shakes out. Could they be waiting for a USA example? Does the sky fall? How comprador! The Canadian political elite used to wait until they could tell how the stateside winds were blowing, but they gradually dropped “wait and see” for “get it over with painlessly” from the 1980’s onward. One way to find out would be to scornfully ask…

Here’s the current American “best practice” consideration of gay identity – “sanctified” in a Supreme Court Justice argument:

” Immutability. Kennedy tosses this into his opinion, bizarrely, as a side comment. Referring to gays who seek matrimony, he says, “[T]heir immutable nature dictates that same-sex marriage is their only real path to this profound commitment.” Later, he speaks of “new insights” that have transformed society, including this one: “Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.” Kennedy doesn’t elaborate on these remarks, but they’re huge. Immutability is the biggest difference between homosexuality and polyamory. Even the pro-polyamory law review article cited by Roberts in his dissent acknowledges that immutability is a crucial factor in identifying unjust discrimination against classes of people—and that “polygamists are not born that way.””

– ‘Chief Justice John Roberts says the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling paves the way for plural unions. He’s wrong’ by William Saletan
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/06/is_polygamy_next_after_gay_marriage_chief_justice_roberts_obergefell_dissent.2.html

Meanwhile “don’t rock the boat”, “Don’t disturb the Wa” Don’t frighten the horses”, keep it at home or for the weekend and for the rest of the time pay ritual obeisance to the ideals of public Japanese-ness. You might live with your same-sex life mate, date same-sex lovers, participate in various queer socials, do a marriage-looking thing at Disneyland, you may even be in transition or have transitioned legally to your current gender, but the threat always looms that at any time you will be stuck in the misfit sack. Not quite a member of an untouchable caste, but not quite up to all the demands and responsibilities of being a fully Japanese person who does being Japanese, the properly Japanese way. Something like a Halfu, a returnee or a third generation Japanese “resident” of Korean heritage. And your employer and your landlord can then jack you around because of this too. How convenient for them.

“”Japan is a society where you can easily live a ‘typical’ lifestyle, But Japanese don’t respect our real choice, our real personalities. As long as you are ordinary, you are safe in this society.” –Aya Kamikawa
http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/02/1051382096188.html

Plenty of straight folks can no longer live up to that Japanese ideal of “ordinary” either. Plenty of everyone are falling through the cracks. The economy can no longer support the dream. The whole Japanese family and social law thing needs a massive overhaul otherwise there wont be anyone left to work the kombinis, rent apartments, pay taxes and take care of the grandparents. In the end, Japanese social obligations and the customs they spawned are pragmatic. The “do it this way” for having and raising a family is failing massively. Start with marriage equality or better, sex and gender neutrality for marriage and family law. Who gives a rats ass who’s a member of the family. If you have more married folks of whatever genres you have a better chance that someone will do the grunt work of raising kids.

Single-motherhood in Japan is a near-guaranteed trip to the poor house. Revising the anti-war constitution, making teachers worship the Emperor and dreaming of everybody marching around like good little 1930’s army cadets might make some wrinkled old boy pols feel really really happy, but it won’t stop the demographic crash.

Clean up or abolish the family register system. Legitimize in law some financially viable alternative to the salaryman-for-life and stay-at-home good-wife wise-mother fantasy. Fix the damn labour code so that folks can afford to raise kids and that kids can actually spend a few hours per week with their parents. Overtime, parent leave, wage and medical/ pension payment benefit floor levels with no sneaky part-time, training, contract and/or subcontractor weasel outs. The works.

This is not me blowing hot air. Folks in Japan who give a rats’ ass over social policy have been pointing this stuff out for the last 20 years.

I hope someone is working on it, even if they will probably have to work on it for free.

UPDATE:  ‘Japan LGBT group files human rights complaint in bid for same-sex marriages’  by Tomohiro Osaki
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/07/07/national/social-issues/lawyer-lobby-handed-lgbt-rights-relief-request-pursuit-legal-sex-marriages/   Note how a legalistic approach is being persued, with the request to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) the nation’s biggest bar association to investigate the allegation and, if necessary, issue a warning to the central government to review its legislation.

Can we consider aspirational pop fiction like the Genshiken as part of the Japanese debate?

Quietly culturally appropriate emerging gender non-conforming and sexuality diffuse fujoshi Hato! So what if Hato gets or doesn’t get Mada. As long as no blood is shed, no one jumps off a roof, no quack therapists or religious nutters try to drag Hato (or the rest of the fujoshi members) off to “fix” them, no one tries to beat Hato to a pulp or screams at Hato and the rotten girls that GOD HATES FAGS, we can call it a win. The Japanese otaku social way, as exemplar of uneasy Japanese conformity that sometimes looks like civility and common sense, can be good.

Dont’cha just love a happy ending? I wonder how Takemiya Jin would write such a story?

Maybe Kio Shimoku will make things even more complicated.

He sure took a chance when he wrote Hato into the Genshiken. Did he have any idea he would get in this deep? Beyond the few guarded paragraphs in his latest interview, we can only speculate. Surprisingly enough, the more research I do on meatspace conditions surrounding sexuality and gender issues in Japan, the more I am struck by what a reasonable job he has done…

That sneaky so and so…

And he is aware of larger issues. A quick recap: a fujoshi membership doesn’t know any “real” out gay folk, as Saki chides. The echoes of the Yaoi Ronso debates, “it’s only you” and other mid-aughts pop theory surrounding fujoshi practice and queer issues. “Reading this stuff has to have some effect” (or does it?). Hato Hato Hato. What did I miss?

For all the embarrassed curiosity about queer-ish desire, one must acknowledge the fundamental straight-ness, the uneasy, yet pervasive heteronormativity of the Genshiken tale and its ‘tourism’ approach to Japanese queer concerns. Of course the characters are all nominally straight fujoshi and otaku boys and girls, as (I’m guessing) are most of the readers. If you poke Hato with a stick, both variants will embarrassingly mumble a straight-ish disclaimer. But the problem isn’t gay-straight or cis-trans, so much as fantasies of gay-ness and gender non-conformity. Everybody, when they bother has fantastic ideas about “the other”. The Genshiken runs on the play of how these are so important to the heart, but at the same time, so prone to clumsy misapprehension.

At the core of fujoshi fantasy is the idea that all males, because of innate male-ness are subject to the madness of uncontrollable lust and could at any moment, maybe, perhaps, suddenly go wild and pair off into seme and uke roles. And that by doing so they might finally, finally express some manner of dramatic, romantic displays of love, desire and longing and negotiated inter-dependency; what they are too effing lazy, privileged and thick to offer towards women.  “Gay” seems to be secondary to an essentialist view of males and their propensity to go berserk in interesting ways when confronted by strong feelings. If either or both of them were already gay, it would be somewhat less interesting. (but could still be ok if the drawings were hawt). A crit-speak way of putting this is “erasure of gay identity” but queer concerns are secondary to the curiosities and frustrations of the nerdy fangirls. Meanwhile the loser fanboy brigade has plenty of ideas about why and how “lesbians are hawt” and all of them are constructed for our entertainment. So all Japanese lesbians are either amazingly sexy cartoon fanservice babes, butch and femme and/or so emotionally wise and caring as to be able to work out any painful conflicts and disappointments that pop up. Except for the cheerfully psycho lesbian version of the BFG!

Even with a such a starting point, lookie where the Genshiken has dragged them, as it has dragged me.

Shimoku-sensei has been both skillful and lucky; he has not yet created a ridiculous, insulting or overly fantastic character. Some minor bits of Hato rankle, some are tiny plot contrivances and fancies (the Stands), but all in all the design and engineering is sound and durable. Not flashy, not revolutionary; good quality workmanship. The Nidaime anime could have blown it all by losing the nuance with too much otokonoko hijinx & Stands vibe, but it squeaked by. Fans continue to get sucked in and keep reading. Above all, there is tension in the Hato character, between the fantasy space of the Genshiken and the in-‘verse real world and between approaches to “resolving” Hato and within the self of the character that, if taken too much further would tear the character apart in an analogous ritually performative echo of the very tensions within the contested spaces of minority gender and sexuality identities in Japan. (whew!)

Hato is no simple ototkonoko joke chara, or a fantastic crossdressing heroic lead. Hato chan and kun are not tragic or despairing, Hato has interests and works towards them. Folks try to work things out, hard won personal growth occurs. There will be some conflicts and disappointments and mistakes ‘o plenty, but joining the Genshiken was a good thing for Hato Kenjiro. And Hato is good for the Genshiken, by in-‘verse measures alone.(2)

I wonder if Japanese fans who seek to advance the rights, status and acceptance of gay and trans folks are writing fan letters to Shimoku-sensei, praising him for what he gets right, gently offering suggestions that would improve the product and, most importantly, refraining from sanding him over some small quibbling point of imported political correctness. Be gentle with the mangakas – don’t scare them, they can be useful.

Lets see if he can do more.

Keiko seems to be itching to take a few pokes at Hato. I hope that it just won’t be a jealous girls’ competition.

Perhaps Keiko should take Hato to an okama bar.

If “the adversary” won’t highlight the contradictions, who will?

.

(1) Once again Erica-sensei nails it with deft economy. “Icon” !!!  No escaping it now. Congratulations on your acclamation!!!
Also interesting from the essay page: ‘Persuasion and Opinion in Pop Culture Fandom – Are We the Cart or the Horse? The Persuasive Power of Popularity’ http://www.yuricon.com/essays/persuasion-and-opinion-in-fandom/

(2) It is a wonder that the Genshiken isn’t swamped with new membership applicants, the loser club rep is now stretched thin. One pro mangaka, another one or two soon to follow, an acclaimed semi-pro cosplay cadre, very interesting members, solid alumni support (one recent sempai a rising talent at a game studio). Not too shoddy.

Off Topic:

‘Sherlock and the British Actor Boom: ‘Regifting’ Female Fandom in Japan’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto
https://www.academia.edu/13126858/Sherlock_and_the_British_Actor_Boom_Regifting_Female_Fandom_in_Japan?auto=download

More Off Topic:

Thomas Baudinette has recently been doing interesting research on the premise that Japan’s diffuse gay communities have begun to make a grudging peace with some aspects of fujoshi fantasies. Whether as “gateway drug”, “emergency substitute” or even quick “feels” fix. The last of these is probably the sneakiest, because guys have a limited range of strategies available to deal with the recognition of their own weaknesses: Ignore, do research or go Liddy (as in G. Gordon, who was famously so afraid of rats that he set out to conquer his fears in various over-the-top ways). Oooops, going overboard here, in any case some folks who happen to be guys who like guys, in Japan, are beginning to find BL and yaoi not too annoying. A short presentation:
‘Gay manga” in Japanese Gay Men’s Life Stories: Bara, BL and the Problem of Genre‘ by Thomas Baudinette. (you may have to reg yourself at Academia.edu as an “independent researcher” to access/ save the full paper – Do it, it is free and there’s lots of good stuff there).
https://www.academia.edu/11591779/_Gay_manga_in_Japanese_Gay_Men_s_Life_Stories_Bara_BL_and_the_Problem_of_Genre

Even More Off Topic:

Another neat thing: the blog post; ‘The Homoerotic Requirement’ by Lori Hitchcock Morimoto in her blog ‘Some of us are looking at the stars’ points out a key POV shift in Japanese reception of the “Potter-verse” as opposed to that of Western slash fans. In simple terms, western fen-written slash fanfiction sees Hogwarts as a private high school. Japanese fen see ‘The Heart of Thomas’ and a long tradition of fantasy European boarding schools settings for pining and bullied bishie boys.
https://lorimorimoto.wordpress.com/2015/01/22/the-homoerotic-requirement/#more-205

Insight: if the above effect carries over to tales of soulful friendship between young women, then Anne of Green Gables must have just blown Japanese minds because the spunky girl heroine did NOT meet a tragic end.

Fujoshi moe-nogatari

Wherein your correspondent reviews another bit of important fujoshi-studies literature, as part of an ongoing survey project to skim through notable articles, try to make sense of them, and then grind them up against Genshiken (or other manga/anime) to see if any sparks fly:

Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan by Patrick W. Galbraith, http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/660182  JSTOR: Signs, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Autumn 2011), pp. 211-232 (somehow not locked down in Jstor – grab it before they change their mind)

Galbraith is pretty well unavoidable in the field; when he gets around to looking at fujoshis acting as fujoshis you get to witness a first-rate academic popularizer at work. You get the feeling he has run through the theory/ world interface more than a few times in classes and symposia and knows what he wants to say. If I was still a grad student working in the field, I would be torn between admiration and jealousy. “Goddammit he just grabbed all the good stuff!

Well, there is plenty of fujoshi misbehaviour to go around in Japan, and he has done the fieldwork – lots of fieldwork, so calm down and pay attention! This article and his moe one: Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan are now required reading.

(Big honking quote warning:)

“All of my informants self-identify as fujoshi, a term transforming the Japanese word for ladies into a homonym meaning rotten girls. Fujoshi are rotten because they are enthusiastic about yaoi, a genre of fan-produced fiction and art, usually manga, that places established male characters from commercial anime, manga, and video games into unintended romantic relationships, roughly analogous to “slash” fiction outside Japan (Jenkins 1992; Pagliassotti 2010).

Stories range from depicting boys just holding hands to boys having sex, sometimes roughly, always passionately, and appear as text and images in physical and virtual forms.

Yaoi evolved from the mainstream commercial medium of shojo (for girls) manga and shares the genre’s focus on romance and interpersonal relationships, but yaoi is dedicated to relationships between androgynous men. In a country where patriarchal family values persist, fujoshi are criticized for pursuing yaoi and are described as rotten because they are attracted to fantasies of sex that is not productive of children (Sugiura 2006).

However, fujoshi typically lead heteronormative lives despite their queer fantasies, which they describe as nothing more than play. Indeed, fujoshi consciously situate their fantasy as digression: the term yaoi is an acronym for “no climax, no punch line, no meaning” (yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi). This follows a long tradition in Japan of asobi, or play that is outside the expectations and rules of the everyday (Hendry and Raveri 2002).

Yaoi erases the female in fantasy because female-male or even female-female couples are too close to reality. Male-male couples, by contrast, are positioned as what fujoshi call “pure fantasy” (junsui na fantajı). In this way, yaoi represents what psychoanalyst Saito¯ Tamaki describes as “asymmetrical” desire “deliberately separated from everyday life” (Saito 2007, 245). For fujoshi, fantasy is something that coexists with reality as a separate set of possibilities.

Fujoshi fantasy centers on intimacy. Sharalyn Orbaugh (2010) notes that rape is a common motif in yaoi, but adds that “rape is always motivated by the aggressor’s extreme love and desire for the victim” and “the victim eventually comes to accept and reciprocate the aggressor’s love”. As Orbaugh sees it, yaoi characters are vulnerable and abject (they describe themselves as strange), but they accept each other as true or destined lovers. The bond is key. The characters do not identify as gay (and often outright deny it) but fall in love with someone who happens to be the same-sex; the bond between them is special and ireproducible.

Likewise, yaoi tends to feature the charismatic boys of shonen (for boys) manga. Be they friends or rivals, the characters in these action-adventure stories tend to have very strong feelings for one another. Fujoshi reinterpret touches, words, and glances in shonen manga as indirect expressions of affection: they pick up on implicit tensions in male relations and playfully imagine intimacy. I call this “transgressive intimacy,” or emotional and erotic potential that is latent in the everyday and separate from it. Fujoshi are devoted to exposing and exploring transgressive intimacy in their fiction and art, and among themselves. Some of my informants, even those with boyfriends, described themselves as lesbians.(see orig Mizoguchi fn 9 below)

My informants generally imposed temporal and spatial limits on their contact—they often “do not want to know” one another, as one informant frankly told me, outside of their shared experiences as fujoshi, which tends to focus discussions and interactions on yaoi. Fujoshi relationships, like yaoi relationships, are based on a mutual status as abject and vulnerable (hence fujoshi describe themselves as rotten) and are consciously separated from reality as moments of transgressive intimate potential in fantasy space.

Intimacy among fujoshi is characterized by playful surface interaction. At the most basic level, when the interaction occurs online, it is a construct between the user physically sitting in front of the computer and the other imagined beyond the screen (a flat viewing surface mediating interactions with a fujoshi partner who is not deeply engaged, talking about supposedly “meaningless” fantasy). Philosopher Azuma Hiroki uses the metaphor of the screen to describe the nature of late-stage capitalism as “hyperflatness” (Azuma 2009, 102). Drawing on Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard, Azuma theorizes that the grand narrative has broken down, leaving only fragmentary moments of sensual pleasure obsessively reproduced in a flat world without meaning, since meaning was generated by the grand narrative.

This goes a long way toward explaining fan fiction and art, but it fails to explain the sociality and intimacy of sharing these moments of pleasure or sensual intensity. On this point, Suzuki Kensuke has theorized “neta communication” (neta teki komyunike¯shon), or topic-oriented communication in which the topic itself is less important than the communication act (Suzuki 2002).

Neta means material, as in the material a comedian draws on when making jokes on stage. Those needing reference for how such communication functions need look no further than Seinfeld, an American sitcom where a comedian and his friends draw on an endless string of topics from trivial matters in everyday life to fuel discussions that unfold like performances. While extreme in arguing that humans have reverted to buzzing like bees in hive interactions, neta communication theory highlights the importance of the phatic function of language, which seems crucial to understanding fujoshi. Communication and interactions may be surface, but they are not trivial. As Elspeth Probyn (1996) suggests, the social world is a “surface” upon which “all manner of desires to belong are conducted in relations of proximity to each other” .

If you can get the in-journal pdf from the link, the footnotes are easier to manage as they sit at page bottom.. Here’s one that caught my eye:

“9) While there certainly are lesbian fujoshi, and while not wanting to deny my informants their sexual agency, I should point out that it seemed to me that they were using the term “lesbian” not to indicate a sexual orientation but rather to mean “deeply intimate with members of the same-sex.” This sort of intimacy, or special friendship, at girls’ schools is not historically unique (Pflugfelder 2005).”

Shortly following is a footnote that does the big ooooops! on Mizoguchi due to a bit of careless quoting:

“Mizoguchi Akiko (2007) has also worked on lesbianism among yaoi fans and has stated that she “became” a lesbian because of exposure in adolescence (Mizoguchi 2008, vi) “

Whoops! I have previously made noise about this. Let me dig at it a bit more:

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi has to be dealt with in any discussion of yaoi in Japan: Her main thesis posits that while the majority of yaoi consuming Japanese females are “straight”, their social exchange of libidinous material constitutes a “virtual lesbian space”. The puppets look male, but the hands that draw them are female, in a female productive fan community. Her “virtual lesbian” thesis confuses the heck out of “straight’ fujoshi research, to the extent that there is a temptation to fuzzy-fy her stuff and slip by it.  There goes the odd charm of fujoshidom: “normal” Japanese women with perverse desires – as if they were all “real” lesbians, they would be “bent” anyway, so looking at m-m pr0n would be no big stretch: They would be all “virtually butch” or some such rude miscomprehension.

For me, her “virtual lesbian” concept helped me put the whole Genshiken Hato-plot-trick in context (and left me a bit queasy about reading yuri, though I still can’t bring myself to read her fave stuff). Dr. Mizoguchi knows all about yuri, but keeps seeing the male “social” hiding behind the female characters.

One reason I harp on this is that the frank personal testimony that Mizoguchi used in her thesis is what made it real and readable, and while I suspect it might be a tad embellished, the story of a young lesbian isolated in her social using the tropes of a classic BL tales to recover from a painful rejected confession is pure high heroic romanticism!

Lets dig up the Mizoguchi passages in question:

“But of course I had crushes on girl friends prior to that time. Especially serious was one episode with a classmate in college, whom I ended up telling that i was in love with and wanted to become lovers with. She was surprised and said she was sorry but she could only be friends with me, and proceeded to advise me that i should try to correct my ways so I could fit back into a straight lifestyle, as the lesbian or bisexual life would surely be more difficult.

“Whether or not I will lead a non-normative life is not your business. I will make my own decision and I know I will not lie to myself. The chosen lifestyle might be the more difficult one, but that is not the point.”

At the time of this conversation in 1985, I had not heard of lesbians except for “homosexuality as a mental disorder” and a few “lesbian scandals” in show business. [ …] How then was I able to gain access to such a strong sense of lesbian pride? (p9) […] When I realized this, what came to my mind was the only “homosexual” representation I had access to in the 1970’s, that is, so-called “beautiful boy” comics (bishonen manga) within the “girls comics’ (shojo manga) genre.. ” (p10, Mizoguchi 2008))

K-rist piloting a Tracer unit in a schoolgirl outfit!!! If this ain’t a “Batman moment” stuck into a PhD thesis, I don’t know what is! I am not making fun of it, and it is fair game to call attention to it, as it was foregrounded in her thesis. The oath moment is one to self and to public agency. Perhaps the problem pops up later at the end of her personal testimony around P44:

“I “became” a lesbian after [emp mine] the beautiful boy protagonists’ homoerotic/ homosexual episodes in the “beautiful boy” comics in the 1970’s “girls’ comics”. precursor to the yaoi genre. Now approximately a million women – still a minority in Japan with a population of over 127 million – are participating in a “virtual lesbian” community, which has the potential lesbian and feminist activism based on shared pleasures among women and their sexual fantasies.” (Mizoguchi 2008)

So: there is the quote, but way out of context. Mizoguchi has made a point of invoking Judith Butler a whole lot on “becoming”, and therefore the quotation-marks- loaded “I became” must be positioned to be read as meaning something like “I initially constructed my public persona as a lesbian, by adapting the narratives and tropes of..” Butler is a big gay theorist who posits as desirable that one acts publicly to present one’s life and sexuality as a real social fact (although some parody of what is grating on you from heteronormative society is considered part of the deal too.) Just think of the ID creature in the film “Forbidden Planet”, powerful, diffuse and impossible to pin down, because it is re-created instant to instant – such is identity to Butler.

Note also Mizoguchi’s use of the word after, as in “take after“, “inspired by“, “enabled by the script” rather than “after I got hit by a train, I died”. So “I became” without the Butler concept emphasis is problematic.

Why I am I digressing on this? Pace mr. Galbraith, I am not on a search and destroy mission. The thing about Mizoguchi, as personified in her 2008 PhD thesis is how she straddles and threatens the gender and fantasy is fantasy/ reality is reality conventions of the yaoi social. They are all supposed to be “straight” women – what is she doing in there? Also, she has made it a big point of her praxis to point out that the nastier plot conventions in yaoi can hurt, insult and confuse real solid-life gay males, and possibly all homosexuals, and that less nasty alternatives are available. The potential for radical disenchantment in her critique is serious. Shimoku -sensei is not the only one who likes to poke at Saito.

ASIDE: prof Saito is a good target to kick. His main argument, that Japanese culture can easily maintain the fantasy is fantasy x reality is reality divide reads at first a lot like the usual “japan-is-special” essentialism that goes by the name of Nihon- jinronSure, different cultures process things differently, but Nihon- jinron arguments end up being “just-so” stories; long on “yup” and short on “why?” Then again, prof Saito invented the term Hikikomori, and has written extensively on Otaku sexuality and social withdrawal in Japan. If I am going to carelessly wave an essentialism stick at his work, I will have to dig it up, read it and only then mouth off.

Back to Akiko Mizoguchi and Galbraith:

Her popping up in this Galbraith essay right before the strong tip-of-the hat to that fantasy x reality/ private x public problem highlights this.  There are a few differences between Western slash and fujoshi culture, and one of them is that political correctness, or token formal consideration of such complaints is a lot more part of slash communities than of fujoshi culture. After all, up to half of the readership can be gay males in Western slash communities, while fujoshi culture is still estimated to be %90+ female.

Galbraith next goes on to highlight the notion that the thing that really turns the fujoshi crank is the relationship rather than the skin alluded to in the stories. From that flow the infamous “rapes-of-love” trope and the “I’m not gay, but” tropes. Both of course (invoke often!) annoy the heck out of some real gay folks, but both are defended endlessly as necessary for the “special“, “unique in the whole world -awwwww” characteristics of the fetishized (and endlessly re-imagined) relationship.

Galbraith is also deft at signalling that he gives some credence to the notion that the mirroring between the story characters as not just queer, but outsider/ abject/ transgressive/ outlaw behaviour in pursuit of the “one-n-only” mirrors the obsession and self-mocking abject stance of the fujoshi. So of course they have their puppets do nasty things to each other before finding true love. Because they are “fallen” themselves and that their desires are “transgressive”. (So they are all goth variants ???)

The other thing about fujoshi insistence on the “not-gay-but” trope, is that if the male fuck-puppets in question were gay, then the desire would be grounded in the realities of everyday “normal’ gay desire, which is too damn close to the way “real” guys act anyway – at least from the fujoshi pont of view. That ain’t hawt any more. More interesting is why such things are hawt to them.

pr0n lovers web SHIFT POV!

Back to Genshiken and Hato for a moment: I am dead serious about Hato being a “kage-Mizoguchi”, the shadow of the warrior (I am theory-moe-ing on my Kurosawa reference) because what his cross-dressing not-quite-fudanshi presence does is continuously short-circuit whole categories of gendered space and the fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality field.

Hato is by no means a perfect Mizoguchi “shadow”. While he makes a somewhat adequate virtual-lesbian fujoshi, he has no Butlerian “became” in his crossdressing persona, (yet) and his 3D desire for women is currently directed at one unobtainable nasty female character, (with occasional bouts of Madarame desiring fugue states).

Worse, he has not yet sworn his oath, and/ or taken any larger political/ social stand – his performance is extremely personal and extremely closeted. And, he is a judo-skilled, female desiring, seme-role assuming, compulsive yaoi consuming snake in the fujoshi garden of Eden. The whiff of potential predator about him is unmistakable, and made worse by his refusal to resolve, to “become” something that would clear up the confusion.

Oh, and he is a cartoon character – this is a blog about manga.

At some point I will have to drag the whole liminality (standing at the threshold, neither entering or refusing to enter, very fashionable in theory land, blah blah) thing into the light, but for now lets ignore it.

Dr. Akiko Mizoguchi is a real, solid-life public lesbian academic fujoshi theorist, and that public role is not “just” a truth that she vowed to live, but coincidentally a consideration to her heterosexual fujoshi sisters. A similar side effect of her “politically correct” campaign presents itself. Her “vow of truth” has the potential for a real buzz-kill when the gals start snorting about some nasty fantasy stuff, but it also lays her cards on the table (else why would she get so confessional in her PhD thesis?)

I would guess that some of the younger heterosexual fujoshis she runs into roll their eyes when she pokes at their tropes for having nasty real-world bleed-over potential, but conversely I doubt that any of them worry that she is sneaking into their midst to corrupt some sweet young fujoshi. In shojo-ai manga terms, a character loosely modelled on her would be closer to the “out” ultra-rich, ultra capable young lesbian Tomoe in Sasameki Koto. Her public position situates her within her social as a safe, if slightly stodgy expert figure. Her younger sisterhood might also point out that she grew up reading “Heart of Thomas’ and Song of the Wind and Trees” and not  “Shinji I wont let you rape my ass until you pay me that 40,000 yen…”  dojins.

I am waiting for a Karaoke session episode with the Genshiken fujoshis: Sue gets to sing The Who’s “Rough Boys“. All join in … Perhaps a vocaloid flash video is out there somewhere ???

This analysis of mine is clumsy, and possibly a bit annoying to any real Dr. Mizoguchi who may stumble across this, but I hope I am getting the point across. Whether or not Shimoku had heard of her when he constructed Hato, (later: oh I do think he has) he is getting a lot of plot juice out of having Hato poke at the same contradictions that she embodies (without the resolutions) – contradictions specifically bounded around sexuality and the reality/ fantasy interface, and these contradictions are building up a powerful charge of potential 3D world fallout; which is also Shimoku-sensei’s number one plot trick.

Hato is not a “real” fudanshi in the strict sense: a man who enjoys the company of women as a man, as they read and “exchange” yaoi. The Galbraith essay under consideration notes the testimony of a real-life “Ogiue” who found a short and pudgy, sympathetic “Sass”, even if her fave semes are tall thin and nasty. Other testimony.,in other places have more than a few guys hanging out with the rotten girls, because they enjoy the company (…Where the girls are.. la la la ) and manage to process the material in some way (which could range from a complete homoerotic reading to one that “reads” the characters as abstracted female desire). The undertones of 3D male longing are inescapable: perhaps these fudanshi “like” fantasy man-smut, but also “desire” a nice fujoshi girl.

At least “they” know that the gals are sexual creatures, and “they” have managed to worm “their” way into close fujoshi proximity to talk dirty with them. And as for guilt about hiding a bit of male predator behaviour? These girls are predatory in their own right! The “rotten girls” are also “dirty girls“. But Hato tried this once in high school and it blew up in his face. Hence Hato V2. A fudanshi Hato would be way too easy, as would a pure “trap” Hato.

ASIDE: If his “little friend” is going to trance him into chasing Mada, shouldn’t his outfit change from synthetic fujoshi to “trap” otokonoko? Hato keeps quiet and puts on one of his insipid “I like it” grins. The kid is wallowing in it!

Shift POV back to Galbraith:

The overwhelming majority of Japanese fujoshi are inscribed as heteronormative in their “real” lives. It complicates the heck out of things to posit that they also are susceptible to latent lesbianism. Mizoguchi even deals with this too, but brings up the prodigious smut intake, much like Genshiken’s Kaminaga: “You cannot read all that stuff without some effect!” (This mirroring of Mizoguchi by Kio Shimoku is another fun coincidence.. or…)

In any case, the accepted compromise in fujoshi studies at this point is to stretch the definition of queer a bit more, drop it over fujoshi desire, and keep marching… No wonder a newer generation of fujoshi theorists are going all Duluze and Guattari – the rhizome/ desiring machines/ body without organs thing is a neat way to get around the contradictions in the internal logic of the whole mess, even if it feels like trying to grab fog.

Here in a footnote, Galbraith attempt to put the train back on the tracks:

“Informants regularly told me that the beautiful boys in yaoi are separate from so-called real gays (riaru gei). Fujoshi conscientiously mark their Web sites with the reminder “yaoi is fantasy.” This is partially in response to serious criticism from homosexual men in Japan, who accuse fujoshi of misappropriating the homosexual male image and misrepresenting reality for their own pleasure. Recently, self-identified gay male characters have appeared in manga featuring male-male romance, but the social weight and consequence of their sexual orientation is nullified. For an overview of the criticisms of yaoi, see Vincent (2007).”

There is also that little matter of the new laws against certain forms of virtual smut in Japan.

After a bit more about other approaches to fujoshis and yaoi, including a big shout-out to Matt Thorn (academic papers are a lot like rap concerts – you need the shout-outs!) Galbraith pulls out his fave way of looking at things: moe.

For him, moe expands on the little-used Bronisław Malinowski concept of phatic – originally a term used to describe how crystals split, but repurposed by Malinowski as a form of super shibboleth that in-groups exchange as a token of their in-group-ness (shibboleth is an old testament password thing – I say To-may-to, if you say To-mah-to, you are a thingamite enemy spy and I kill you!) Malinowski’s phatic concept didn’t really go too far when first launched, but is back with a vengeance in this time of the world-wide interwebs. It dovetails nicely in with Azuma’s database/ echo chamber theories too, so sticking phatic into an understanding of moe is a damn fine analysis trick!

From the earlier mentioned paper on moe:

“The moe response is progressively defined as a convergence of media transmission and personal reception, but it can engender sociality when shared with others. Morikawa explains that fans can functionally understand a great deal about the taste, range and personality of others based on what they do and do not describe as moe (Morikawa 2008). For example, if one says megane-moe, or glasses moe, he or she is saying that characters wearing glasses are stimulating and also that he or she responds to, or at least understands, that aesthetic. This emblazons a mode of communication with neither the mediation of a logical language nor the limitations of rational boundaries. Moe can thus be used to empathetically express deeply personal, intimate and even transgressive emotions in networks of mutual exposure and vulnerability. I observed this among fujoshi, who cultivated a group of ‘moe friends’ to talk about yaoi.” http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2009/Galbraith.html Moe: Exploring Virtual Potential in Post-Millennial Japan

Note that moe is an affect (a theory term version of “effect”) rather than a traditional phatic subject, like nascar racing or Star Trek. Moe is a (shared) feeling/ condition that arises from the consideration of the fujoshi/ otaku phatic object – closer to “intense wow feeling!” “that works!” or “Way Kewl!”, but limited/ bounded by the fujoshi/ otaku material under consideration. Note also that any representation as to it being a tool for ultimate truth is a mistake of the reader: social science tools are better understood as points of view or data mining algorithms; used to extract insight. They also have their own phatic characteristics (theory -moe! brain hurts!)

“When together, fujoshi persistently discuss yaoi characters and relationships until they trigger moe. One fujoshi guides others through her fantasy by teasing out a story, helping listeners understand and share a moment of revelation and pleasure. Yaoi products are thus used to re- enchant relationships. Moe is most often a reaction to characters encountered in yaoi, but even people, animals, and inanimate objects can be imagined as characters in romantic or sexual interplay.[…a few paragraphs of discussion about “queer” space skipped] Be it with characters or with one another, fujoshi experience intimacy as transgressive potential cordoned off from everyday reality. This article will examine how fujoshi produce, consume, and share yaoi in pursuit of moe and the sets of discussions and relationships that are made possible across physical and virtual fields.” (p216)

Galbraith does an excellent job of doing a fast roundup of the emergence of yaoi in Japan, though you will miss his thoroughness if you have not done a bit of reading in the field. He pretty well hits all the important bits. Ending in the mid 2000’s he defines his study subject:

“The distinction from shonen ai is conceptually important. Fujimoto Yukari has argued that “shonen ai was created to flee from various gender restrictions and sexuality taboos,” but, once the mechanism was established, it “enabled girls to ‘play sexuality’” (quoted in Aoyama 2009). Fujoshi are those who are most interested in playing sexuality, which is most possible through yaoi, since it is self-consciously defined as meaningless and set apart from reality. My definition stresses enthusiasm because the fujoshi I encountered had libraries of hundreds, even thousands, of physical yaoi books and regularly visited dozens of Web sites. My informants self-identified as fujoshi in 2006 and 2007, at the height of an emergent discourse on fujoshi. I follow my informants in using the term fujoshi because it marked associations and distinctions central to the meaning-making process explored in this article.”

Then:

“Moe is a response to fictional characters or representations of them (Galbraith 2009). It is concerned with virtual potential, not real people, and is a reaction “prior to the formation of a distinct subject or viewing position” (LaMarre 2009, 281). Moe is the goal of producing, consuming, and sharing yaoi. Focusing on moe opens a window into the ways fujoshi use yaoi to generate and share affect [note the term, emp mine]. Moe is at once the most important and the most impenetrable aspect of fujoshi activity. All my informants resisted defining the concept during formal interviews. Informants notably all described moe as something that can only be captured partially, interpreted in the moment in different ways by different people. They were sure, however, that what distinguishes a fujoshi is an interest in yaoi and a sense of moe. Informants referred to non-fujoshi as “normals” (ippanjin), and they described such women as “short on dreams and long on satisfaction” (yume nashi, kanketsu ari).

Another way to say this was that non-fujoshi are riaju, meaning “fulfilled in reality,” and often used as an insult. Sachiko said, “A normal girl has no moe,  so love is her moe. That can be satisfied in life. Fujoshi can never be satisfied because moe is completely separate from love. It’s fantasy.”

Fujoshi spoke of their “rotten filter,” which screens out the potential for heteronormative romance in their fantasy and emphasizes signs of transgressive intimacy. This fantasy provides a set of possibilities for fujoshi distinct from their everyday lives, as demonstrated by their pursuit of moe even when they had a boyfriend or husband, at times imagining their male partners in relationships with other men (see also McLelland 2001, 4). As Saito (2007) points out, the reality of heterosexual relationships and the virtual potential of homosexual couplings are separate and coexistent. Yaoi scripts (fantasy) were read across the bodies of physical partners (reality), a “meaningless” play of symbols in pursuit of moe.”

SHift POV. Those damn goggles, and the innate taste for yaoi-moe among females should not be discounted. It is real and can pop up out of nowhere to strike!

Am odd  thing happened to me recently: I was yakking with a woman who had come on-site at my workplace about nothing much, killing time before an event and the conversation between us and an intern shifted to comic books and manga. She surprised the intern by being quite knowledgeable about western comics, but professed no deep knowledge of, or interest in manga as she considered their imagery as part of what japanese females “have to put up with ever day“.

“Oh don’t worry” I mumbled, “they have their own ways of dealing with that.”

ooooops! Intern looks embarrassed; he reads manga on scanlator sites and yaoi has become so popular among western slash girls (and others) that it is crowding out the “normal” fun stuff. This piques her interest. A short clinical explanation of yaoi as woman-produced and consumed pornographic artifact in Japan follows.

Suddenly her eyes go all starburst-y!

“Holy Shit! Where can I get that ???” etc., followed by a very fervent and exuberant declaration that she would pay good money to see her boyfriend get crazy with his best friend! (Yikes!)  Well, that cat is out of the bag and Google is her best friend now. Her boyfriend is gonna have to adapt. True story! Just like a light switch snapping on! I was present at the birth of a Canadian fujoshi. Wow! and scary all at once!

Back to Galbraith:

What follows in the article are narrative testimonies and descriptions of his fujoshi acquaintances playing with yaoi moe as a social space, perhaps “queer’ in a wide definition of the term, and then experiencing some disenchantment with the hobby, as life pressures take on a bigger part of their attention. Since his correspondents were all university women, this reader can’t help think about the Genshiken, but in his example it looks like the women gradually “graduate out” of fujoshi-dom. Class-S fujoshi? FUGs? (fujoshi-until-graduation, to echo 1990’s lesbian slang?) Even then, he notes that two of them pop up again, a few years later, back in the “scene”, even while they are happily partnered up with guys.

Galbraith’s article is a fine introductory survey of the phenomena and good research material should any male mangaka want to construct a few fujoshi characters on the fly to drop into a university or even high school comedy. (it is assumed that a female mangaka could just go mingle with the real thing.) It is bound to be required reading in all manner of fujoshi studies courses, and might also relieve some of the curiosity a puzzled straight guy might feel if he runs into a nest of fearsome fujoshi. What the paper does not do is examine how strange the effect of fujoshi desire is on larger society, but given Galbraith’s interest in Otaku sociology, I can bet that more than a few follow-ups are on the way.

In the meantime, now we guys all know why certain aggregator sites are up to the brim with y/bl stuff, and won’t freak out as much when a graphic (Yikes! Gehhh!) cover pops up in front of us by accident (That kind of over-reaction makes me feel stupid and prejudiced, but that’s how I grew up, so i am working on it). And if we have to put up with strong goggle-influenced humour in our heteronormative high-school hijinx comedies, we will at least know what the heck is going on and who is being given fan-service. (It aint us, but the context is fascinating.)

tomodochi get goggles real bad web Oh brave new world that has such edgy gals in it!

Don’t freak out, you still have a chance with them, most of them at least.

How reassuring!

For a less comforting take on the same, see the earlier cited: Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend in Néojaponisme

Dude, you still need to get a good paying job!

Lets see if any of it offers a wider solution, or at least gives comfort, freedom or agency to those women in Japan (hey, the guys need some help too) who want to force some much-needed change on a society that really really needs to do some changing if it is going to maintain its standard of living. The structural problems in the Japanese economy are not going to get fixed with a simple “Cool Japan” campaign. Large sections of family law, labor law and corporate governance, as well as workplace social norms are going to have to change, if they are going to fix their economy. And every single one of these problems touches on obsolete codes of social behaviour which are currently crushing the younger generation, holding down the birth rate and family formation, and killing Japan’s GNP. Who’d have thunk that a little cronyism and machismo could bankrupt a country?

Note the last few paragraphs of this interview on contemporary feminism in Japan – the filmmaker is so pessimistic about any social progress that she is in effect leaving it to the LGBTQ community to get things rolling:

Interviewer: “Feminism has never really taken off in Japan. And women seem to lack a common platform to share their problems.”

“We don’t have opinion leaders. But while our battle for equality for women ended in defeat, what has come to our rescue is the movement by sexual minorities. Japanese society has very little know-how on redefining genders, but the LGBT movement is slowly happening here, and it offers a ray of hope.

I go to meetings of Rainbow Action (a group for sexual minorities in Japan), where they run a monthly kamo (“Maybe I’m …”) cafe. Anyone can drop by and confide issues they have, without giving their names. They can say, “Maybe I’m a lesbian,” or “Maybe I’m a girl, though I’m supposed to be a boy,” or “I think I’m gay, but I can’t tell my mom.” Or heterosexual people can also drop in and share problems, like, “I joined the company through the connection of my father, so I can’t quit even though I want to.” Nobody feels out-of-place there. It’s a really relaxing environment, where people share ideas on how they can liberate themselves from constraints of sexism. In Japan, feminism, women’s lib and men’s lib all kind of floundered. But the rainbow flag might make it.”

– Documenting the gender imbalance – TOMOKO OTAKE interviews Yu Negoro, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/life/2013/03/03/people/documenting-the-gender-imbalance/#.UVix82icWbQ

Just how revolutionary is this desire?