Wherein mixed metaphor and weeaboo Japanese collide to pick apart the ruins of Madarame’s romantic prospects. SPOILERS ENSUE
I’m cheesed off.
I didn’t think I’d be so cheesed off.
I am also cheesed off for being snookered into being cheesed off
I am cheesed off at Kio Shimoku for putting me in cheesed-off land.
That so-and-so can write.
On the surface, chapter 122 looks simple, almost sloppy. No way: it is a finely crafted little bear trap, well sprung. This one was made to take a leg off. If something is there, it is there for a reason. What I tell you three times is true and will be on the test.
I am furious.
Why so surprised when chess pieces move the only way they can move.
I am a good, right-thinking person. Why point that thing at me?
This needs to be taken apart. Examine all the sharp, shiny little pieces.
Where to start?
First, visit Ogiue Maniax for the latest corrected excerpts from the 4chan/ tumblr script for Chapter 122. Or you are reading this long after and the usual well-crafted English fan-translation is already available. I hope the scanlating crew is not mightily chuffed at all the amateur dodgy attempts that floated around. They have taken umbrage before and considering the work they put in, this is understandable. Yet the urge of the fans to find out, especially for this chapter must be equally understandable and ultimately, forgiveable. Nuance suffered, folks had their ships and their hearts broken. What did we learn from all of this? How did it play out?
Lets put this sucker up on stands and tear it apart.
Thanks for all your support
Think wayyyyy back. When Ogiue was conflicted and Sasahara was interested, the club did not impede. It supported. And it gave them room to work things out. No one piped up that if you don’t chose Ogiue, perhaps you should stop coming by the club, get a job and move away. While there definitely was a bit of “matchmaking” from Saki and Ohno, no one chased them, ogled and spotlighted them.
Although adopted enthusiastically by Hato upon joining the Genshiken, it was originally an Ogiue fantasy, as detailed in the infamous yaoi episode in the second season of the original Genshiken anime. It is, in effect the latest and last manifestation of Ogiue’s original sin and one that Ohno and the original female Genshiken crew are complicit in. ( Ch44, p27)
A crossdressing fudanshi or male fujoshi or a trans* fujoshi?
Hato Kenjiro will not be “male” in the Genshiken. The Hatos have learned from bitter experience how males are “accepted” in female-exclusive fan socials in Japan. Not! As well, Hato finds something in BL that strongly affects him and wishes to process it as close to the original as possible. The distinction would be between the theoretical scopophilic (or scoptophilic, K. Nagaike 2005) and the threat of participatory engagement in fujoshi fantasies.(1)
The male-ness of a fudanshi imposes a different calculation upon the enjoyment of fujoshi stories. His participation within a social that values exchange of these stories imposes a strong presupposition that he will share his experiences, at least in abstracted form. It would be hard for him to avoid becoming a vehicle through which the female members of the social would enjoy how their cherished scripts and tropes play out.
What do you mean by Fu-Danshi
K.Nagaike’s improbable Japanese heterosexual male BL fan aside, what exactly does the term “fudanshi” connotate on the street or in the aisles of Comiket, among Japanese fans. Is it “I’m a guy who reads BL” or is it “I’m a guy who probably is interested in guys and reads BL“? Unfortunately English language academic reports list few examples of fudanshi/ male BL fans. One mentioned in an early McLelland article (2) is nominally heterosexual. The Nagaike article that speculates as to the existence of straight fudanshi as “herbivore males” still eludes my grasp, but the summary smells fishy. Over %90 of the Japanese audience for BL and yaoi is reported to be female. The remaining %10 is a mystery but if one estimates by the two existing amateur studies, the heterosexual and asexual male readership makes up only %1-%2 of total Japanese readers. It could even be less. Noted Bara artist Tagame Gengoroh is listed as the co-author of the follow-up 2009 study and ventures therein that it would be reasonable to assume that some of the respondents who self-identified as neither “gay” or “bi” could be “closeted”, given the stigma still attached to male homosexuality in Japan.
How does this apply to Hato?
Betcha this question sounds stupid. Fer chrissakes, Dude, you are reading the gay pr0ns. You like, right? Hato always previously denied real-world same-sex interest. Fantasy is fantasy. This also added an extra plot excuse for becoming-fujoshi; the “containment field”. Maybe it is “a guy who reads BL but is too scared to really try real guys“. Who knows? The confusion is Kio Shimoku’s fault; he has gone out of his way to make Hato non-conforming to categories, even non-conforming to categories of non-conformity.
Hato’s identity: Hato.
Hato’s sexualty: Hato.
Hato’s gender expression: Hato.
“Real guys don’t do that” aside, there is always the strong suggestion that the fudanshi is adapting fujoshi stories to his same-sex desires. Whether or not to call them gay/bi/non-binary/pansexual/would-consider-romance-or-fun-with-a-male-under-certain-circumstances varies by individual social context, but in the end, yuppers, they are, as Hato is, “gay”(etc.,). At least in the eyes of the Genshiken fujoshi.
Is Hato trans*?
It is a stretch to consider Hato a “full” “conventional” transwoman. Not yet. At best, Hato is an emergent trans-fujoshi, at least; a “fujoshi world field exploration module”, an “avatar”. Hato’s denial of real-world same-sex desire leaves only the problematic “I’m not gay it is only him” canon BL pronouncement to explain his developing feelings for Madarame, as well as the confusion and conflict surrounding these. If Hato was to decide that ze was deemed male at birth with “the heart of a girl” Hato’s desires would be, after surgery and hormones, heteronormative by law if not custom in Japan. Note that the Stands, as subconscious guilt-complexes consider Hato male. If Hato was at core “female-souled” the BL shipping urges would be, as above pointless. It might work if Hato had two souls and the Stands were out to excise the “accursed remainder” but that gets too twisty-psychological to follow in a comic book story.
The older Hato variant in Spotted Flower is gender-queer but eschews a fundamentally female “core”. The idea of breaking and surpassing identity rather than fitting into one remains imperative. The goal of becoming a cross-dressing male BL mangaka is what unifies the project.
Affective and Transactional membership within a fujoshi social.
The position of a member within a fujoshi social will be a mixture of the these two concerns, as in any activity-related social. The closest studies available to mortal outsiders of such Japanese socials would be those of female executive drinking groups. (more here) Note that in one study, a member was excised from the group when her emotional neediness became a burden on the group. Friends will help to a certain degree, after which point the burden becomes too great upon the “wa” of going out and getting hammered on the weekend to de-stress.
In the case of a male fudanshi, the transactional demands would easily overwhelm the bonds of friendship. Even in the case of Hato-as-fujoshi, in full female-presenting mode, the friendships are tenuous. Yoshitake Rika values Hato as a novelty and as a pro-level producer of new and spicy smut drawings. Valuing the Hato output and advancing club interests is seen as one in the same goal. She considers a pairing between Hato and Madarame-is-a-loser as dangerous to the club and dangerous to Hato’s output (and possibly to his mental stability). Curiously, she does not see a pairing between Hato and Yajima as threatening to the club social or to Hato’s output.
Whether she sees Yajima’s layout and pacing skills as complementary to Hato’s drawing skills or whether she can approve a slightly variant heteronormative pairing, or has, even unconsciously framed Hato-chan as a virtual lesbian and slotted Hato in a neko to Yajima’s butch girl/tachi role is beside the point. Hato’s presence in a social that Yoshitake has anything to do with – and remember she is exemplar of a tendency, not it’s sole adherent – depends on a fully female-presenting Hato. Lesbian fujoshi are not a problem; they are still women and the desire discussed in the social is abstracted. “That happens in all-girl schools, no big deal.”
No Boys allowed
I had long groused about the lack of emotion and longing displayed by the supposedly crushing Hato, especially Hato-as-chan. The Niko trip chapters have whacked me upside the head for not realizing how overwhelmingly constrained Hato was when participating in the club. In rotten-girl mode Hato can do demure or can do fujoshi-overload. That’s it. Anything else risks the great project.
At Comiket, when only with Madarame, Hato could doff and don the wig as needed, otherwise Hato’s presentation becomes a straightjacket.
Comiket is “Holy Ground”; a truce operates within its boundaries.
The one time Hato ventured, in girl mode in the clubroom, to list the reasons why “loser Madarame had moe” Yoshitake’s urge to sanction the transgression was set in motion.
Hato-as-chan is so committed to her project and yet so insecure about its fragility that she can literally only discuss attraction for Madarame in the context of acted out BL tropes, of othering her his-self as exchanged fantasy. This is probably the cruelest trick of the internal consistency laid down by the author. There is absolutely no way Hato-chan could ever consider mentioning to the rest of the club that Hato spent any innocent social time with Madarame, even as Hato-as-kun just hanging out with Madarame.
Doing so would break the spell. Hato would no longer be “passing” for a fujoshi. Hato would be an odd cross-dressing gay guy with a boyfriend who needs to fit in with a club full of women.
Only in the light of the enforced girl-mode of the Niko trip does the magnitude of the cruel joke become apparent. Instead of facilitating and encouraging male:male romance, it effectively adds further levels of prohibition against it. If you date a guy -poof- you are back to being a guy and guys don’t sit well with the club as it is. Hato loses all.
I wonder if Yajima Merei now “gets it”. How does she feel about how she kept after Hato to drop the masquerade?
Fantasy as fantasy as a reactionary force.
I have previously quoted critics and essays which have echoed Saki’s chidings: the male-male desire fantasies of fujoshis do not necessarily include comfort and familiarity with real-life male gay people, let alone real-life, politicised LGBTQ+ communities. Kio Shimoku’s renderings of them echo these observations. Realistic concerns may even be seen as intrusions against the structures of these fantasies. This is in marked contrast with ‘western” slash communities that long ago adopted a more inclusive and politicised stance. After all, approximately half of slash fan readers are male, presumed in some degrees “queered”, by all extant studies available. (Pagliassotti. Aoki/Viz)
The Japanese fujoshi social is not anti-gay. It is merely real-life-gay avoiding. Males, gay or not are raw material. Gay males are still seen as males with male privilege and freedom available to them, as long as they pay token obeisance to Japanese rules of hierarchical male social organization.
Gay males who might take umbrage at their portrayal in extreme BL/yaoi narratives are a threat and a nuisance; they heckle the stories or get angry about portrayals even if no real etc., are being depicted. It is just guys asserting their male privilege, again. Password the forum, post a disclaimer and switch to silent running.
Elsewhere in Asia, fujoshi enthusiasms end up as being conflated with homosexual practice whenever a government clampdown rolls around and the fujoshi are an easy target. The distancing effect is powerful, multifaceted and hard to counteract.
As for gender-queer, gender dysphoria, non-conforming or minority gender expression, these are interesting as varieties of raw material to the fujoshi project, but any momentary real-world consensus over status, presentation, rights, etiquette, let alone “political correctness” or solidarity just gets in the way of a good hawt tale. At best, it might make for a few points of verisimilitude in a story. Why bother; it will just draw attention and bring the spotlight back on the easy female target. Progressive social movements are useless and always end in internicine mayhem, circular firing squads and clusterfuckery. Why stick your neck out? This is not relaxing. Best to avoid it all. We’re just here for the skin and the feels. Did the guys ever worry about similar concerns in their pr0n?
Note for the purposes of the Genshiken, these tendencies, remarked upon by academics and commentators are exaggerated and simplified.
Kio Shimoku does his research to create his fujoshi Genshiken but it always hews towards the larger, broad-brush tendencies within the literature.
History stalls without electricians… rusts…
For all I know, contemporary fujoshi socials in Japan liaise with LGBTQ+ groups and turn out for pride marches and the Genshiken is completely lost in the past. Perhaps there is even a gay male blogger in Japan who is rating BL tales on a scale of hateful shit to ridiculous fun to sensitively realistic and supportive, in a parallel to the great project that a certain lesbian blogger has undertaken in the west for yuri. If not perhaps there should be. Godspeed!
Such a real-life, politically engaged fujoshi group would never find itself caught in, let alone setting up a classic unwinnable Kobayashi Maru exercise.
Whereas Kio Shimoku slipped one over on us. How much of it and the extent of his purpose remains to be seen.
A test of character for the command-track candidate and the club itself. How better than to expose the weaknesses in the group?
Madarame has been constructed as being very shy around women; recovering from a 3 year fantasy crush on Saki-as-Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad; prone to fugue episodes of pre-emptive over-geeking with women he considers attractive; a mildly pervy fan of loli and now jousou/ otokonoko fantasy pornography and lately severely unmotivated, to the point of loser-dom.
Yet he does have good friends, he tries to do the right thing and his insistence on the individual right of the fan to like and enjoy what fantasies they fantasize over has built him into a figure of admiration among the Genshiken readership, and not just male readers.
It was a shock to hear Madarame described as being “wide open” and “full of openings” or unguarded. Being ungarded and open is generally considered a good thing, except when male privilege is exposed by placing a poor schlep in the sights of a male-male rape (or at best forceful seduction) fantasy.
Those “forceful” pairing conventions are sacred within parts of the fujoshi fandom. How else is a conflicted, emotionally inarticulate hunk of testosterone supposed to express societally forbidden, overwhelming, madness-inducing desire? Just don’t point that at women. Here you go Bowser, go nuts on that pant leg.
Deeds not words.
Kio also raised the ante a bit while throwing in a few blocks and dodges. Hato-as-chan is the only one of the harem-ettes to break the embargo and visit, clean and cook for an injured Madarame. (Kio you sneak: you slipped some sanitized Hurt-Comfort into the tale!) Sue appears only as chaperone. Keiko; you blew it – Keiko would never get domestic for a guy. Angela might, but we never saw any evidence of this. Only Hato “made miso soup” and cleaned up the mess.
Beautiful Fighting Girl
Too bad Hato’s Nadeshiko no Genshiken is not exactly Madarame’s favourite fantasy girl. Sue is closer to the physical form, but Saki, especially as the vengeful Chairman Ritsuko busting an upskirt creep, was closer to the ideal of a heroic female character. Do not mistake Keiko’s dismissive cynicism for an engaged heroic stance. If Hato-as-chan had presented closer to an engaged, active female character; say in a persona closer to the sassy, teasing Suruga Kanbaru of Monogatari fame; as long as Hato became flustered when confronted with the possibility of affection, Madarame would already be shacked up with Hato. Too much demure femininity triggers Madarame’s hesitancy and self-sabotage fugue reflexes.
The end result is that Madarame finds the male Hato persona far easier to talk with, to discuss any feelings that he thinks he has developed or sensed from Hato. To this end, Madarame accepts that his desire might end up being same-sex, if not “gay/queer/bi/etc.”. However the circumstances are so wildly out of normal bounds (not: Holy shit, I suddenly find guys of this type attractive!) as to be beside the point. For shy, unlucky-in-love Madarame, this is like winning an all-expense paid trip to Comiket on Mars. It is not going to happen again, so why worry about social categories.
Hato’s mistake is thinking that Madarame has fallen for Hato-as-chan and that this will be a thorny path because Hato-as-chan must be Hato-as-fujoshi and society will frown doubly on a romance with a gay fujoshi transvestite. A secondary issue also pops up, as it looks like Hato doesn’t have much experience with male friendship.
Madarame’s mistake is not seeing how intensely Hato as superficially an emerging- gay- male- fudanshi- who- crossdresses is invested in a far more complex project of becoming-fujoshi while in female- presenting mode. Mada should have made it clear that he prefers to talk with the male version; that his curiosity and interest considers the male persona dominant, or at least co-equal and that the male version is, for now who he cares to “let’s see what happens” with.
“The girl version always fans out too much. She should drop the sou-uke stuff! She makes me nervous!”
Madarame is diffuse as to his desires. He wants to “try it” and see what happens. Who is this Hato creature? How did he end up like this? What is in that BL stuff that turns his crank, that hides behind and lies beyond the weird butt-sex and dominance drawings? What really does Hato get hawt & bothered about? Will sex work? How and how much? Is it needed? Perhaps all night drinking and game-playing is a good enough consolation prize if the sex stuff proves too terrifying. Is the lad huggable? Will it feel good to be hugged? How much romance and how much bromance? Will stripesu work when they are “packed” panchu? Is there anything in all those BL stories that doesn’t have seme and uke and just has two guys that like each other? How do two guys make out, or even kiss? What happens? Questions, questions, questions.
Who knows? In fairness Kio Shimoku could have done more on these kinds of questions. He already had Madarame’s guy posse holding vigil with him after the wrist-break and discussing the hawt bits of their newest doujin score. An exploration of how and what boundaries would get pushed past with a guy who can also crossdress and “likes you that way” would be novel. Were they too far off in “No Homo, well perhaps Homo a bit, hey, but only you so far“, for Kio to manage?
But Kio can sure as all heck give the general impression that Madarame considers Hato a once in a lifetime chance to find out without taking any major hit-points.
Who says, beyond hard-core fujoshi and male ‘phobes, that a straight guy can’t have gay male friends? Get used to it. You don’t have to jump them and they don’t jump everything in pants, do they?
The easy way to find out would have had Mada and Hato-as-kun hanging out:
“Yo, Hato, why all the sempai? I know “Sempai notice me” but you are really into it. What gives?”
“Eh? long story ‘bro, gimme another beer…”
Too much to ask?
Would such an experiment have broken Madarame or Hato? I doubt it. The problem seems to lie only with the conflict set up by Hato’s project of becoming-fujoshi within the Genshiken social. The Genshiken could have not only made clear that they approve of Madarame and Hato, but demonstrated this by pulling back, making some space for the two of them, discouraging any need to for HatoMadaHato scripts, banishing the seme/uke/sou-uke as it applies to the two and made it damn clear through deeds that Hato-as-chan still has full %100 fujoshi status within the Genshiken, even as Hato-kun is hanging out with Mada on the weekend.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t run a destructive test on the participants or the group social.
For a test, we need Yoshitake Rika, the Genshiken’s own light, polite and stealthed version of Kaminaga. Not exactly Loki the cruel trickster demigod. She even means it well in her own clumsy way. And she does get off her ass and organise things. Still, her views on Hato and Madarame-is-a-loser were plainly set out. She views the pairing as potentially damaging to Hato, and to Hato’s output. And she could really ship Yajima and Hato and hope to see a rebound.
Whether or not she has voiced any more complicated concerns about Hato- as- almost- girl suddenly dropping to a glaring Hato- as- gay- guy- who- has- a- boyfriend- and- who- hangs- around- the club- in- a- wig- and- dress should have been alluded to, but lurks none the less. Such a creature could well be almost as disruptive as another Kuchiki.
When an event is put together to see Kuchiki well and truly out of the Genshiken, why not take the chance to end the harem nonsense? Especially if it resolves Hato and to a lesser extent Sue and gets Madarame and his sorry “I can’t make up my mind” ass out of the way as well.
Will Madarame nerve up to say he likes Hato or Sue? Did Yoshitake ever consciously sit down and factor the chances? Probably not. Angela and Keiko are disposable outcomes. Sue is a wild card, but is suddenly no longer antic and is being shy. It is doubtful that she could stand the spotlight of an organised public “omiai” ritual. Madarame is an indecisive coward who is stuck in “good to be king” stasis. Hato will be in pure fujoshi-girl-mode; easily flustered and/or prone to fanning out. If they really really like each other, they can bloody well prove it under the glare of the spotlights.
This should be a fun group trip. What could go wrong?
So much for a plausible motive for Yoshitake Rika. For the author, all heck is being set up to break lose. This story looks at first like it is all about Hato, but it is also about Madarame and about the Genshiken-as-character/ the “character” of the Genshiken. The chief custodian of the Genshiken is Ogiue as president. She has done wonders in upping the productive output of the club and has not fallen into the trap of the manken, by doing all of the output herself. Most of it, but not all. She can rightfully claim to have mentored and encouraged Hato, Yajima and even Sue as assistant. She has curbed her impulses towards destructive rivalry with Ohno’s formidable cosplay ancien regime; The two tendencies work well together in the current club.
But the harem problem has slipped by her. Hato’s crush is none of her business. As for Madarame, she must know in the back of her mind that she started the sou-uke thing. She has never quashed it or even properly limited it because she is guilty of it and that kind of guilt brings up terrible memories.
Please note how robust and detailed the plotting of all this is. Mere accident of Kio Shimoku’s ad-hoc plotting? I doubt it. Such attention carries with it risks and responsibilities. No one gives a flying monkey about the plot and motivation holes in UQ Holder, as long as the skin and the magic battles keep coming. Genshiken fans expect more: when something happens and happens the way it does, they impute motive. They feel shocked and even betrayed when events play out in an insensitive manner.
The stage is set. Hato and Madarame and Sue will be in the forefront. The harem is really a reluctant love triangle. Sue’s interest is late in the game and tentative. She is almost shut down by the weight of her emotions. The real action will be between Madarame and Hato. Drunken Kuchiki provides the chance for Madarame to speak freely, if hastily with the Hato he can speak freely with. He declares that he felt something from the valentine’s day chocolates and then with with Hato’s sudden disappearance.
What he hears is a surprise. Hato clearly feels something for him but is pushing him away. “I felt something too and was scared. I am not the fantasy girl you think I am. Compared to the real women interested in you, I am barely able to hold my own as female-presenting. Romance would fail. Chose someone else“.
And then he adds one little bit too much: “Oh by the way, I can only draw girls’ boy-boy porn while crossdressed“. Huh? This is all too ridiculous! Next thing you know, Mada is on top and male Hato, glowing with booze and makeup is doing his best to deny any fantasy implications of the mishap. “Sorry, you get no handful of breast. Sorry that I disappoint.” Fantasy is fantasy and reality is flat-chested and very, very composed.
And then Madarame brings up BL fantasies and Hato is lost. And Mada’s hunt mode has been flicked on. One Kuchiki bathroom run save later, Madarame is left to consider how it felt. “Holy crap, I took the initiative. Hato is actually kind of cute. Holy crap does this mean I’m gay? Maybe this is a special case because he can also be a shy, chaste otokonoko? Wait a second; there ain’t such thing as a shy, chaste otokonoko; them critters are sex-demons. Hato is a shy chaste something else that looks female. Whatever, I liked being the forceful one. No sou-uke here. Was all the sou-uke stuff so that girly-boy Hato could be sou-uke to a sou-uke? Does not compute.”
Felt good though.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, Hato’s brief foray into boy mode only served to point out how tightly he has been sewed into his girl costume for the rest of the trip. He’s sleeping in a room with two other girls, experiencing girl-talk and his cover story is that he is a full, legendary “boy born with the heart of a girl”. Do not break cover. Maintain fujoshi mode at all costs. No slip ups or wig removings allowed. The great project is on the line. All fujoshi, all rotten, all the time.
Only briefly in male attire did he get a chance to marvel that he “was taken seriously” while walking back to Yajima’s house. That part must remain sealed away the next day.
At the temple in Niko, Hato and Madarame can talk for a few moments. Perhaps it would have gone down somewhat the same way without Keiko goading and stirring the pot. Except that Hato is now reeling from realizing that Yajima has developed a crush on (must be) him-as-him. And that ze has thrown the one thing that Keiko cannot process, Madarame interested in him-as-a-guy in her face.
Face to face with Madarame, Hato manages to get out one subtextual bit of “context” or warning. When presenting as female, Hato must devote complete attention to staying in character and avoiding any mistakes that would break the illusion of female presentation. And that means fujoshi presentation as well.
Then after the “thrill of the forbidden” misstep, and some encouragement by Ogiue, Madarame is back for the mandatory thorny path warning. Then Hato fans out as only Hato the fujoshi can. MadaHato, HatoMada, seme, uke, sou-uke. Perhaps Hato is dead sure that Madarame is crushing on girl-Hato. Perhaps Hato is very scared of real male-male intimacy. Perhap Hato feels comfortable enough around Mada the uber-fan to let loose. Or all of these and none. But Hato is still locked into the absolute need to discuss any future relationship in full-metal fujoshi mode. Hato has accepted the stands into her, but here and now they own her tongue. Hato cannot say “I like you.”
Despite all this, Madarame is surprisingly considerate and reassuring. He does not make any promises of soul-mate-ry for life, but neither does he make fun of what clearly makes him uncomfortable. He does not act blunt and dismiss Hato’s fujoshi-voiced desires.(3)
Thank goodness he didn’t. Turns out they had an audience. Even that does not deter Madarame.
This is great buildup. Madarame is treating his desire seriously, even if it is same-sex desire. He is treating Hato’s conflicted feelings seriously. He is also worried about hurting Sue and letting Keiko and Angela down respectfully. He knows that things are getting weird in the group and its “wa” is under threat.
Then something happens offstage and it all turns into shit.
Madarame is overwhelmed. He refuses to announce his decision. His mind plays out the next day; when he has chosen Hato-as-chan and he is left in a cold sweat. He asks if there are any group thoughts on the situation. Did he really want them to decide for him or was he seeking to gauge if there was any consensus on who would be the most suitable choice? Was it only to take that into consideration as he plotted how to how to finesse his decision? Did he already realise that the situation was out of control and unwinnable unless he jumped on the grenade? Choose one, three will be miffed. Choose Hato or Sue and the spotlights will incinerate them.
Angela was always scary and impractical: the language barrier was too much, even putting aside the long-distance problem. Keiko was always out. Sex at the cost of being made to feel like shit continuously. Banter with The Adversary is fun; the morning after you wake up in hell.
If you decide that you are forced to deny any chance at love, must you spell out the true reasons in excruciating detail or can you just give the unforgiving crowd what they will accept and what they deserve?
Angela; “you are too much of a sex bomb for me, and too far away.” Keiko; “you are so goddess-like that you bring back painful memories of Saki”. Sue; (between you and me, you see how hostile this place is to any love, let alone what I was considering, please do me a favour and go along with this excuse:) “I like it better when you are pestering Ogiue with fakee-lesbian attention. it’s fun and hawt.” Sue takes the hint and runs with it.
Now that we have made same-sex desire an abstract, not-serious issue we can finesse Hato. Isn’t dating a guy too stressful? (on the other club members’ maturity levels? good job, not Ogiue – enjoy your Sue!) Hato should be free to pursue (the project of becoming-fujoshi which I will not burn to these children, I’ll just call it ) being a cross-dressing fudanshi (and fudanshi means likes the idea of same-sex romance, may or may not be up to it in real life) without having to suffer (this nonsense).
“I now take my leave. Your win Yoshitake-san, enjoy.”
(“The more sensitive among you, once you digest it, might get the motive and the subtext of my excuses. Thanks for all the help, oh club of fans who will dream of queer romance but trample any real manifestations of it.“)
“Oh Shit, not Kuchiki!” Gehhhhhhhh! Phhhtt! Phhhhtttt!
“Guess he bought the story.”
Or Madarame just sputtered “Hah-hah I was just joking” gibberish to get out of a jam and then Kio had Kuchiki drive home the point. Released on the Easter weekend by chance. Thank goodness Japanese folks don’t understand Easter and the fuss surrounding the whole passion thing or there would have been roosters crowing.(4)
Fans who cared deeply about the emerging, fierce individualised queer-ness of Hato and the long slow build-up of Madarame accepting that there was something between them recoiled at the crudeness of the Hah hah hah, No Homo vibe that came out of nowhere like a slap in the face.
And it hit me too. I was really surprised how it hit me. It took a while, and the testimony of concerned fans to process the depths of why the fail shook me. Even if you don’t think that Hato was right for Madarame, you don’t shit in people’s corn flakes, repeatedly. …Just because you can and it is an easy gag ending to the harem arc. Even to do so to hammer home a point about how your fictional fujoshi social is unworldly didn’t need three bowls of shit-flakes.
Unless we were supposed to taste the shit in the subtext.
Madarame did win a few maturity points from this bruising exercise. He is little more confident around women he is interested in and he can control his impulse to self-sabotage. If anything, he has seen how tragic such impulses can be. He was not afraid to think of dating a guy, even though he never felt he wanted to before; he did not go into “gay panic“. He took his desires seriously. He could politely pursue, even manage some polite “forceful” behaviour, which is expected of courting Japanese manly males.
He has lost once more on the fields of love but he is not defeated. And he has learned a lot about the need to keep one’s affairs of the heart private. He does not have to be forced into a relationship, he retains the agency to decide and to reject easy, yet problematic opportunities. He may empathise too much, as an excuse to avoid troublesome situations – he will have to learn that sharing one’s heart with another will always be complicated and fraught with the possibility of hurt – but the impulse is better than pure horn-dawg “gimme naow!“.
However he did let himself be bamboozled into losing the chance to explore with afforded respect and privacy what would have happened, not just with Hato, but with Sue and even Angela. His fault for going along with the much-too-public harem omiai set-up.
What of Madarame and Hato?
Even now, while I have difficulty seeing a fluffy vanilla BL romance happen easily and naturally between Hato and Madarame, goddammit they should have had a chance to fuck up properly trying! How does a straight guy navigate friendship and maybe a little bit or a lot more with a gay or non-binary or queer male friend? Maybe that’s a story that Kio Shimoku wanted to tell, but couldn’t. And he couldn’t let them bumble off into the sunset.
Anything could have happened.
Everything was prevented.
Plenty of old-school guy fans are uncomfortable with Madarame “going over to the dark side” and make a big fuss over what never threatened male status and privilege in earlier eras. I wonder who and what has jerked their puppet strings. Probably nothing more than a bunch of other schoolyard losers yelling “fag”. A serious 1950’s “beat” or 60’s guy-o-the-world wouldn’t give that kind of chickenshit a second thought. “Part of the road, enjoy the journey… At least it was real.”
Worse, they don’t have the time or curiosity to see the critique and examination of a female fandom as a logical extension of the critique and examination of the male fandom that the original Genshiken was. They see only Hato, the “annoying trap” flailing around, freak out and miss the nuance; the valid observations of female fan productivity (yo, dudes, aside from trolling 4chan, what the fuck does the reactionary male fandom produce? As in make? Like, uh, stuff?), gained at the price of the range of interests; not much gaming and model making or fan- reviewing in the new club – only cosplay defends the earlier multi-modality of the Genshiken.
They also miss the biting critique of the isolationist tendencies in the fujoshi homosocial as well as the part of that critique that has just played out to bitter disappointment among the western fans closest in approximation and outlook to the fujoshi members.
It is a crying shame that chapter 122 hit the diaspora Hato-supporting fandom so hard; they have struggled to put their early isolationist impulses behind them. The troll brigade hates them not only for their “queer” but for their social engagement. Fuck the troll brigade; the only author they respect is Ayn the Reaver and her petulant, narcissistic cant. Reavers make lousy fans.
The Doctrine of Authenticity was, for brief time being effortlessly honored in the Genshiken. If Madarame could convincingly be portrayed as being interested, then he should have had the in-story freedom to do so. If Hato, for all his confusion dared put at risk his single minded project to become a fujoshi in a fujoshi social because he and she started to feel something they couldn’t understand toward Madarame, would the ‘verse have imploded because of this slight glitch in sexualities and gender roles? It looks like they never were taken seriously enough to have the in-story free will to try. The hammer came down and decreed that that kind of feeling is too complicated or too troublesome or can be papered over as a joke.
And the Genshiken, the club that would not betray its members, as Ogiue’s high school friends betrayed her, as the University manga (manken) club betrayed her, as Hato’s high school art club betrayed him, failed. Failed miserably, tittering and tee-hee-ing over the small chance that two guys might feel something for each other, even if it only turned out to be friendship, in in-verse “real” life.(5)
The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a fictional test of character in the face of certain destruction.
The Genshiken; Ogiue and Ohno as executive officers, Yajima and Yoshitake as bridge crew and the rest of the assembled members performed below expectation. Hato was the sacrificial hostage, the eponymous damaged ship. Madarame’s performance was nuanced; on the surface shockingly below expectations, even if his excuse to Hato can be translated and subtext-read as “I only want you to be able to have a trouble-free love that leaves room for you to pursue your great project.” The Sue bullshit excuse either damned his performance or telegraphed that he considered the rest of the club the enemy within. And Kio’s framing the entire night, with Kuchiki breaking the tension but reinforcing the dismissive mood, walks the same dangerous knife-edge.
Chapter 122 was meant to question whether or not the club was truly as accepting and safe as it should be or claimed to be. What instead went down looked to many as small and ugly.
(1) It is a position beyond that of a male yuri fan. The most I can so “participate” is as fantasy, manga or anime voyeurism, making note of a few tips regarding foreplay and perhaps absorbing some of the ambience surrounding the romantic melodrama of the stories. Unlike the fujoshi experience however, yuri works better for me when written by a tojisha author. The fujoshi artifact has yet to evolve to the point where many gay male authors are successfully melding realism about gay male behaviour with the female “feels’ and interpersonal character dynamics/ drama that fujoshi readers prize.
This distinction is not that important; the fujoshi project has other aims. Contrast to realistic lesbian identity graphic novels in the west to yuri.
“One high-school boy says that “It’s not that I’m gay”…. He goes on to say that he and a group of two or three girls buy these magazines and share them. The girls ask him “Ma-kun [his name], how about turning gay (homo ni nachaeba?)”, to which he replies “they say such irresponsible things but, basically, if it’s beautiful then either is OK,” a statement which is followed by the character warai, signifying laughter (presumably the speaker is suggesting an ironic stance to his last statement).
Males who read such fiction, he observes, do so in a context which brings them into proximity with women (as in the reading circle described above). These men are exposed to very different constructions of masculinity than those they would find in a reading circle comprised of other men. Moreover, the images of masculinity present in shōnen’ai fiction are obviously attractive to many women, so a man who is sexually attracted to women, may, either consciously or unconsciously, seek to cultivate them.”
Male Homosexuality in Modern Japan: Cultural Myths and Social Realities p.246 Notes [https://books.google.ca/books?id=5SssBgAAQBAJ&pg=PA246&lpg=PA246#v=onepage&q&f=false]
More on the idea of the straight Japanese fudanshi would be more readily available if the Nagaike article was not locked down behind academic paywalls. The Google Books excerpt seems to indicate that the actual study of Fudanshi was done by a japanese aca-fan in 2008-2009. Approximately %20 of the respondents identified as “straight” or “asexual”; which would mean they comprise appx. %2 of all BL readers. Nagaike seems to impose a reading of “herbivore men” on the practice and -to my mind, distressingly – follows up on Dr. Saito Tamaki’s excursion into shota, which she does not differentiate the otokonoko/jousou genre from.
Do Heterosexual Men Dream of Homosexual Men?: BL Fudanshi and Discourse on Male Feminization by Kazumi Nagaike pp. 189-209 IN: Boys Love Manga and Beyond History, Culture, and Community in Japan, edited by Mark McLelland, Kazumi Nagaike, Katsuhiko Suganuma, and James Welker (2015) Citation: https://muse.jhu.edu/books/9781626740662
Excerpt at: https://books.google.ca/books?id=QAIbBwAAQBAJ&lpg=PT235&ots=IEOdW_57SF&dq=Do%20Heterosexual%20Men%20Dream%20of%20Homosexual%20Men%3F%3A%20BL%20Fudanshi%20and%20Discourse%20on%20Male%20Feminization%20by%20Kazumi%20Nagaike&pg=PT235#v=onepage&q&f=false
I would not be surprised if Kio Shimoku has his mitts on the Japanese study.
The rest of us will have to wait until someone translates:
Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.
Note that the 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
Note that for both studies, sample sizes ran to 100-110 respondents. Finally, there is one further avenue for situating a Japanese male in somewhat sympathetic relation to the BL genre, without necessarily positing a fudanshi:
As a Cosplayer: if you cosplay bishies, you are going to be up to your neck in subtext.
As well, the urge to provide a bit of fan-service to female supporters must be extremely strong. As in cross-play, it would be clumsy to impute sexuality to the participants without first-person testimony and survey data.
(3) Perhaps Mada should have just came out and said: “Isn’t it a little early for pillow talk? Sorry lambchop, I don’t put out on the first date… ” But camp impulses aside, not going there was a real good idea. Hato was convinced that Mada saw him as some fantasy, and not as “just a guy”. The only other odd thing that does not fit was Yajima encouraging Hato to bring up HatoMada when Hato met Mada later. I can’t believe that Yajima was calculatingly trying to sabotage the meet. More of an “authenticity” issue I guess. I doubt that Hato needed he permission, but the reminder was there.
(4) Btw; never never mention to a famous American crime reporter in Japan the parallels between the Christian Harrowing of Hell subtext in the Easter story and the Buddhist “Ksitigarbha/Jizō Bosatsu” vow of forgoing Buddha-hood “until the hells are empty“. The tale predates the xtian mythos and is an obvious influence. Maybe it has some other local meaning in his situation – he’s known to be in a long fight with a very persistant troll, but he blocked me on Twitter for mentioning it. Come to think of it he blocked another twitter account of mine last year. What the heck did I do wrong? I give up!
(5) LATER: Another thing that really bugs me. The great harem ending works against the “Helmut” option. Honestly, these two losers need to to be friends more than they need to fumble with each other…
“Friendship is far more tragic than love. It lasts longer.”
— Slavoj Zizek