Absent thee from…

I have too many responsibilities suddenly and the higher powers are getting rather tense. Not much time for posts…

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But lookie what I found on Tumblr!

Longtime tumblr-blogging Genshiken fan Wildgoosery had taken a hiatus after the harem train wreck ending. Now they are back with a long, multi-part, illustrated summation of the entire HatoMadaHato thang. Nine Eleven NINETEEN posts and counting!

It is EPIC! Thank You Wildgoosery!

For Great Justice Go Read It Naow.  

Start here:
http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/146945645973/the-hatomada-project-part-1

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Chapter 122: Kobayashi Maru Jigoku Omiai

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

I’m cheesed off.

I didn’t think I’d be so cheesed off.

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

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

That so-and-so can write.

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

I am furious.

Deep breath!

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

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

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

Where to start?

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

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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.

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Madarame Sou-uke.

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

Fantasy as fantasy as a reactionary force.

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

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

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

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

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

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

History stalls without electricians… rusts…

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

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

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

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

Wither Madarame?

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

Then something happens offstage and it all turns into shit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess he bought the story.

kkobayashi-redux-web.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What of Madarame and Hato?

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

Anything could have happened.

Everything was prevented.

talking c100p13.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

Original sin Ch4419.jpg

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

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

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

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

 

 

Endnotes:

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

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

(2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Talk Talk

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

Kio Shimoku, Madarame & Hato vs Akio Nakamori

Meanwhile, one more backgrounder thought about Madarame and Hato, in the wake of the suspense over Chapter 120 and beyond.

What if one of the meta-reasons for Madarame’s gradual, growing attraction to Hato Kenjiro, even for Hato’s existence was Kio Shimoku’s response to a decades-old torrent of ridicule directed at manga fans by the man who coined the term “2D complex” and first used “otaku” as a pejorative against them?

Akio Nakamori’s second article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko (see Galbraith below) asked: “Do Otaku love like normal people?”

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

103failed men bulg web

Read the nasty origins of Madarame’s 2D forever complex for yourself, in: “Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith  www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men

Oh snap! That’s inconsiderate towards those who read Hato as a trans-person. Kio Shimoku goes out of his way to make Hato blurt out Otoko otoko otoko every so often to muddy the waters. Read the article and think of Madarame and his character development, stretching back to chapter one of the Genshiken.

Long game Shimoku-sensei, long game…

 

PROGRAM NOTE: Please check out the previous post, including the comments. It has been updated and added to; on January 30, 2016, (and again, more on Feb 01, soooo tired!) to more fully thrash out wither MadaHato. Lots more mulling over it all. Don’t be shy, please read and weigh in! Fan-mind assemble!

Hello Kitty guitar ftw!

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man still only has one eye. He does not necessarily get to be King.”

It is disconcerting to run up against one’s own blind spots. The natural reaction is to dismiss what one cannot fathom: just because other folks can see something in the mist doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be interesting or useful for me. Here in meatspace, I just spent a few evenings watching world-class experimental films and for the most part, even though I have a strong background in the fine arts and a wide range of interests I must confess to Idongettitt for the overwhelming majority of the offerings I watched. It’s just me. Fortunately I know enough about the condition of being bemused to realize that there is usually a huge, lurking body of knowledge, of prior work and “lore” that I have no idea about and which forms the context in which the works I sat through, some boring, some fiercely opaque, that if I knew might redeem the evenings’ experience for me. Or not…

If I knew more, I would probably be in a rapturous state for having discovered one of two amazing new things. I suspect I would still be cranky and dismissive about a few others; I have used the “repeats over and over and over for far too long to prove that it is serious art” trick a few times myself. Sorry, not buying it. On the other hand, I know that I am biased towards words and narrative; some of the works that I found, subjectively the most annoying must be pure eye candy to folks with a strong visual bias; which is something to remember if I am going to spout off about Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture.

I should pay more attention to the pictures, and to the stuff that is going on offstage in the dressing room.

With this is mind, here is a round-up of neat miscellaneous stuff that I have run into lately, that ended up in the “never looked at it like that before” pile.

Alice +rabbit

I have previously noted Masafumi Monden’s short essay: “Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach”  [https://www.academia.edu/11361844/Sh%C5%8Djo_Manga_Research_The_Legacy_of_Women_Critics_and_Their_Gender-Based_Approach]
Reading more of his work on the Alice and Lolita fashion in CJVC reminded me that I had been doing a lot of looking,but not enough observing. Monden’s work comes from a background of design and fashion studies; which sounds pretty “out there” if your hobby is throwing light critical theory at manga to see what sticks. The above essay went on to make a case for shojo ballet manga as far more common and as deserving of attention in the study of shojo manga as gender non-conforming girl princes. Then you stumble on to something like his “Being Alice in Japan: performing a cute, ‘girlish’ revolt
[https://www.academia.edu/7036962/Being_Alice_in_Japan_performing_a_cute_girlish_revolt] (You really need to reg up an Academia.edu account, it’s a free and easy way to sneak around a few academic pay-walls) and the executive summaries “A Gentle Kind of Revolt: Cute (Kawaii) Fashion and Japanese Music-video Appropriations of ‘Alice” 
[https://www.academia.edu/1684744/A_Gentle_Kind_of_Revolt_Cute_Kawaii_Fashion_and_Japanese_Music-video_Appropriations_of_Alice_ ] and “Lace Dress of Liberty: (Re)appraising Decorative Femininity through Kamikaze Girls [https://www.academia.edu/1678109/Lace_Dress_of_Liberty_Re_appraising_Decorative_Femininity_through_Kamikaze_Girls ]  that help to fill in some of the meaning that is invoked when a certain character type is presented in CJVC. Who’d have thought that Alice in Wonderland was such a big thing in Japan, or that its legacy is one of appropriation and localization:

“Lewis Carroll’s two books featuring Alice have had a strong presence in Japan since the first Japanese translation of Through the Looking-Glass in the late nineteenth century. It started with Hasegawa Ten’kei’s Mirror World (Kagami sekai), a sequential novel in eight episodes published in Youth’s World (Shonen sekai), a magazine for boys, throughout 1899. In Hasegawa’s version, the name of the heroine was changed from Alice to the more Japanese Mie, and the story was more an adaptation than a direct translation (Kawato 2000). Under the pseudonym of Sumako, Nagayo Shizuo published possibly the first translation of Alice’s adventures in wonderland in the newly created girl’s magazine Girls’ Friend (Shojo no tomo) in 1908. While using the name of Alice, the story was again more like Nagayo’s adapted story rather than a direct translation of Carroll’s book (Kawato 2000). Maruyama Eikan’s Fantastic Tales of Ai (Ai-chan no yume monogatari), published in 1910 by Naigai shuppan kyokai, is said to have been the first complete translation of Alice. This 209-page book with Tenniel’s illustrations, where the heroine is called Ai instead of Alice, indicates the difficulty of fully translating Carroll’s word play and puns into Japanese. This might have been one reason why Hasegawa and Nagayo focused on harmless, fantastic aspects of Carroll’s novels (Kawato 2000) rather than their darker nuances. Nonetheless, the Japanese literary world’s fascination with Alice has continued, and nearly 200 editions of Japanese Alice and Looking-glass (including reissues) have been published between 1908 and 2004 (Sakakibara n.d). The current popularity of Alice is largely thanks to Sir John Tenniel’s celebrated illustrations (1865 and 1872) and Walt Disney’s now classic film Alice in wonderland (1951), which was first released in Japan in 1952.”
– Monden, Being Alice in Japan, etc., Ibid.

Also of note is his short examination of what happens when it spreads, as fashion without the context to the rest of the world: “Transcultural Flow of Demure Aesthetics: Examining Cultural Globalisation through Gothic & Lolita Fashion” [ https://www.academia.edu/407714/Transcultural_Flow_of_Demure_Aesthetics_Examining_Cultural_Globalisation_Through_Gothic_and_Lolita_Fashion]

Monden is interested in some of the shojo heroine types that don’t usually get coverage in crit-space. The thing about Alice is that Wonderland does not faze her. A normal person would freak out. The place is weird and dangerous but Alice spends most of her time either distanced or annoyed. The Alice figure becomes a liminal almost-super-girl, who is a spectator but not a participant in the “economics” of conventional female roles. She doesn’t have to be a child or a potential sex-prize, or responsible good-wife/ wise mother in training. She stands outside of these roles and their functional imperatives and therefore outside of mortal time. And she is ever ready to throw all the cards up into the air.

An entire slew of ageless hidden high school principals, bratty loli vampires and death god’s apostles, as well as the laconic female lead of the Ouran Host Club all trace their descent from Alice. I should have paid more attention to the ruffles. There was a hint of this in “Girliness Next to Godliness: Lolita Fandom as Sacred Criminality in the Novels of Takemoto Novala” by Brian Bergstrom, in  Mechademia 6: User Enhanced (2011)
[https://www.academia.edu/4453047/_Girliness_Next_to_Godliness_Lolita_Fandom_as_Sacred_Criminality_in_the_Novels_of_Takemoto_Novala_Mechademia_6_User_Enhanced_2011]

…but it gets lost in the fireworks:

“As the story ends, the protagonist imagines fulfilling Mishin’s request that she use her Hello Kitty guitar to bludgeon him to death on stage during Ryūnosuke’s memorial concert the next day:

I’ll do it. Even if your survival instinct kicks in as I start to hit you and you try to run away, even if you tell me you didn’t mean it, tell me to stop, tell me not to kill you, I’ll keep my word. I will beat you to death with my Hello Kitty guitar. I’ll keep hitting you in front of all those people without a second thought, until your skull is in pieces, until I’m bathed in your blood. With these hands, I’ll make you eternal.”
-Ibid Bergstrom

Another of my blind spots centers around the problematics of performance and performative analysis. I’m not a theater person, performance art is mostly a “meh!” to me (I have done the usual readings because of the Fine Arts thing, but still… whatever!”). Cosplay is fun enough, but let’s not get too obsessed over it – I am old enough to remember it as little more than the prelude to all-night scifi convention piss-ups. Maybe the new iteration radically changes something.

Oh, lookie, an essay on Western M2F crossplayers:

“Good crossplay reveals the pure love for an anime character […] that is at the heart of all cosplay, regardless of the gender of [the] cosplayer or the character being cosplayed. In my perspective, it takes a real man to dress like a 10-year-old girl.”

“Traditional societal perceptions of gender are no fun anyway. I can’t fire, earth, water or air bend so I Gender Bend.”
– Gender, Sexuality, and Cosplay: A Case Study of Male-to-Female Crossplay by Rachel Leng [http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:13481274]

What? no coverage of F2M crossplayers? [ Later: the Fandom Unbound anthology mentioned below has a section on cosplay that ventues some interesting ideas about crossovers between female cosplayers, sepc. those into F2M crossplay and rotten girls – must review soon ] The more important theme that emerges from the essay is the notion that the internal codes of cosplaying provide a space wherein a certain degree of gender-play can occur for straight guys without getting into any of the more problematic issues of sexuality or their fundamental gender expression. The author references the Japanese kabuki tradition and offers a few tentative speculations about “carnival”-esque spaces;

“In many ways, cosplay performances demonstrate a form of 2.5 dimensional space where the boundary between reality and fiction is transgressed (Saito, 2007). Within this space of potentiality, crossplay epitomizes how cosplayers find pleasure in straddling layers between the fictive and real worlds to explore the virtual potential of sexuality. M2F crossplay thus problematizes how people see themselves as female or male, or how maleness and femaleness are attributed to others, but at the same time, presents itself as a high art form that distills the essence of cosplay fandom. Ultimately, what this paper suggests is that we should think of crossplay as more than an entertainment medium, as more than a mere act of parody. M2F crossplay deserves critical attention as an individual‟s artistic expression of performative fan identity with broader meanings for human action in relation to gender and sexuality.”
– Leng, ibid

The Kabuki reference deserved more consideration, but of course, these are western cos/cross players being considered. A wider “theatricality” POV might lead to an expanded mode of analysis. One of the classic dismissals of Japanese fen yaoi/BL practice, including its prodigious secondary production output, is that it is “just girls playing with dolls“.

“…as Francesca Coppa (2006) pointed out, even engaging in a textual practice like fan fiction is more like directing a theatrical production than authoring a text, as these stories “direct bodies in space” using fans’ shared knowledge of a canon text’s “sets and wardrobes, of the actors’ bodies, smiles, and movements.”
– Bound princes and monogamy warnings: Harry Potter, slash, and queer performance in LiveJournal communities” by Darlene Hampton [ http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/609/500 ]

The interests of the article’s author are clear and nailed to the mast, so a slight overload of queer theory rah-rah-rah is inevitable, (along with the usual later hedging of all bets by expanding the definition of “queer” so wide as to include everyone and everything but married Mormon missionaries) but the overall approach is interesting and could carry over to fannish secondary production (or transformative works, as the journal prefers) in general, including Japanese manifestations.

Right from the start, such an approach can pull a Captain Obvious and note that when a fan fic or dojin swipes a work’s characters, it almost always also swipes the scenery, location, background, setting and so forth. This matters, because it also can be messed with or left intact to heighten the feeling of appropriated authenticity. Another interesting tack comes from the performative nature of the anonymous creative interaction that develops as the work is group edited and discussed (perhaps less so in dojin production and more so in online fic editing) as well as in the presentation of individuals as actors within the online fan community.

4.44] Anonymous: Uh, there IS supposed to be a plot in here somewhere, right? Or is this just chapter after chapter of fucking? I mean, there’s nothing inherently wrong about chapter after chapter of fucking. It’s just that I thought somewhere in here there would be a plot, much like what would happen if J.K. wrote HBP differently…as, I may mention, it is advertized [sic] as such in the header text… This DID get an award of some kind. Makes me wonder if it wasn’t just a popularity contest instead. Think I might stop reading here, giving this a definite thumbs-down. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

[4.45] SP responds in kind:

[4.46] It is not usually my policy to reply to rudely-worded anonymous comments. Yet, I have decided to reply here to save the annoyance of other such folks in the future. First, the story is clearly labeled as “smut” and contains quite a lot of graphic sex scenes. I think, overall, that is about half the story. If these offend or bore you, please go elsewhere. No sense wasting your time or bothering us with complaints about the amount of sex in the story. (LJ, October 13, 2007)

Someone is going to get a PhD if they can drag Japanese theater practice into an analysis of dojinshi plotting and/or “stage-ing” (those Hato-ish mise-en-clench scenes) and production rituals. Given the strong feedback loops between producer and fan/consumer in CJVC and the everything-refers-to-everything-else trope call-out overloads (crit speak: intertextuality) swiping a few tools from theater theory might also provide new insights and help illuminate some aspects of the ecology of manga, anime and game etc production going on in Japan today. Or we can go back a bit in time. See further on in this post for the Sabu & Ichi anime revival, watch a few and enjoy the faux sume-e ink-work conceit.

Another way of looking at Our Fave Stuff is to look at what falls just a bit beyond the pale. I know that there are serious otaku and fujoshi who also obsess over live-action daytime J-dramas (or K-dramas) but some things like Idols or Visual Kei  are thought of as too low to warrant serious consideration. The otaku-y stuff is where you run to, to escape the idols, the Visual Kei, the Oricon J-Pop machine fodder and the rest of the sad, mechanistic sold-out, commodified, exploitative pap that the corporate media cloud in Japan pushes on a numbed populace.

Interesting then how one of the big names in otaku-ology has co-authored a study on Idols.

Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture”, has its intro chapter available for perusal, see: “Introduction: The Mirror of Idols and Celebrity” by Patrick W. Galbraith and Jason G. Karlin
[https://www.academia.edu/4075854/Introduction_The_Mirror_of_Idols_and_Celebrity]

Echoes of the debased miserable industry practices surrounding fully commodified mass culture artifacts popped up before, for instance in the masterful “Interview with an ex-Visual Kei record executive” at the Tokyo Damage Report blog  [http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2010/03/01/interview-with-an-ex-visual-kei-record-executive/]  and the follow up: “visual kei fallout” post. [ http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2010/03/07/visual-kei-fallout/]

Otaku as well as Fujoshi are considered social pariahs? More likely they are considered troublesome because they resist obeying and spending like proper regimented Japanese “fans”. Sure they blow their money on weird fetishistic junk, but they are nowhere near as sheep-like as “proper” fans. They are experts, connoisseurs, fickle as heck and prone to ripping the shit off and making their own fun light pr0n out of it too. More study of the Galbraith/ Karlin book is indicated (must find copy cheap) but I suspect that the amount of secondary production/ transformative (and appropriative “parody” work) that goes on over AKB48 pales in comparison to what rotten girls do to basketball manga.

After reading the above introductory chapter and the TDR post on Visual Kei the antics of the Genshiken gang seem mild-mannered.

And while I am dredging up theory-ish readings, I must note that the 2012
Fandom Unbound, Otaku Culture in a Connected World“, edited by Mizuko Ito, Daisuke Okabe and Izumi Tsuji, Yale University Press, 2012 [ http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npk9q ] finally found its way into my hot little mittens. This will probably need a post of two of its own, but looks fascinating, if only because English-language otaku-ology gets bubbled in by the un-availability of original Japanese research. I went hunting after it after reading a considered review by Dr. Nele Noppe in a recent TWC volume [http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/627/505] (see also her blog)

Read the intro here: [ http://web.mit.edu/condry/Public/jing-articles/Ito12FandomUnboundOtaku-Intro.pdf ]

That’s enough theory-ness, time for some fun!

“Kobayashi lives alone in an apartment, until one day, Tooru appeared and they ended up living together. Tooru looks down on humans as inferior and foolish. But having been saved by Kobayashi-san, she does everything she can to repay the debt and help her with various things, although not everything goes according to plan. A mythical everyday life comedy about a hard-working office lady living with a dragon girl.”

Kobayashi-san Chi no Maid Dragon by Cool-Kyou-Sinnjya
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=98577
The mangaka, : https://www.mangaupdates.com/authors.html?id=17274

This one is under the protection of the gods of small things:
maid dragon

Take your usual quirky freeloader harem set-up, remove the average guy and sub in a harried woman engineer/ tech worker.  Like the guy lead she replaces she is a closet otaku; her only fun is talking about maids and loli charas with a buddy from work and getting pissed out of her gourd after work on weekends.  If she ever had a sexuality it is dormant. Her coworkers consider her an honorary male. She dresses like any other techie in the IT department.  Then a dragon gets a crush on her and moves in. The dragon can shape shift to almost-human female form so the freeloader ends up dressing as a maid, with an occasional alligator-ish tail hanging out behind her. Cooking and cleaning gags ensue. Not a lot of service; even after a few more shape-shifting female supernatural critters begin to sniff around at Kobayashi-san. The “now I’ll wash your back” joke is about as steamy as it gets and is really sweet. This isn’t after-thought yuri; it is more like after-thought josei-dragon-ai, but goes on to prove that you can just do a teeny bit of genderswap and make a tired old cliché fresh again.

LATER: I have run into a description of a much earlier dragon-girl x human girl yuri-ish tale, (haven’t found it yet) that was more “traditional” in the sense that it ended unhappily for the pairing. In that too much pre-2005, even pre-2010 yuri ended with an almost comic-code ‘lesbiancy=unhappy ending’ this could be considered not just an update but a long-overdue update & correction, almost a ret-con. I am a fan of happy endings. Dreams are sacred. Good Job! 

Mono no aware:

“The series follows the adventures of Sabu, a young Edo bakufu investigator traveling with the blind master swordsman Ichi. In their travels, they assist the common people in solving mysteries and righting wrongs (usually committed by bandits or corrupt officials). Sabu is engaged to Midori, the daughter of his boss, who works as a police officer for the Tokugawa shogunate.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabu_to_Ichi_Torimono_Hikae

Forty five years later, it still holds up. Someone grabbed the DVD re-issue of the episodes and now it is being fan-subbed and made available “by fans and for fans” . Sabu to Ichi Torimono Hikae / Sabu & Ichi’s Arrest Warrant / 佐武と市捕物控 originally aired from Oct 3, 1968 to Sep 24, 1969. As with the famous manga that it was based upon, the attraction lies in the way the mangaka and the anime studio adapted edo era graphic conceits to 1960’s printing and animation constraints. The manga was always known for its intricate scenery panels. The anime uses a lot of ink-wash tricks and still-action staging, which was a real neat way of keeping production costs in check while pumping the “edo” atmosphere to 11. Even though the anime is in 4:3 and black and white, the grim life is hard and fleeting mood of the manga, as well as some of the bloody and violent true crime sensationalism and Gekiga  social commentary impulses come through.

How to adapt and how not to adapt:

Jitsu wa Watashi wa [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jitsu_wa_Watashi_wa]
has been turned into an anime and is up on Crunchyroll as “Actually, I Am
[http://www.crunchyroll.com/actually-i-am]

I am surprised; the animators did not butcher it. There is a bit more fan-service and rude hijinks, but it stays close to the good-heartedness of the original. The main character’s male friends get a bit more screen time then in the manga. The OP and ED music is meh, but I liek it!

What a cute couple!

Over at certain “less official” anime streaming sites, the anime adaptation of Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri is into five episodes and it is disappointing on so many levels. The manga isn’t afraid to stick its neo-colonialist, military fan-boy snout into the gore trough, as well as raiding the otaku prop and character cabinet. The anime, by contrast is half-assed even about this.

Plus they got rid of/ completely changed and moe-fied the tough female soldier in Itami’s brigade. I don’t like what they did to Loli Mercury’s chara design either.

UPDATE: Episode 11 finally worked, a tiny bit. Loli Mercury (very funny how the usual Japanese problems with pronouncing L’s like R’s is worked into her name, neh?) gets to show 1/20th of her manga formidable-ness but that is enough to make the thing watchable. Ep12 just puts the series on hold for next year’s resumption.

Bleh! Fail!

I’ll still watch it, I have no critical faculties left and it is hot outside.

Or I’ll watch this

Super Poi Hyadain 1 HOUR VERSION

What the ????? 

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.

Legends of the fall, conditions of the fall

The fall Genshiken web

Spoiler lamp ON for Genshiken Ch 110.

Once again Reality is reality and fantasy is fantasy is the fall-back mantra for Kio Shimoku’s fave conflicted Genshiken character. I should be doing a big wrap-up of the whole Kuchiki’s farewell trip arc, but it ain’t over yet. Yet a few things are already nagging me, and the jet-lag from my return trip is refusing to let me sleep.

As ch 110 ends, Hato-as-kun has just been tripped over and is pinned on a bed, drunk and helpless by an equally drunk Madarame. Rotten girls everywhere are letting out small squeees, or perhaps only grudging “hmmmmmmmm”s. Three full pages with explanations were needed to explain the mechanics of how A tripped and fell on B. Surely, thou doth protest a bit much. (Don’t call me…)

Aside: Qualia‘s last chapter has surfaced. Amazing how another clichéd trip and fall into the arms of… can disrupt the entire structure of reality across multiverses. And some folks thought that Sasameki Koto went to insane lengths before the happy girl-couple nerved up to share a smooch…

Qualia clench web

A clichéd fall into each other’s arms scene, one of the oldest tricks in the book. Is it ironic presentation? A forced trope moment to send a confused and no longer “objectively viewed” (and directed) Hato into a full BL fugue state? Service to the rotten- girl readership? (if so, it is pretty vanilla, we’ve seen steamier in Haganai) or pure burlesque?

tomodochi get goggles real bad web

An otokonoko version of a hotel room scene would be obvious and direct.

typical otokonoko fall web

A yaoi version even more so. (insert your own…)

thomas_fall web

A restrained 1970’s shonan-ai version would drag on a bit longer, be drawn in wispy lines and come with a floral panel and an over-the-top vow of eternal soul-mate-ness that would transcend time and death via both re-incarnation and the “other shore”.

Thomas web

(Are there no Photoshop users among hardcore Genshiken fans? C’mon; Hato, plus a rose-filled floral background, plus big, wordy word-balloon! Am I the only one on this fricking planet who would find such a pastiche funny???)

Other options are as quickly dispensed with. I note that when considering how the Genshiken could” play out (eg: “the playset”) I lean towards more dialogue. So apparently do more than a few fanfiction writers – it is a common error: Genshiken is a visual narrative, not a light novel.

Kio Shimoku stages the scene in his own way. His authorial voice, his style demands that he write it like a middle-aged married guy mangaka who is peeking in on the current version of the male otaku of his youth and the newly emerged tribes of rotten girls and then arranging his characters to play out situations that highlight certain weaknesses and contradictions in their social codes. All with plenty of light chiding humour and enough economy of dialogue and enough movement to keep the story going. A very skilled, veteran middle-aged guy mangaka…

Hackneyed tropes will be deployed, but they are done so in a manner that looks like a shout-out, or an ironic presentation at first glance. Only with closer consideration do they morph into something else, something in the way.

HSDXD clench fall web

Why does it take 3 pages for Mada to fall onto Hato? Three pages that could have been better used, perhaps for talk-talk?

Kio Shimoku has always maintained a distanced, anthropological view in his slice-of-life relationship-py manga. It is a guy’s take on the more serious Josei form and/ or a holdover from 1980’s 1990’s manga that attempted to fuse comedy with some aspects of social realism. Slice of Life says a bit about what he is doing; how he does it is far more interesting.

With the excessive amount of porn in fan materials why are his characters almost all 3D intimacy-avoiding virgins? And while at university? What the effing hell is university good for if not for losing it? It is not as if they are trying and failing – even nerds can find true love if they clean up and try a bit. That’s how we get a technical class. All the Genshiken critters are experts in 2D intimacy and scared crapless of the messy random painfulness of 3D affection.

CJVC narratives are full of way too many happy young folks who are too paralyzed to make a move. That allows their authors to pile on even more shiny young characters, usually female and run the usual gags. But the Genshiken is set up with older characters, 19-22 age range, at a University, who are enthusiasts of the diverse genres that trot out all of these cheesy tropes.

So each trope that plays out on and with the Genshiken characters is at once a shout-out, an ironic presentation, a curious deja-vu moment, something to go along with for fun and a nuisance, and an impediment to authentic 3D human interaction and friendship.

Saki’s presence, as bullshit detector and reality check is sorely missed.

Note the economy of dialogue between Madarame and Hato-kun. Recall that Mada and Hato haven’t really talked much anyway, which is part of the problem if not a formal structural law of romantic manga and anime comedies of error. Nope; there never is enough time to talk over the “important stuff“. The urgency of the exchange when it finally takes place can be cut with a knife.

“You stopped coming by!” “I was afraid!” “I am not the fantasy I created – chose someone else!” “By the way, I need pantsu to draw…” “OOOOPS!”

Of course keeping the dialogue lean and to the point keeps the story moving along at a fine clip. A newb would drown it in text, Shimoku-sensei reins in the urge.

But then…

We now pause to consider the prodigious drink intake by Madarame (and Hato) over the course of the evening as well as the effect of Kuchiki’s weight on Mada’s knees, his general state of exhaustion, the previously highlighted thrown shoe, plus the angular momentum of the earth and the gravitational constant of ….

3 pages later…

Trip and fall accomplished!

“Buffy: The next thing I knew we’re being attacked by this mutant ninja demon thing, and then we’re on the floor on top of each other, and it’s just really confusing being around you.”  – Slavoj Žižek

Resume game.

F1 – Black out
F2 – Throw up
F3 – Kissssssssu!
F4 – <user input> “Would you like a bucket of pudding?”

Of note to cross-cultural students of rotten-ish western mass culture; the BBC’s Sherlock has made it over to Japan and is doing fine business as a dub, with light novel adaptations (covers by a noted rotten mangaka), plus manga treatments. Shimoku sensei could have pinched the Holmes/ Watson piss-up routine…

…but nooooooooooo….

sherlock-john-drunk

Holmes and Watson are friends.

Hato-as-kun and as-self is about to pop. He should already be in fugue state, acting out a BL script or fanning over the possibilities, with him as main character. He most likely already is: selflessly sacrificing his love for the good of his sempai, Madarame is in the curious position of being the only adult in the room not under the influence of a delusion field.

I wonder what could be (/written as) going through his head?

“Dumped again, aw shit… Sou-uke? Hmmmmmph! Harem lead? That was a lot of work. Well, the food and attention was something… Oh wait, I guess I am the “circle queen” about to destroy the Genshiken, as the members vie for my charms.”

“A scary furreign amazon wants to have a convention romance with me, then vanish. As if we could even talk to each other, my English sucks. Keiko wants to sully me, if I get laid, she’ll make sure it feels like shit. Sue is a cute – why didn’t I notice sooner? She might be a bit interested in me, but she can barely manage any Japanese and is too shy to even talk to me without a kinky setup – which could be fun later, but too weird a way to start dating and besides she wants to see a stupid BL story play out between me and Hato – why? The rest of them are all rooting for that stupid BL story to play out between me and Hato too. And then there is Hato. He’s bought into it, or he’s the one behind the whole thing; he’s kinda cute in girl-mode, but doing it??? Oh wait, yeah, I blushed. And I’m playing otokonoko games. Well fuuuuuuuck me! Am I supposed to suddenly be seized with the irresistible urge to ass-rape Hato, chan and kun? Don’t we even get to talk a bit first? Go on a date or something? Nobody tells me nuthin!”

“This sucks!”

“I should just tell Yoshitake that she is the only one I want, but she has to dress like a boy. That would screw up their stupid BL thing right to the moon. Leave the Genshiken? They came and dragged me back, dammit! A fine way to treat an ex-president and a sempai!”

Hmmmmph!

Kio Shimoku would never use this much internal blah blah. TL:DR. And he can’t fall into the trope either. I’m guessing that no first kisssus will be stolen. Likewise, I will be sorely disappointed if the moment ends with Mada jumping back as if electrified, or Hato managing some ninja wrestling escape/ attack move. I’ll forgive it if…

Nawwwww… Don’t tell me…

Becoming Sasahara V2 wont work. I’m guessing that Madarame has to become Saki.

Keiko was never up to the Saki role. Saki was always much more than the riajuu girlfriend, and Keiko can’t even manage that. As a riajuu girlfriend, she fails miserably; her floating world experience and kogal-girl teen misadventures put her squarely in another fantasy-land, a few blocks south. She gets the mechanics of 3D relationship delusions, but has only the slimmest understanding of how the beloved lore of fandom can serve as an enabling mechanism for avoiding messy 3D personal interaction. The side bits about Keiko not grasping the full BL/yaoi implications and the rotten-fantasy potential of a prettied up Hato-kun going back with Mada to a hotel room is pointed out for a reason.

More importantly, she lacks something else: Keiko cannot serve as the Genshiken’s bullshit detector. Reality check was Saki’s main role and that’s why she wasn’t just “the riajuu girlfriend”, but a mainstay of the Genshiken. Yoshitake and Yajima are too caught up in their own stuff, Ogiue has her hands full with day-to-day club ops, she has done nothing to intervene in the HatoxMadaxHato melodrama. Ohno has to be Ohno the fairy godmother.

Shimoku-sensei likes mirroring tricks and parallelisms. if you use Saki for a mostly guy Genshiken you need a guy for a mostly girl Genshiken. He has to be an outsider, at least to fujoshi lore but he has to also be sympathetic enough to the dangers of over-fanning to sound the bullshit alarm, without sounding like some guy who thinks he can tell rotten girls how to behave, who would then be a complete outsider, the enemy, a jerk.

Which, if you step back a bit is the giant yawning chasm that Kio Shimoku has been edging around since he turned the Genshiken into a rotten-girl hangout. What the heck is HE doing there anyway?

How many male mangakas are out there creating somewhat-serious social studies style slice of life manga in the Seinen genre right now? The “serious” stories are all owned by women. Seinen and Josei, especially the more female concerned (if not feminist) Josei are continents apart. What is Kio Shimoku doing with a new series in Rakuen Le Paradis ???

What can Madarame-sempai bring that is of worth to the new Genshiken? The Genshiken fails if Hato cracks up from the pressure of trying to be a male BL fan without being overtly queer (Aside: new research on male BL/yaoi consumption in Japan suggests that perhaps the yaoi ronso/ appropriation of voice concerns have died down a bit as the diversity and perhaps the quality of the genre has leveled up a notch or two. Some Japanese guys who like guys reportedly now credit it as a niche product, a related form of narrative by somewhat queer-ish allies, or at least a gateway or emergency substitute. More on this available soon.)

…And what kind of story would that be for Shimoku-sensei to spin? Yaoi and BL turns guy readers into a gay caricatures and/or makes them crazy?

Similarly the Genshiken fails if HatoxMadaxHato ever gets off the ground. Lookie at the middle-aged straight boy writing ham-fisted BL. Is he making fun of a venerable woman’s narrative form? What a jerk!

What if Madarame is left hanging as the perpetual butt of an endless elaborate rotten-girl joke? There is no room for the old-style male otaku in this brave new world. They can all go crawl back to their moe-pits and dream of incest with their busty big-eyed adopted kid sister waifu charas, perhaps with a giant robot or a magic battle tossed in every other weekend. And as for middle-aged straight boy mangakas…

Is everything you worked so long and hard for is now obsolete?

Back to our steamy hotel room scene:

Hato’s “look at myself objectively” thing has always been a bit vague. Now it is in tatters. What he really meant was “remove part of myself from the role to a safe position“. Hato has never really talked much to Mada because he doesn’t know how to, so he takes refuge in the character he has created – who must always be flustered. And now comes the dramatic moment, with no Hato-as-omniscient-author-director to watch over it. But he is still playing a role. It is perhaps his biggest performance yet to date.

“Watch as I make the ultimate sacrifice for my sempai’s happiness!”

BULLSHIT!

Hato’s entire confused liminality, his neither fish nor fowl, gay or straight, trans or cis, crossdress or cross-play, yaoi consuming, harem joining, nadeshiko levelling up and Sou-uke yelling presentation over the past Genshiken year has been pure and utter shambulatory late onset chunny, lashed together creaking and about to fall apart… bullshit.

There may be real feelings hiding behind the mess, but who can tell. Even Hato can’t tell, which is probably why he built the mess in first place.

Keiko may instinctively feel this and the fallout she thinks is hitting Madarame is annoying as all heck, with or without shadings of homophobia/transphobe-ishness. And it is blocking the little drama that she wants to stage. But what Keiko and the rest of the girls will probably never wrap their heads around is how much Hato’s over-the-top, self-deluded bullshit looks more and more like a ritual gift being offered to the closest person he has to a male friend, in the subconscious hope that Mada will call him on it.

BULLSHIT!

“Hato-kun, no, Kenjiro, really…”

“…you have to wear pantsu to be able to draw yaoi?”

“Pantsu!”

“Ufu Fu Ufu…”

“You read waaaaaaaaay too much BL!

Don’t I get to prepare my heart?

Were he so inclined, or given enough dialogue pages by the mangaka, Madarame could easily tick off the absurdities. He is long overdue for a Picard-style “Enough of this farce!” exposition. Start with the violin solo accompanying the “I am not the otokonoko you think I am, forget me” song. Madarame plays otokonoko games and can be safely assumed to have read some of the other materials in the genre. Madarame knows otokonoko. The most Hato has let on knowing about otokonoko is lurking 3D cross-play hobbyist sites for makeup tips. Mada should gently break it to Hato that he makes a lousy 2D style otokonoko. Hato don’t know shit about (2D) otokonoko. And don’t the 3D ones do it as a cross-play-ish hobby? Perhaps he has seen a fujoshi version or two in dojins but the fujoshi variant would leave out all the girl+/plus stuff the guy versions play with: better than ‘real’ girls, the magical man-preg nonsense, the flirtatious challenge and promise of a transgressive, but still easily manageable fantasy kink. Aren’t they also supposed to come with an appropriated manga/anime chara costume variant, cat ears, school-ish uniform, magical girl costume or something?

Sorry Hato, you are not the otokonokos we are looking for.

Hato cross-dresses as a shoujo heroine from 20 years ago, before they got spunky. One of the sad ones. And she can cook! Wow! A shoujo otokonoko? So cross-playing-as-fujoshi Hato creates then offers cross-dressing Hato to Mada for him to fall for in a harem story. Oh goodie! Is that for Mada? For the rotten girls in the peanut gallery? For the secret heart of Hato Kenjiro?

Cue background music: Un Bell di Vedremo or The Flower Duet?

Mada most likely continues to see Hato for what he can be “objectively” described as in Mada-ish terms: an otaku guy. Otaku, otaku otakuuuuuu, from planet otaku. Hato likes reading BL. Excellent! It’s a hobby. No biggie. It’s not like Hato is into scat robo-shota guro twincest. Hato wanted to fan over his fave genre with the girls, so he started crossdressing. He got good at it and found he likes cross-playing a fujoshi. Again, no biggie, the Genshiken fujoshi accept it. Hato reads too much BL and overdoes it… Over-fanning happens. But it looks like all of this is at least enabling Hato to draw, and creative output is sacred, so what to do?

But now Mada has to ask: “What’s all this about stealing (or declining to steal) my first kisssu Kenjiro Hato? This is the first time we’ve talked mano a mano since Comiket.” What of Hato-chan the cross-play fujoshi Genshiken member? “Haven’t seen her since the school festival”. “Is it Nadeshiko Genshiken Hato-chan, the demure domestic angel routine that you have been practicing while cooking for me, that you are speaking for?” If Hato is dumping Mada, which Hato is doing the dumping?

One blush means hard gay? A girl’s heart in a boy’s body? What’s next? An evil twin? Amnesia? A Takarazuka dance number?

How about a good mano a mano fight over “goggles”?

The rotten girls see the belligerence as sublimation, but they discount the foreplay.

Hato is either completely caught up in the hall of mirrors of his enthusiasms, which is an otaku complaint, or he has fused his runaway otaku enthusiasms with an underlying sexuality and/or gender dysphoria issue, in which case he needs to untangle the fandom from the personal issues and get some support from folks who can offer knowledgeable advice. The Genshiken is a supportive community for otaku, but it would be foolish for any of them to be written as primary advice providers to a young gay person or trans person trying to grapple with their emerging identity. Especially when labels like gay or trans don’t seem to fit very well in any case.

The situation was funny; now it is getting heavy.

Mada has asked Hato before: “Are you sure you are not gay?” Does he have enough pieces of the puzzle to now ask: “Hato, where are those feelings coming from?” and “Who says 3D has to go like a BL story?

Faced with a person whom he knows in such distress, could Harunobu Madarame start spewing homophobia and/or transphobia at Hato? Could he recoil in horror and refuse to help? Most people would just throw up their hands and tell the Hato continuum to deal with their own shit. But Madarame has been honored in a curious way: Hato trusts him enough to have a meltdown on his doorstep. Not in the clubroom, not in a heart to heart with Ogiue, or Yajima or Yoshitake or Sue.

How is Kio Shimoku going to play this?

As a mirror reflection of the last great circle-trip romantic crisis, this situation is far more littered with real-life landmines. The mangaka doesn’t have to be politically correct, but if he writes it mean or stupid, his magnum opus will take a hit.

Stuff like this is what one finds in josei and adult shinso yuri. I have no idea if some BL tales take on this level of emotional complexity, or if any of these genres can at the same time play a similar situation for laughs.
:
Here is a weird thought: If the subtext in this story was yuri rather than BL, and the characters were all girls, then Hato would be doing a classic type-S sempai crush. Mada could get to be Bakemonogatari‘s Hitagi Senjōgahara to Hato’s Suruga Kanbaru. It ain’t going anywhere, but be gentle with the kouhai’s heart.

The kid only falls for sempais?

So… kick the can down the road a bit longer?

Mada jumps off, cringing while doing a mortified jaw-drop Gehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! An equally mortified Hato bolts out the door into the cold night…

Cue a repeat of the “go after Ogiue” scene: “He hasn’t made it back?” “What did you do?” “Go after him!” etc. Which postpones any reckoning while ramping up the confusion. More confession-ing to ensue in a park or at the train station as dawn breaks. Does Hato have to sit down with Mada and show him all his clench drawings once they get back?

How Marxian of the mangaka.

How to keep it light and funny but respectful of any underlying issues of sexuality or identity?

Complete Aside: Anyone notice that the weird manga/ anime franchise Papa no Iukoto wo Kikinasai! takes place at the “same” university as the Genshiken? Lookie at all the monorail sequences!

Destroy everything you touch

On Moe and too much fan-service

After an epic post on smut, as manifested in old-school-male-gaze V 1.0 “Yuri” it seems productive to continue on to the roots of the “condition” or problem or “peculiar institution” characteristic of so much of Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture: excessive fanservice.

Otaku-gaze titilation, burlesque, sleaze, creepy creepy creepy, lewd, ecchi hentai stuff as far as the eye can see. So much in fact that it is too damn easy to get used to it and begin to edit it out while reading. Which is a shame, for reasons beyond the annoying objectification of characters (outside of BL/yaoi land overwhelmingly female and written as young, possibly much too young).

It is getting in the way.

Why bother? Respect and maturity is one reason. A better product is another. World domination makes convincing third

Much must be untangled first, starting with moe.

“Particularly if you like series with gentlemen in them. Day two seemed to be dominated by gigantic doujin communities for a smaller number of popular propeties, and despite a spirited showing by Touhou and KanColle, BL had the weight of numbers thanks to Attack on Titan (my word Levi, you have a lot of boyfriends), Yowamushi Pedal and the series with an oni-looking main character whose name I’m struggling to find.

It’s difficult to understand the sheer scale of BL and how thoroughly a female space it is until you see it. It’s certainly illuminating from a male perspective, particularly if you want to see what men being objectified by women *really* looks like. And you can understand how a male-dominated approach to lesbians in fiction could be alienating to women. But it’s not the other side of the coin to Yuri – it’s the other side of the coin to moe. (Erica again: Yes, absolutely)

– Jye N’s 2014 Winter Comiket Report!, January 2nd, 2015 http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/01/02/event-jye-ns-2014-winter-comiket-report/

Aside from the “Wow, would have liked to see that” description of Yaoi day at Comiket (upon which I have hung a few previous posts – Sirens, etc., on), there was the interesting aside in the direction of the “asymmetry’ effect in the way male and female fandoms imagine the other sex and queer variants thereof for fun and curiosity. I mean it is slippery, right? Yaoi and BL are supposed to be the female flip-side to Yuri; imagined m-m pairings and imagined f-f pairings for the respective other sides of the boulevard. But both Erica-sensei and her correspondent Jye, as well as Kio Shimoku situate Yaoi and BL as the flip-side of (lolicon) moe (Hi Mada!). That would leave Yuri as either the flip-side of Bara or the flip-side of nothing dammit, get your flip-siding outta here!

This works and does not work, much like one of those Escher staircase prints, as a trick of perspective. Since this trick pops up in a lot of the theoretical literature, it might be worth another look.

Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl (BFG) and the Hiroki Azuma’s response both addressed a kind of moe aimed at the gaze of the male otaku. We can posit the BFG as an extreme variant of the moe girl, with seifuku’d high school girls, lolis, old-school shoujo-ai, siscon, maids, cat girls etc ad nauseum as variants of the same impulse. Basically the (male) otaku impulse to erase adult female agency, (ability, position, education, desire, everything) in favour of pre-agency, pre- any- worldly- experience “pure” female-oid characters.

There will be fan-service.

Recall as well that Dr Saito Tamaki is adamant that a libidinous charge must run through the narrative, lest it fail to enchant/ cathect/ re-cathect the mundane real world of the consumer of these tales.

But wait: the fujoshi tribes were fast to adopt and re-purpose the idea of moe too – they too have their own versions of it, which includes bishie, hunk, shota, even oyagi weirdness, plus elaborate pairing typologies (evolved perhaps from the dating classified ad descriptions in 1970’s – 1980 gay magazines?). Moe is no absolute guidepost, unless we audience-segregate and/or gaze-segregate our definitions of moe.

In an earlier post I reviewed Galbraith’s essay on moe, noting the deft update of Bronisław Malinowski’s concept of the phatic object as a focal point for fan enthusiasm, practice and identity. All very good for sociology papers – In practice Moe moe moe(!) now runs as shorthand for a form of abstracted desire manifested as interest for a character that is somehow conceptually removed from normal categories of desire allowed/ prescribed to the moe-fying subject. Moe somehow serves as a point of stopping short before an acknowledgement of full desire

So a rotten girl can see/ have moe for a pairing of hunky guys, a shota character and…, or even imagine that one inanimate object would have the hots for another in a manner that “is so moe” or that sparks a feeling of moe in the observer. Similarly the general issue guy otaku can get all moe for maids, robot girls, lolis, other underage female-ish characters, otokonoko, improbable “lesbians”, tsunderes, yanderes, miko, teenage female pilots of giant robots in too-tight-fitting costumes, high school girls, (and high school girls piloting giant robots in sailor suits), mini skirted magical girls, improbable young “nuns” and even girl-gang members.

But they do not get all moe for adult female characters or BL-ish guys.

Hmmmm The BL-guys thing is easy to understand, but why no adult females?

There is one type of adult female that can be moe-ed a tiny bit: The perpetually 29-year-old sexy high-school teacher lady who is in a desperate funk and/or crazed mood because she cannot find a husband.

Meanwhile across the boulevard, the fujoshi is not going to consider a shoujo D’awwwww girl & boy couple as “moe”, unless perhaps the girl likes to dress like a guy (Hey, its a hobby). Rotten girls are at least a bit more varied in their tastes; some reportedly find old guys interesting, though I must wonder if they are considered so alone or only in the context of half a potential pairing.

Similarly, a female BL/yaoi enthusiast, even one who may desire women in real life would most likely not find female characters worthy of moe. Hence the reported “Die in a ditch” effect that banishes the presence of almost all females from fujoshi fantasies.

There is desire in the moe gaze.

It is just abruptly pulled over to the side of the road before it can crash into its target.

“Humor is characteristic of an interrupted defense mechanism.
No sane being interrupts a defense mechanism.”

– Nessus the puppeteer from Ringworld by Larry Niven.

Moe is interrupted desire. Moe is the kitsch shadow of desire.

“Moe causes two feelings to develop in otaku hearts in quick succession. The first feeling says: ‘How nice to see the big-eyed girl character leaning toward me, the reader!’
The second feeling says: ‘How nice to be moved, together with all my otaku brethren, by the big-eyed girl character leaning toward us, the readers!!’ ”
― The Unbearable Moe-ness of Moe

Pity Genshiken’s Madarame; real women are scary. Or not scary enough in the right way.

Moe is also problematic, as it is the main alibi and excuse for shoddy product design and the omnipresent, wearying overload of same old, same old fanservice in CJVC. It wasn’t just the death of sci-fi heroic adventure themes that changed manga and anime in the mid aughts. The moe-blob and her attendant over-the-top creepy presentation is probably one of the main impediments to successfully exporting more Cool Japan cultural product.

Consider the licensing of manga and anime to the rest of the world. Ghibli exports well because it doesn’t fanservice out. Otaku might go Moe, moe moe at strong Ghibli girl characters but the characters are written to serve the story and themselves – not to pander. Ghibli properties quickly become world renown classics.

This part of the equation struck me upon stumbling across the manga Soredemo Machi wa Mawatteiru (The City still turns) and then watching the anime. I am annoyed. The genki main character is a teenage girl who aspires to be a mystery writer. Aside from this ambition she is happy go lucky, forgetful, lazy and often a catalyst for minor disasters. She has a circle of friends and works at a laughable excuse for a maid cafe; a run-down diner owned by a grumpy granny who dreamed up the maid angle on a whim, sewed the uniforms, but can’t even be bothered to do more then tape a piece of paper with the word “maid” on the cafe sign. So: an anti-maid cafe and curry lunch joint. All the other teen characters are conscientious though quirky and the adults of the business district are all set in their ways and ready to act as the chorus as either odd things happen or are instigated by our plucky heroine.

Now watch the anime: right off the opening sequence has our young heroine flashing thigh, butt and garter while donning her maid outfit. Facepalm. I like a bit of garter as much as the next guy, even 2D garter-flash, but the effect in this case is wrong and jarring. She is by no means written as being “sexy”. She has zero interest in relationships and none of the story-lines touch in any way on any awakening desire in her. Although her best friend is her rival for the attentions of a boy, she is oblivious to his shy interest in her. Nothing here, move along. There is a ghost story, a ridiculous UFO tale, a high school band with her friends, nice pleasant stuff. No onsen episodes, shower scenes, boob compare grabs, nadda. She walks the pet tanuki that her family has adopted as a dog.

Most of Soredemo is about the teens beginning to enter into the adult work-world social that is the little business district: are their future lives set out for them, or can they find their own way? The perpetually annoyed beat cop comments on our heroine that “she won’t stop being a nuisance until she gets married and settles down.” The boy will invariably follow his father as a fishmonger. The rebel girl wants to be a guitar hero rock star. Only the perpetually 29 year-old proprietor of the antique store offers a compromise escape route: she is secretly a published mystery author, her pen-name’s books are the main inspiration to our heroine, who has yet to stumble upon the secret identity. Meanwhile, our heroine’s own writing efforts are beyond dismal, but of course she is too clueless to realize it.

It could have made a fine export property.

So why the damn garter thigh/ flank shot every intro segment? Followed by a goofy maid cafe dance guaranteed to establish the main character as a “clumsy maid” character – which is never worked up in the episodes?

There goes the series as potential gift to the nieces, unless I want to get out Adobe Premiere and fix it myself.

The animation studio did not trust the property, so they “salted” the intro to try to draw otaku. Next we’ll put a “yuri”-esque shower scene into the opening credits of Aria the Natural and fuck that up too.

Facepalm.

Anything that has terra-forming and Cordwainer Smith sci-fi references in it will get me to watch 3 episodes. Add Cait Sith and a fox wedding and I am easily charmed. No service is needed.

“Currently, however, the most conspicuous Japanese culture of otaku and yankii represents value sets with little connection to affluent consumers elsewhere. Most men around the world are not wracked by such deep status insecurity that they want to live in a world where chesty two-dimensional 12 year-old girls grovel at their feet and call them big brother. The average university student in Paris is likely to read Murakami Haruki and may listen to a Japanese DJ but not wear silky long cocktail dresses or fake eyelashes from a brand created by a 23 year-old former divorcee hostess with two kids. Overseas consumers remain affluent, educated, and open to Japanese culture, but Japan’s pop culture complex — by increasingly catering to marginal groups (or ignoring global tastes, which is another problem altogether) — is less likely to create products relevant for them.
[…]
Japanese companies now face a true crisis: Appealing to the most powerful consumers in Japan will lead them away from tastes and values that can be easily exported overseas. AKB48 may be opening vanity branches in Taiwan and Jakarta, but will the world inherently be interested in an idol group meant to please a small group of men’s reactionary attitudes towards women and desire for songs that ignore the last twenty years of musical change? And as we’ve seen with the success of K-Pop in Japan, companies cannot automatically protect the domestic market against invasion. When the mainstream consumers do see something they like, that reflects their values in a way that otaku and gyaru content does not, they pounce. But until they reawaken as a consistent consumer force or rebuild cultural online to be less centered around product purchase, we are likely to stay within the current situation — where marginal subcultures rule the school.

-The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Five: The Difficulty of Exporting Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/02/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-five/

The kicker is set out in Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures

” Marginal groups’ up their voting power in the consumer vacuum

The end result is that the otaku and yankii have an almost inelastic demand for their favorite goods. They must consume, no matter the economic or personal financial situation. They may move to cheaper goods, but they will always be buying something. Otherwise they lose their identity. While normal consumers curb consumption in the light of falling wages, the marginal otaku and yankii keep buying. And that means the markets built around these subcultures are relatively stable in size.

So as the total market shrinks, the marginal groups — in their stability — are no longer minor segments but now form a respectable plurality in the market. In other words, if otaku or yankii all throw their support through a specific cultural item, that item will end up being the most supported within the wider market.

The clearest example of this is AKB48. With the letters AKB in their name, this group of girls was unequivocally marketed towards older males based in the Akihabara otaku culture. Compared to past mass market groups such as Speed, the girls are intentionally chosen and styled to look like elementary schoolgirls and lyrically address older men with direct sexual references. (See the “cat-eared brothel” video for “Heavy Rotation” and the unambiguous “love knows no age” lyrics for “Seifuku ga jama wo suru.”)

The mass idol group regularly has an “election” (sousenkyo) where fans try to vote their favorite girl to Number One. Buying certain AKB48 CD singles gives the fan a vote in the AKB48 election, which thus incentivizes otaku to buy multiple copies of the CD to increase their “political” power. The CD is thus no longer a means of listening to music but a way to influence the future of AKB48. This has created a legion of fans who buy dozens and hundreds of the same AKB48 CD or even 5500 copies. There are now doubts about that story’s authenticity but it basically was an exaggeration of an existing principle. Regardless, the marketing strategy of AKB48 does encourage the purchase of multiple goods, thus amplifying the buying power of nerds beyond their small numbers. This means as a consumer bloc, the AKB48 otaku fans can rival the non-otaku consumer base.

This otaku bloc strength, as well as other niche’s dedicated buying, can be seen through the music charts. In 2010 only three artists made the Oricon best-selling singles market — AKB48 and a Johnny’s Jimusho group Arashi. (At this stage, you can almost argue that music fans of Johnny’s groups are themselves a conspicuous cult rather than a mass market phenomenon.) Only two artists taking the entire singles market is unprecedented in Japanese musical history. In the previous decade, the average number of artists in the top ten was 8.2. The best explanation is that mainstream consumers stopped buying music, even single song downloads, so the favorite acts of marginal subcultures now appear to be the most popular.

Otaku and gyaru: winners by default”

The Great Shift in Japanese Pop Culture, Part Four: The Rise of Marginal Subcultures. http://neojaponisme.com/2011/12/01/the-great-shift-in-japanese-pop-culture-part-four/

Note that Japanese animation and manga were not the only vernacular genres ever to suffer a distortion due to a sales and distribution slump. The histories of North American vernacular media in the 20th century are full of these effects. Yet the latest shift for Japanese visual culture was extreme and remarkable. Some commentators saw it but read it wrong; as in the “Lament of the Ota-king” for an earlier age of grand sci-fi and giant robot adventures, almost anticipating a “gamer-gate”reaction.

What is all this unmanly moe-blob stuff? It must be linked to:

  • the decline of grand narratives.
  • the rise of the libidinized BFG and or the database of modular moe-blobs.
  • the magical girl as feminist trojan horse.
  • a descent into ecchi smut.
  • the rise of dojinshi culture as a cheap farm team for publishers, and the corresponding influence of…
  • the rise in Shoujo-ish libidnized offshoots (female participation and production still makes up the bulk of Comiket and dojin culture)
  • The normalization of otaku/ geek culture, failure to launch adults, economic stagnation, the end of adolescence/ adolescence without end in Japanese society, decline of marriage, infantilization, herbivore men…
  • Add a few of your own…
  • And so it goes…

More to the point, there is plenty of diaspora research on how fanservice, especially the loli stuff can really sink the export prospects for a Japanese franchise, especially if it looks like it strays into the sights of other countries’ anti-child exploitation legislation. Fantasy is fantasy will not save your bookstore proprietor from a bust and experienced outlanders make it a point to box up their Comiket haul and send the packet back by sea mail lest they have to explain their hobbies to airport customs officers. Queer folk long had to adopt such strategies, now it is everyone’s turn. You never know what can set off a nasty incident.

This does not make for a viable export market.

It does explain the continued appeal of grey-sourced versions, even in the face of legitimate sources. Do you really want your credit card number on that purchase?

Even when licensed, a censorship/ scrubbing protocol starts up in tandem with the localization efforts and we are back to the problem of bad dubbing, excessive re-cutting and story-line redaction that has plagued Japanese visual culture exports for the last 50 years. The interesting, the socialy progressive, the quirky and the unique are excised along with the more obnoxious stuff. Only mild service is left as a bit of an “Oh those wacky Japanese” tease for the outlander fans.

Perhaps Shintaro Ishihara was onto something, even as he was going about it WRONG!

A current example:

Ken Akamatsu’s UQ Holder is (later: WAS – he be back to his old tricks of magically blowing the clothing off too-young nubile heroines) a far more export-savvy product than Negima. The teen girl posse after a 10 to 11 year old magic boy harem is gone, as is the excessive penchant for making the girls’clothing vanish, disintegrate, fall off or suffer artful disarrangement every third page. Both female characters who will be enlisted to provide service shots are powerful adult authority figures with agency; the service is still there but at least it is on the level of western female superheroes who get their uniforms shredded and still fight on. Even the onsen scenes are restrained to a Genshiken level. Any service-grade yuri-esque longings are presented more as hero worship and the one character who could have been an otokonoko/ trans* stereotype is upgraded to indeterminate and asexual, thereby bypassing the usual comedies of identity for a more poignant “what will I be?” characterization. The main character is going to be an impulsive teen battle training good natured fool for a while, so desire need not poke its nose into the tent. Evangeline AK McDowell, Negima’s fearsome anti-social loli mage, the Dark Gospel has been turned into step-mom.

This series has (had) export potential.

In contrast, the Negima properties – especially the two anime seasons/series betray their roots as ecchi riffs on a Harry Potter impulse, loaded to the boards with harem fanservice. Even the manga takes forever to get off the ground – until Evangeline is socialized and recruited into the magical world campaign the thing just flails around looking for another excuse for a pantsu shot and a big magical battle.

Exportable for sure, but only to a niche market.

Contrast these to Blue Exorcist. The writer is a woman, the service is negligible. The female characters while secondary have power, ability, back-stories and agency – even the weakest of them can be formidable when roused to battle. The plotting is a more durable template of finding each team member’s strengths, becoming friends and learning to cooperate in the face of ever-more monstrous threats. Blue exorcist does not traffic in fanservice or even much teen romance. It does not suffer from the lack.

This series has export potential.

Mouretsu Space Pirates manages to keep school uniform skirt lengths to a modest range. Adult women wear pants and carry impressive arsenals in their car’s trunks. The girls can pilot an interplanetary sail-ship and apply the Kzinti lesson when threatened. Even the hacker scenes have a tiny nod towards tech realism in them, though what mercenary hacker would fall that easily for a honey-pot?

This series has export potential.

Longer skirts for high school uniforms in general, Please, if only out of economic concerns! Besides, otaku boys can learn to fetishize anything. Long school uniform skirts? Hawt!

At this point however, service in the genres seems to be a structural problem. The male fans expect it, as does the spin-off merchandise market. And then there is the alibi problem alluded to in my previous post. Fanservice and smut situate any narrative comfortably within a safe male space. We seem to need this.

Drop some ecchi bits into the package and we guys can read shoujo-ish story lines in comfort.

We may be sneered at as otaku pervs, but boys will be boys, men will be perpetually boys and as long as there are a few pantsu shots or relatively restrained clench scenes, entry level salaryman cadres can even read josei-level complicated emotionally driven stories. If the reading material is called out, they can brush the magazine aside and complain that they thought there would be more “Hawt whatever” in the work. Or giant robots, or both.

We would even settle for a level-up battle grinder, or ronin swordmen. Just give us some cover.

Because we men-folk are traditionally supposed to be a bit slow on the emotional and social interaction stuff and because interest in such is even more suspect than interest in other guys, this camouflage netting is ubiquitous. It will be hard to give up.

“…Therefore, the condition of the moe-blob female-oid exists, but as a symptom of male readership, created to ensure our ontological consistency.”

Thanks mister Žižek.

I can read all the Takemiya Jin stuff I want and fall back to the easily defensible position of an old school guy looking for yuri fanservice. I can enjoy story lines that would normally be unavailable to me. I am a fan, even as I note that the aspirational nature of her story A plots have recently made her characters far too wise and level-headed for their situations. Recover from your trauma with the support of your friends, face your fears, deploy some empathy towards the other, see past injuries in a new light, talk it over with the other parties and reach a mutually satisfactory point from which all can move on from. Please pull the other one, it has bells on it. Or worse, the power level of working this complicated interpersonal stuff out is so far beyond my understanding that it reads as “alien”. (that why they do alien things,, because…) This lacks a certain dramatic flair, but these are short aspirational learn-to-solve-problems pieces, not (Bitter-) Sweet Blue Flowers.

The best us guys can manage in an emotionally fraught situation is either a bender, a fistfight or a cold refusal to ever talk or even look at the offending party again. Or all three. That’s what we do. Anything else is Richard III, Cardinal Richelieu or Mephistopheles.

Great Ghu! No wonder we are trampling around in the Lily garden.

Worse, if a shounen action adventure grinder ever began to show emotional complexity and sensitivity beyond say, the catatonic trauma and hysteria of Evangelion, the rotten girls would ship it clear through to next month. Above all the devil and the salaryman cannot abide to be mocked – especially by the women-folk who are far more worldly on such matters. Te-heee: basketball star A and basketball star B are having long talks on the high school roof again, squeeeeee! Sez B to A: “They are laughing at us again, I knew we should have just duked it out behind the gym.” “Nawwww, they like that too… “. Jeeeesh!”

And yet we guys hunger for a glimpse of the insights offered by complex emotionally driven stories. Stumbling across a josei genre character story collection titled “HER”, (which I am at a loss to find again, drat!) because it was cross-listed in the yuri section gave me the pleasure of reading a short chapter where a slightly angsty teen girl starts to pester a wise old (old as in wrinkled 60-ish) woman photographer who still enjoys the affection of younger (30-ish?) adult women. When asked the inevitable “how, why” question by the teen, the wise woman simply tells her that intimacy with men would feel not just out of her sexuality, but out of her species. (Woof!) I immediately harkened back to the testimony of one of Dr. Mizoguchi’s correspondents who declared that sex with guys feels like having a cardboard lover.

Cardboard.

Un-desire explained as easily as desire.

Otherwise the tale presents a number of “time will change your perspective, to yourself be true, those aren’t very good friends then, are they?” nostrums for mildly angsty teens.

Nothing too shocking here. All nicely reassuring and good hearted. A good read.

Wait a second! There wasn’t any fanservice. Maybe I didn’t need it after all?

Which brings us to the issue of quality. If you can pad a weak or poorly written story with plenty of moe and ecchi fanservice, then filling running time and chapter pages gets way too easy while the writing gets lazy. Both Negima! and Negima? anime were pretty damn pointless without the service and soon even the service grew to uncomfortable creepy levels. This stuff is not healthy. The Shaft take on “Holy Mary Watches Over Us“, Maria?Holic was a toxic brew of creep-ery and cookie cutter fetishes done small and squeaky. Plus it decided to expand its paraphilia range and threw an obnoxious trap character in as antagonist, just for added spite. Admittedly it was built to only do this, but the mind can only take so much lame bullying, smirking lite smut before it rebels.

Even with far milder examples of the harem genre, the service begins to get in the way, unless managed for exclusively for pure burlesque. Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa is a goofy, good-hearted high school o’ weirdlings comedy with a pile of secret super-powered students tropes cranked to 11 for laughs. At first it looks like a harem, but the other girls never had a chance. Normal boring guy gets a crush on the silent cool beauty girl in class only to discover that she is a bubbly good-natured half-shinso vampire who 1) would never drink anyone’s blood unless she was married to them – and then only a teeny bit, 2) keeps quiet and eats by herself because of her snaggle teeth and hick/ Kansai accent and 3) will have to leave the school if her secret gets out. Buddy boy was smitten; now he is 10x more smitten. Still he can’t get up the courage to confess and when ever he comes close, something ridiculous happens to stop it. From then on weird characters are continuously added into the mix – it seems the school is some kind of nature preserve for powerful weirdlings, most of whom are of course high-school age girls. Buddy boy has a few riajuu male friends too, but he is now leery of hanging out with them too much because he can’t keep a secret to save his life.

The series is silly to extremes, dropping every Aliens, Time Travelers and Espers trope it can find into its pages along with a sex-shifting werewolf, an ageless demon child principal (not loli, just a low-grade pain in the ass demon) a naive fallen angel, an 18 foot high vampire monster dad who has is the scariest “meet dad” father a young swain could ever face and a homeroom teacher of the perpetually 29 and single variety who used to be a fearsome girl gang leader. There is a small degree of fanservice: the werewolf, when not a Johnny rotten-looking punk-rocker admirer of teacher (admirer – he lets slip that she is too old for him to consider as hawt, which earns him a thrashing from hell hath no fury teach) is a cynical sexy tease girl who is mostly put in place to provide fanservice and to serve as a foil to the shy vampire girl’s modesty. She also cheerleads the couple and drives some of the more outlandish plot devices in the story forward. Happy couple have yet to smooch. Boy has yet to straight-out confess. Vampire girl is embarrassed and worried that she will be pulled out of high-school. All of their friends are rooting for them and trying to get the two to clue in; even two of the other girls who consider themselves rivals have decided to help out. The riajuu guys have settled on the idea that buddy boy’s big secret is his undeclared crush on the girl. Happy high school hijinx ensue.

My point? It could probably do with even less fanservice. What is deployed is more for low teen sex comedy, nosebleeds, mild rivalry, meddling well-wishers, the whole nine yards.

It is refreshing. I don’t have to worry about turning a page and seeing squick. I could take the tankubon through customs. (I do buy some of the stuff I like – one day I will be able to read it, one day…) It has a good heart, even if it is a pile of cliches looking for a reason to keep rolling down a well-worn path.

The mangaka gets the point about the gratuitous service; hangs a lampshade on it in fact. A recent story arc added one more character; the time-travelling grand-daughter of someone, who has to stop sex-shifting were-girl or her mom (seen only in cheesecake pose silhouette as “The Charismatic Pervert”) from taking over the world in the future and turning Japan into a totalitarian pervert empire of enforced depravity. If time-travel prude girl hits an improperly attired female with her magic sword any risque pantsu or worse are turned into cycling shorts. Shirt buttons do themselves up and stay done up. Hooray!

And sex, or any real intimacy is banished to the realm of happily married adulthood.

Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa has export potential.

A Crusade for Modesty!

Against this runs the perpetual argument that Japanese cultural producers care not a fig for foreign markets and care to learn to understand these even less. This is not surprising, as Japan prides itself on being a high late-modernist mass-culture society. It expropriates the forms of others’ cultural artifacts, but the substance is bent to internal ends – just as we do. It will not do third-world tourism pandering: Tourists who venture to its shores are visiting an advanced culture and should expect to adapt to Japanese priorities; such as carrying wads of cash, having their credit cards rendered useless, their mobile phones inert (or prohibitively expensive to use), free wifi unavailable, their driving skills made inadequate and please keep your hands off the door handles on our taxis – they open and close themselves. And don’t get your shoe caught between the train door and the platform edge, thank you!

The nuance behind the reasons for the moe outbreak go even further than the internal economies of cheap serially replaceable and disposable formulaic output for a domestic market, or the demand for sexy figurines and pencil sets, or even simple structural inertia in the production chain.

So about changing the way we do manga and anime and games so that a hypothetical future export market is happier: right, yup we’re on that, sooner or later, fuck you very much for your opinion.

You still here?

Perhaps the moe disease is insidious and what the western gamer-gate guys were secretly, if inarticulately scared spitless of. Let the moe habit in and the next thing you know Halo will be full of ship-able bishies and miniskirted lolis. There goes all the machine guns and vicarious testosterone. Considering that the plot lines of shooter game side-products make the execrable Paul Verhoeven Starship Troopers movie read like high European existential (bent to neo-fascist ends) literature, a take-over wouldn’t be that hard.

Here’s an exercise. Download a Chris Hedges “War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning” video jeremiad of sufficient length from youtube. Extract the sound and measure the length. Now cut the title sequence off the Halo Nightfall OAV, measure from the ending back, cut, re-splice and drop the Hedges talk over as commentary.

Cardboard.

Drop any other commentary over it, the thing is so thin that you can detourner it six ways from next Tuesday. That makes it weak and foolish… and vulnerable. One day someone is going to do a Chris Marker on it and then we will have something for the ages. In the meantime, maybe an AMV?

Moe and its attendant cheesy fanservice habits offer better fantasies of power, security and privilege than any first person shooter fests, even if the latter come with the promise of battlefield action and drama.

Moe is a Disease That Gives Us Meaning?

But even these pale soon enough as well.

At this point, perhaps only demographics and changing tastes in an aging population can turn the tide. I am feeling a bit old lately. While I could probably figure out Snapchat if so inclined, I cannot wrap my head or my attention span around such recent big things as Kill La Kill, Attack on Titan (ok idiot giant adults eat children, Lawd said Abraham, la la la) A certain Spinning Penguin Drum (yeh it repeats; seriality is the differance in repetition, la la la…) or even attack of the yuri bears. (you guys are just throwing pasta at the wall!) It just doesn’t work for moi, that’s just me. I can put up with all manner of weird crap – heck I watched all of Gasaraki, Ergo Proxy and The Big O,  but I gave up halfway through Evangelion. On Tonight: A collapsing gotterdammerung of narcissistic fantasies and American College Football! Ooops I forgot to set my PVR.

Perhaps only sneaking over for Josei-level V2/ True Ancestor Yuri with adult-ish characters, concerns, authentic, sympathetic and aspirational depictions of queer sexualities and mature interpersonal character dynamics will raise up the otaku soul. Perhaps it is already saved and the need for a new otaku, like Baudrillard’s messiah has been proclaimed a day late, a buck short and there no longer really is any need for him.

Everyone has already moved on.

Perhaps we outlander fans will catch on sooner or later too.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

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

C104p4 no BL this time

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

c104p14 discouraged

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

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

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

c104p22 blank look

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

What a set-up!

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

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

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

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

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

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

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

Ch4 p13 stick figures

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

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

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

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

-The Residents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

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

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

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

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

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

This latter is my own discontent, too.

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

OTAKU AS QUEER?

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

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

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

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

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ch88p17 still works

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

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

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

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

Something about Carnegie Hall…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

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

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

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

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

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

and righteousness like a mighty stream…

Congratulations to the 2014 Hugo winners, with special congratulations to John Chu for his short story: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, which can be read at  http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere.

I am highlighting this story for a few reasons. First there was a bit of a trolling controversy set up in the nominations this year and it looks like the fans who voted for the Hugos were less than impressed by the trick. The sci-fi community has had plenty of similar controversies in the past, including entire religions trying to game the system.

Good try, nice of you all to drop a high school debating club gambit into the fandom… Not!

More importantly, more stories like John Chu’s The Water… are exactly what are needed to again show that the entire opening up of the field of narrative, of story-telling by voices that have previously kept (or been kept) silent is a great, honorable, beautiful and needed thing. And it was done with such heart; the minimum of sci-fi tricks; no scaring the horses; a real class act! Damn! What a sweet love story, with guys… (1)

And because this is a blog about Genshiken, manga, anime and games – mostly from Japan, I hope that some Japanese rotten girls get a translated copy of this story, find it boring and then realize that while they can still make their own personal hawt fantasies, something that is closer to “authentic” and “not-other” is sitting off to the side waiting for them whenever they are ready for it. Some of them already are. Heck, this one should be emailed to a whole bunch of -insert your fave ass-hat bigot- for- profit here- but they would ignore it and/or just use it as proof of some damned conspiracy or another.  That’s what they do to put food on the table; it is the banality of evil made even more stupid and banal.

Oh K-rist must stop now…

As for a whole bunch of the rest of us; including a middle age cis-gendered het guy like me who is still working on getting the stupid bogie-men of all manner of different prejudices learned in my youth out of my wetware, stories like this are a relief from the aforementioned bullshit that makes up “the culture wars” (2).

Glad I developed the sci-fi habit way back when – It helps a bit.

Well done and well done!

Thank you John Chu.

PS: Yup; the majority of fans who voted really meant to prove that heartfelt writing, even if dealing with history, gender politics and stories deserved applause, hence the award for “Best Related Work” / Best Fan Writer essay: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley  http://www.sfwa.org/2013/05/guest-post-we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative/ …Just in case the high school debating club team didn’t get the message: -FLICK- on de ole forehead… (And not in any way to say the essay won for controversy and not quality – dammit everything goes sideways when the little politiks games intrude.)

 Meanwhile in the non-controversy department, Equoid by Charles Stross http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid  (Wow thats 3 winners all free and legal for the web-reading!) Is buckets of Lovecraftian fun, with 3 more freely available “Laundry” tales out there as well.  

Thanks and congrats to these writers and their web enablers/ crew/ co-conspirators for the fine reading materials! Guess I can stay off the manga aggregator sites tonight,

Random Endnotes:

1) Later: Zeitgeist time? The fans voting for the Hugos had no way of knowing that the gentle “Love is Strange” movie was about to be released. see:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

2) Later again: So I gushed enthusiastically about this story to a married lesbian friend and she shivered when the “meet the parents” theme came up. I then made a few noises about how painless it was for a stick- in- the- mud- straight- guy to read a m-m gay romance story. Her very gentle rejoinder: “Don’t worry, a lifetime of reading het stuff hasn’t turned me straight”. Extreme Duhhh!-on- me moment!

Genshiken ch 95-97 … as a symptom of man

Or rather she exists, but as a “symptom of man” created for his ontological consistency” – Slavoj Žižek (1)

Drag 'em to the transporter, Spock!

Drag ’em to the transporter, Spock! 

 

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Chapters 95 through 97 are finally available to us illiterate leeches and the wait was well worth it. Running various other efforts through Google xlate left giant holes in the story line, and posted synopses omitted the fine details – I assume out of a wish not to spoil our eventual enjoyment of the full version. Such a feast of goings on! Where to start?

— Warning! many theory-ish digressions and block-quotes ahead!
Proceed at your own risk! (The first section is just me fanning out on the aforementioned chapters, then the theory hits the impeller and things get odd! Give it a try if you are in the mood for some light reading…) Continue reading