The Friendly Ones — Hatsukoi Zombie

HATSUKOI ZOMBIE/ First Love Zombie
Comedy, Ecchi, Gender Bender, Romance, School Life, Shounen
Minenami Ryou (2015 – )

Warning: Spoilers ensue. Also blog stuff and why? why? why?

For those of you who have dropped by looking for a simple review of Hatsukoi/ First Love Zombie, I should attend to the preliminaries and warn you about what goes on here. It is good, go read it. Need a summary? The TV tropes page is useful:[http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/HatsukoiZombie]. I like the clean drawing style and that the storyline pacing keeps up with the ridiculous premise. It is also a fan-service mess penned for young guys who like exaggerated drawings of healthy, curvy and busty high school girls and a brilliantly contrived piece of foolishness designed to provide endless opportunities for somewhat plot-justified ecchi cheese dropped on top of a Shakespearian gender-bendery love comedy. Good wholesome fun and a competent teen-age love triangle all in one. It is drawn by Minenami Ryou — his newest series after the rather dire seinen Himegoto-Juukyuusai no Seifuku — and has been running in the weekly Shonen Sunday magazine since November 2015. There are somewhere around 90 chapters of it out so far; it appears to be durable enough of a concept.

Now for what this blog essay is going to grind on (and on) about: longtime readers will note that I stray into the sexuality and gender stuff, as portrayed in manga and anime. I blame Kio Shimoku and the Genshiken, but until I see if Kio-sensei is planning to level up on Spotted Flower (the somewhat less than a decade later, somewhat followup with characters that sure look like Genshiken alumni), I continue to cast about for odd things to snag and do kitchen sink something-that-might-look-like-sexuality-and-gender-studies on manga and anime, to; from the point of view of a middle-aged, het euroethnic guy.

Why?

Why indeed? Why did Kio Shimoku, whose nom-de-plume supposedly conceals a married Japanese guy, re-start his tale of a university otaku club only to stuff it with fujoshi and one crossdressing boy who wanted to be a fujoshi? And why did he crib and simplify all manner of academic theorising about the wayward hearts of otaku, fujoshi and minority gender and sexuality expressions, in Japan circa 2002-2006 to do so?

I stole the tagline conceit of this blog from Jean Baudrillard’s The Mirror of Production (which you don’t have to read to get any of this). The title conceit is somewhat more complicated. The method is akin to literary reviews, bad sociology, some of the useful bits of “critical theory” and a touch of post-lacanian conceptual jiu-jitsu that Zizek sometimes does well and that he swiped from Jimbo when the latter was in full Nihilist Spasm poetic mode. While I try not to be ignorant about real-life gay guys and lesbian women, as well as queer, non-binary, trans and gender-fluid folks, beyond a few posts noting resources and perennial cautions that there are real folks out there that are concerned, I stick to the way manga, anime and game production — aimed as it is at a “majority audience”, can’t stop making up distorted reflections of LGBTQIA, ect., people.

I wonder why “we” need to do this?

For one thing “we” are incorrigible kleptomaniacs. High modernist cultures are like graduate thesis advisors; they grab any shiny new thing they come across. Good ones give credit. Bad ones steal and try to cover their tracks, often by pissing on who and what they swiped from. For how to do this in a self-aware manner, search this blog for Adrian Piper and read those posts later. I have a background in sociology and then bureaucracies and cities and policy stuff about them. Then I went to art school because I could and it was a blast – due to having the good fortune of being in the right country, during the right recession. The whole postmodern thing was just hitting the fan back then but the neat thing about the way a somewhat competent, if theoretically inclined art programme handles that stuff is that it doesn’t really take any of it seriously. It only grabs what it can use to make something, presumably “art”, with. “Uhuh, Foucault, yadda yadda yadda, every time I try to make something using his shit I get another useless Panopticon ref“. Your mileage of course, may vary. Misunderstanding on purpose is how sausage gets made. Details available at your discretion.

I immediately get some of why the straight boys and girls are dreaming in queer, beyond any interest we might have in satisfying our immediate curiosities (they’re looking in the wrong place, Indy…) Now that a few of the better neighborhoods in the global village are getting somewhat less barbaric, we might soon see less fantastic shadows and more interesting, new and authentic points of view that ‘we’ can misunderstand and try to squeeze some value-added out of. Better than spending all night on nasty little misogynist and racist patches of the web until you go paranoid and convince yourself to hysterically lose your job at Google by penning a manifesto that “proves” that “those people”, shit, “all people not exactly like meeeeeeee can’t do Google stuff. It’s a Conspiracy! Lizard Men! High paying job bye-bye. “I would have gotten away with it if not for those meddling Social Justice Warriors!” This is not a new affliction: one of the dudes who helped invent the transistor went all squirrelly that way 70 years ago. As they used to say in the ‘hood; ‘watch your head’.

Or was it ‘always do the right thing’?

Meanwhile, it is glaringly obvious that when the shadow of queer falls on a character in a “mainstream” narrative, it is there for a reason; for a use. And we are well beyond needing to dig out such for dumb scary villain roles. Nope, we need someone to “highlight the contradictions” and/or do something that we can’t or wouldn’t — beyond any bodies getting tangled up in new and interesting ways. Finally “we” will keep using these shadows because perhaps, maybe, somehow, we can find stories that offer new ideas as to how two people can put up with each other beyond being forced to do so by custom and law.

“The last violence we impose upon the queer of our straight imaginations is the burden of our hopes.”

We have these needs. We wont stop.

It’s been six years since I started this blog. It has been a lot of fun and I have at the very least learned enough to venture a few opinions, or maybe mansplain to myself and whoever cares to read this stuff, why I like some things and really loathe others. Some academic types call this deep reading. I think of it as paying attention or even being a fan. And it remains far more fun than detective novels or politics. No one gets killed, most of the time. The worst that happens is that I stumble upon some interesting research being done by gay, lesbian, queer researchers and geek out on it and go all off-topic on their interests with my het-ish concerns. So far the overwhelming majority of these researchers have been patient and gracious when I kibbitz, even as they try to figure out what possible interest I would have in, for example 1970-1980’s patterns of ‘types’ among patrons of Tokyo gay bars (short answer: I’m guessing early fujoshi went on a verisimilitude hunt for their stories and organising schemas are useful when you need to be able to locate your doujin in big thicky Comiket catalogs).

If Kio Shimoku can grab such research to whomp up a university fujoshi social, why can’t I do so to understand his, and similar works?

Odd hobbies are a thing in manga and anime… neh?

Enough of this; time to tear into First Love Zombies or “Psychic manifestations of high school guys’ first loves and how they can really cause grief for anyone who can see them.”

1) They are distracting
2) They are embarrassing
3) You now half-remember her
4) Everyone at school thinks you are gay
5) Your manifestation is now self-aware, sentient and will watch you fap, so you can’t.
6) You have to learn how to understand complex interpersonal human dynamics surrounding teen crushes and you are a 15 year old guy. Guys are not supposed to have to do that kind of bucket work!
7) Your one childhood friend who you remember as a girl is a guy. He hates your guts.
8) Your other childhood friend, (you just noticed) is HAWT and she might like you but with these damn things floating around, you be SOL.
9) The wound on your forehead keeps re-opening and bleeding down your face.

10) Ha Ha Ha. Sucks to be you.

A few questions: why rig the story so that the main character Tarou Kurume gets to be misunderstood as the school’s gay guy? Why are there absolutely no floaty beefcake guy ghosts among all the cheesecake girl ghosts? This is statistically impossible. At least the school is an idealised high school romcom bastion of open-minded good behavior. Perhaps it is because Tarou got beaned on the forehead and has been acting not-quite-himself in other ways; it might too nasty to drop a full load of ijime on him. As for the ‘Ewwwwww, don’t come onto me’ thing; he does it so poorly that he isn’t considered a threat. Besides, Ibusuki Ririto is kind of bishie and one could understand why one would, if one was going to go that way…

Next question: Isn’t it a bit unfair, or at least sloppy to do gay — or some manner of ‘queer’ — in such a slipshod fashion? This is not a simple transposition of the BL “I’m not gay, it’s only you“. This is a confused, naive male audience view of “the gay”: attracted to a bishie guy, so one wishes he was a girl. Perhaps dressing as one would be sufficient? This sounds like a josou game but seems to be a “thing”; a popular subset of the imagining and negotiation with same-sex attraction in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture narratives. One would need a lot more sociology to see if and how it maps to current and historical IRL practice. [1]  Of course the story also gets around this, because…

Time for the standard caveats. This will probably be annoying to some real-world gay readers but at least it is only on the level of an old-school crossdressing romantic farce. Besides, it is needed as a setup for the next plot trick.

Why does the “amazing new power with a serious drawback” almost immediately trigger the “mistaken for gay” and…

Why does the character need conditions one and two to get dragged into becoming the school’s love advice expert?

Well, Duh!

The mangaka could instead have done something equally foolish with an isekai setup, wherein the hapless protrag fell into a video game that then transported him to a fantasy world full of scantily clad girls where he has to defeat the demon king…

…By solving teenage love problems at a magic high school/ academy for young heroes…

Urrrrrr, maybe that wouldn’t work. And this stinker’s author would probably end up make the hypothetical groaner character mistaken-for-gay again anyhoo.

See what I mean about the very heterosexual story finding a cut-n-paste use for the shadow of gay? So what if two levels of fakee instead of one are applied to the character design? Maybe three… who’s counting? Must get the main character to solve relationship problems in the process of trying to unravel his own.

It gets more convoluted: the guy who Tarou-kun thought was his kindergarten first love girl, really is a girl who is crossdressing as a guy because she has the same damn curse/ super-power, has had to live through the hell of it for ten years and blames him for it big time. The last thing she is going to do is reveal to him that he (she) is really a girl. Ibusuki-now-kun does boy to avoid having to see cheesy cringe-inducing fantasy versions of her girl-self that would be created if she went around in her girl state. No wait; the-fiend-responsible-for-this-curse has one floating above him; it clearly is modelled on “her”, she talks and is self-aware and she even has a bigger bust than the original. Goddammitalltohell! The idiot even copped a feel in the dark and still thinks that Ibusuki just has chubby man-boob baby fat. Thefoolmustdiepainfully!

Also: boobage as plot device.

This convoluted setup was needed so that slacker everydude high school guy can be forced into playing boy relationship detective. Normally one would need an eroge or dating sim to get a shonen manga (/anime) guy to give a flying squirrel about all that complex can’t/ don’t even wanna try feelings stuff — at least in a game it is systematized and rule-bound. You can grind at it and there are save-points. We need this bullshit setup to solve the shonen/ shoujo problem. Wonder what manner of contrivance would be needed to get a more adult male character story to play with the kind of emotional complexity and painful relationship angst that is routinely rolled out in josei mags?

I recently read a josei manga by the mangaka who does a lot of the covers for Rakuen Le Paradis. Said covers by the way are uniformly hawt as hell. It might have had a guy main character but the ‘Femme Fatale‘ he was fixated on drove him so far around the bend to next Sunday that it was hard to follow. Induced headache. Dude, you have a crush. Don’t over think too much. Just tell her and be there. She’ll do the deciding. You keep third and fourth guessing her while she of course is doing the same. And don’t tell me that the primary audience for this thing are dating-confused twenty-something guys.

Of course Tarou-kun normally wouldn’t bother with anything so confusing — in fact he protests and drags his heels at every opportunity — but those psychic apparitions can go bad and cause real-world harm, so he keeps finding himself having to help, otherwise someone is going to mysteriously trip out of a third-floor window.

And now a complete side excursion that is only slightly related to Tarou-kun’s concussion, confusion, troublesome psychic power and turning him mistaken-for-gay so that he can become the school’s lurv expert.

Time to run this essay off the road:

Over at the (famous and respected) long-running blog on all things Yuri, Okazu’s [okazu.yuricon.com] Erica Friedman recently published a very fine survey of the cliché/ trope of the “mentally ill” lesbian character. “A Survey of Lesbianism and Mental Instability in Yuri” (August 28th, 2017) [http://okazu.yuricon.com/2017/08/28/a-survey-of-lesbianism-and-mental-instability-in-yuri/] Not real-life lesbians as (or as represented as) pathology/ pathologized. Not about similar pathologizing traditions in lurid North American pulp magazines, not about lesbian activism in Japan and not about how to brew your own farm sake:

Characters
in
Yuri
Manga
(and anime)

It is a finely crafted presentation that flows naturally using notable manga (and anime) examples from the early 70’s on up to current practice. Of note is how Friedman advances the argument that the early juxtaposition of mental instability with same-sex desire in characters has slowly given way to the depiction of lesbianism as identity, with its recognition and acceptance a balm to the souls of characters who had previously suffered trauma — often at the hands of patriarchal authority figures. [2]

Friedman has previously written other examinations, notably on the trope of two young women first experiencing attraction for each other — what she has christened Story A — in her 40 Years of the Same Damn Story essays [Pt.1: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/  Pt. 2: http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/05/21840/]. I may be mistaken, but I also recall the subject of why lesbian couples kept meeting unfortunate ends (at least until 2007?) had also been examined by her, even as I believe V. Maser went into greater detail on this, as well. Since Erica Friedman knows yuri and knows how it intersects with, but is not anywhere close to a direct mapping of any IRL “lesbianism”; she sticks to THE STORIES. As cliché. As trope. As an exercise in literary/ manga/ moving pictures/ anime criticism while briefly noting historical trends for clues as to why anyone would do such a thing. Note the small changes in the iterations of the form, suggesting evolution in the trope. End of presentation. Any questions?

Cue confusion from the peanut gallery.

Before we consider trying to expand the frame of discussion, asking for footnotes, further examples, prequel studies and a multi-part series considering all the possible tangents from the subject at hand, including real-life spill-over, ethnology and full societal social anthropology, a simple guy like me must stop and ask myself:

Did Jim Morrison really have a massive Daddy-Mommy complex?

Twitter poll:

() Oh Yes, just like Mamet
() No, he got high and went all hacky-copy-pasta.
() Huh? Was he in Nickelback? Song sucks.

Add one more sin to the pile to be layed at the altar of the demon bones of Dr. Freud.[3] Save a bit for Krafft-Ebing too.

Modern medical research is done with record-keeping, coding, statistics and clinical trials. Shoddy pop psychology however remains a treasure trove for writers who need a quick and dirty “just-so” hook to hang a character design on. Shoddy pop psychologizing is also dangerous, as are most mythologies and just-so stories. Governments have routinely grabbed such and used them to push any number of nasty agendas. Then they sit back and do nothing to correct past vicious impositions of such because persistent low levels of discrimination and infighting among the plebs keep the bolshies from getting too many seats in the Diet and demanding crazy things like sensible work hours, living wages and affordable daycare spaces, rather than continuing old-boy cronyism.

I immediately geeked out on Friedman’s essay and dashed off a late-night email, offering excerpt quotes and a link to a neato essay from the early 90’s that I found while researching Edogawa Ranpo lore  [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/your-own-private-game-of-laplace/]. Friedman was gracious in her reply, encouraging me to pursue some of these lines of enquiry myself.

Time to put effort rather than foot where mouth is:

The effect I found fascinating was the possibility of further examination of what happened with the official Japanese adoption of certain late 19th century “western” ideas about sexuality that I am sure must have affected the Japanese stereotyping of lesbian desire, along with gay male desire from the 1920’s on through the early 1960’s.

A recap on the earlier Laplace piece: something always felt a bit ‘queer’ about Japan’s Sherlock Holmes, for good reason. Edogawa Ranpo learned that his detective mysteries sold really well when they were situated in a pervy, pathologized fantasy re-imagining of the ‘floating world”. He didn’t invent it; it already existed in lurid, sensational pulp magazines that hid their fetishization of porny deviance behind quasi-pop-scientific examination (much like the western practice of hiding nekkid lady pictures in Nudist Life magazines) but he sure glommed onto it. There were all kinds of these Ero-guro (erotic-grotesque) mags and Rampo earned his living writing true crime detective stories for them, even as when these were later republished he would be acknowledged as Japan’s answer to Conan Doyle. He also had a friend, an amateur ethnologist and historian who was really annoyed at the way furreign 19th century quack-medical ideas of mostly male same-sex desire were over-writing Japan’s history and traditions surrounding that part of the human experience. Whether Jun-ichi Iwata himself was gay and/or whether Rampo was is besides the point. Iwata’s life research project was pure cultural nationalist reclaiming of the gay as Nihon Jinron Bunka and so he set out to make the ultimate bibliography of all historical literary mentions of Japanese same-sex desire. The big complaint against same-sex desire among Japanese reactionaries is that it was and remains “un-natural”. Iwata sought to show that it is as natural as any other human behavior and that it was always part of Japanese life.

Here’s where it gets interesting: He couldn’t get it published in a scientific journal! There was the militarist police state thing in the 1930’s and then the war started… So buddy Rampo got the first bits of it published in some of those psychologized pulp fiction mags! And after Iwata died his friend Rampo continued to get the rest published as he could, as tribute to his friend’s life work. It was as if Masters and Johnson failed to find any place to publish but Playboy Magazine and then Playboy backed out and it all ended up in something like True Manly Man’s Adventure Man’s Magazine.

Better researchers had already pointed this effect out. See the quotes and citations in the Laplace post. I just thought this quirk of the Japanese 20th century approach to the study of human sexuality needed a quick ‘n dirty, perhaps a tad too snarky Cliff Notes tour, as well as bringing some disparate sources together for the laity. The Ranpo Kitan: Game of Laplace anime needed context. Laplace is still massively weird; especially how it works overtime to erase the well-known homoerotic subtext in Ranpo lore, turning all the pervert criminals into very, very heterosexual (over-) enthusiastic perverts but then jamming a BL reading onto the friendship between two members of the Baker Street Irregulars ooops: Boys’ Detective Club.

Needless to say this entire shambles is about guys.

What about women who happened to like other women? If there was an urge to lump lesbians together/ explain lesbian desire with (as they used to say in neolithic sociology classes) “deviance” in the imagination of the Japanese public, the Ero-guro and those weird little pulp hentai (literally; strange) magazines would be where this trope would hide for all those years between the 1920’s Flower Stories and the re-emergence of the “lesbian” character in early 1970’s shoujo manga.

One more time: Hentai does not literally mean smutty or dirty or lewd in Japanese. It means strange. Abnormal. Its milder cousin Ecchi literally means “Somewhat “H”(for Hentai)-ish” or “(mildly) strange-like/ish“. The legacy of pathologization of minority sexuality and gender expression is pernicious.

My chance of doing any significant primary research on any of this is on par with my chances for scoring a free Vip tour of the International Space Station but I’ll bet a small box of donuts that something must be hiding there. I can smell it!

Crap! I’m mansplaining (again). Anyone who has researched the field knows this stuff; especially if they have skin in the game. I bet some mighty powerful researchers in Japan are already on the case.

I have a whole boat-load of other interesting notions for trope research. I will stay away from BL; I’d be out of my depth — besides Nagaike did excellent groundwork on this with her “Elegant Caucasians, Amorous Arabs, and Invisible Others:
Signs and Images of Foreigners in Japanese BL Manga” essay [http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/nagaike.htm] — the structure is easily adaptable. In Yuri however, I wish I knew more of the classics. The rich older role model who may (or may not) be one member of a beta couple needs a survey. It would be interesting to watch as she/they evolved. Perhaps she has to be teased apart from the beta couple trope itself into two separate character trope categories? Her opposite/ opposites; the wild child/ war child/ child of the streets. Being poor is almost as unfortunate (and useful) for character design as  mental instability, or unbelievably wealth.

All are marked, even multiply marked as living outside of mandated social roles and behaviors — which is why we keep making up slipshod tales with them. And since they are also outside of social mores and modes of behavior, they can do things. What else? Most 20th century pop psychology maps reality about as well as political commentary on Fox News. It might be better to now go easy on all the sexuality and gender stuff when designing outsider charas but bitten by a radioactive spider is already taken.[4]

Back to the “I’m not gay, it’s only my childhood girlfriend who turned out to be a guy (only he hates me now and I don’t know that he is really a she)” hero of First Love Fanservice Apparitions, Tarou Kurume. His whole class thinks he is gay. It is too complicated to explain otherwise and he wonders if perhaps he might be; at least for Ririto Ibusuki. And if everyone thinks he is gay, it will take a lot of pressure off him because this is an ideal manga high school and no one bullies gay people and besides he can’t deal with love and attraction right now because he is too distracted by all the cringe-inducing cheesecake love-ghosts floating above the heads of all the guys in class – including his own ghost, Eve. The only person who is really left out by all this is his other childhood friend Mei Ebino; an incredibly beautiful, tall and buxom sports girl who is slowly developing feelings for him and wishes he would notice her. (He has, but he also knows that his other friend has a severe crush on her – It’s complicated!)

Being “the gay guy” has its advantages. None of the girls consider him a perv like the other guys — at least in their direction. The guys have settled on the idea that he is only interested in one particular guy (who despises him) and he gets to avoid all manner of messy jealousies and puppy-love triangles. Also, to his classmates he seems uncharacteristically (for a guy) insightful about everyone else’s crushes (he can’t help it – they float over the guys’ heads) and has therefore become the class “love expert” who can solve everyone’s teen-age heart breaks and longings. Solve is a bit of a misunderstanding, he exorcises; the ghosts can go bad and cause real-world harm and Tarou can’t sit back and let it happen. Eve won’t let him.

Clearly the whole puberty thing is just a trail of thorns and tears. Tarou can’t even take solitary enjoyment in porn mags because Eve is always there to make cutesy comments, she talks to him, incessantly! Porn mags? What kind of porn mags? He already gets to see what all the other guys’ fantasies looks like. All the guys in his class. Floating above their heads. Every day.

Cringe!

This has got to be one of the most ingenious ways of mixing an excuse for ZOMG overload with embarrassing laughs over adolescent male discomfort with desire ever devised. Kudos to the mangaka!

Then add a not-so much love triangle between him, Ibusuki and Ebino-chan. Then add Ibusuki’s crossdressed-as-a-girl-child-for-family circumstances cover story and why she hates him: he ‘contaminated’ her with the curse, unconsciously made up cheesecake Eve and the cursed ability was instrumental in breaking up her family — her father is a flake and ran off after his first love (quel disaster!). Therefore everything is all Tarou’s fault.

Ha Ha Ha.

Of note is the plot conflation of being able to read subtle interpersonal clues and notice other people’s desires as a “super power” and/or “curse” for a “normal” heterosexual young male chara. Cartoon guys are not supposed to have or want to have a clue — let alone publicly admit to having a clue about such things. Emotional bucket work is women’s work. Emotional complexity the fabric of their recreational fictions. Exceptions to this rule are a marker of “the other”; often the minority sexuality and/or gender-expressing male, who by nature of their position outside of the social norm is attuned to such patterns, even beyond the normal abilities of conforming women members. At least, like the two-souled indigenous-culture shaman or Thai transperson they are worth consulting for a second opinion.

I will not go all J.G. Frazer here. On Shinto, nope…

Yet desire and identity are irresistible subjects to question and play with. And nothing highlights the contradictions like a character that doesn’t fit the authorised specs. Take these away and there is nothing left but fighting, money, machines and freezing to death on the top of a mountain. Unfortunately, being creative is hard, low paying work and we are, all of us rather lazy when it comes to constructing and/or accepting characters and fleshing out (/buying into) their motivations.

One axis of this mess is how an author needs a convincing excuse for a character that is “the other” in order to give the character a measure of freedom and agency, as well as an outsider vantage point towards social structures.

Another axis runs the length of the question as to why all manner of people who are not attracted to the folks that their fave characters are attracted to will continue to need to make up far-fetched shadows of real minority sexualities and gender expressions. Even if we do get a tale spun by an authentic LGBTQ author, it will still have to pander to majority clichés or, at least until recently settle for very limited publication runs. There are too many of us riajuu underfoot; companies want our patronage.

If you wade into ethnicities, race and colonialism, we also all go wild making up (or supporting) exotic “others” as charas to fetishize too. Let’s not go there right now, except to mention that part of why the weeb legions of the west are so geeked on Japan is that we watch the Japanese reader/ viewer doing it back to us. And they do it in all kinds of interesting yet somewhat disturbing ways, which is an entire new experience! (again: Adrian Piper). Such illusions remain surprisingly resistant to disruption. At their simplest, they reinforce the useful delusion that the greatest threat to our well-being lies outside, rather than within our own socials.

Thank Ghu these aren’t floating around above our heads. Wouldn’t that would make for one nasty manga…

How about a preliminary, if transactional schema:

Complete alien/ THREAT => opponent/ threat => comic relief/ not a threat => faces challenges poorly because of X/ not a direct threat but disconcerting => faces challenges and surmounts them once realises that X is their strength/ not a threat, abstract moral example => different point of view/ not a threat, might be useful => interesting friend/ valuable as an ally.

I wish they would go more into Aeschylus’s The Friendly Ones when they teach the Merchant of Venice in high school. Shakey dumbed Shylock down wayyyyy too much for the cheap seats. Of course the well-educated caught the reference to the earlier classical play. Even rich bigots need good accountants.

Ceremonial robes of citizenship for the useful ones.

Being able to process and cope with complex interpersonal emotional situations is not a shonen lead chara thing. Have I mentioned that I cannot get into Evangelion because having a teen boy shit-fit-freak-out in order to power up a giant robot is just too far around the bend for me to care about — even as it is posited as the “correct” shonen response to emotional turmoil. Part of the charm of Koyomi Araragi’s harem in the Monogatari franchise is that all the emotional problems that beset its good-looking young women turn into physical supernatural manifestations that, while dangerous can be “purged” by contest (mostly finished by the ruined mini-vampire) or trickery. Or you can just let the girls bat you around until they get bored and work it out themselves.

If you have an insightful, resourceful teenage guy character who can understand and resolve complex interpersonal conflicts and who does not have a hidden super-power or is not marked as having queer desires and/or gender expressions, then he has to be a depressed, self loathing hater of all humanity; as in “My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected“. The outsider vantage point necessary for insight and agency. Come to think of it, Araragi-kun had a touch of this too before he met his vampire. His “bad uncle” Kaiki is even worse.

One other hole in the plot structure: why does a girl need the ability to see such apparitions, when she would “normally” absorb the gender-marked ability to read all manner of complex emotional interpersonal dynamics in the process of socializing into her role as a woman in society? Ibusuki was “contaminated” by an ‘abnormal’ male power, is wealthy and therefore somewhat isolated from mainstream socialization pressures and adopted male presentation as an interim solution to her affliction, thus probably dooming herself to her continued condition. Yikes! Another heavy-handed just-so story sneaks into the tale to do some gender-role policing!

Beyond all these fantasies lies the last boss of reality; the insurmountable fact that messy teen longings cannot be solved by anyone, let alone by a boy relationship detective, no matter what manner of fantastic status is given to the main chara as/ along with small super-powers.

You do not understand the heart of a man.

First Love Cheesecake Apparitions remains fun and far less dire than the mangaka’s previous effort. Floating pantsu overload aside, it is chaste and well-behaved. No playing with fire, everyone has their whole lives ahead of them — as long as they can get through adolescence without getting maimed by a jealous first love ghost. The other interesting bit about the story setup is how it foregrounds the emotional turmoil of the high school guys. It becomes, in effect a mechanistic boys-do-simplified-shoujo-manga analogue. Note who gets to work through, or fail to work through their romantic problems. Of the two women main characters only the one who presents as a boy gets significant wrestle-with-their-feelings time. It takes the other one, Ebino-chan some 80 chapters and a school play before she realises that she might actually like her childhood friend, that way.

It’s all about the lads after all.

A final complication lies dormant in the story set-up; how young guys’ fantasies of their crushes over-write the reality of the actual person they are supposed to be interested in (the grandpa arc touched on some of this). If the mangaka wants to spin the tale out for another hundred chapters, they can have most of the happy couples that boy relationship detective brought together split up, with a chorus of angry young women complaining that the guys immediately grew bored with (real girls) them. This effect also jumps over to reader expectations; forum discussions about a current “gummint-pairs-up-teens” anime has (at least on one forum) derailed into a nostalgic revisitation of why Mysterious Girlfriend X was much, much better.

Destroy everything we touch

Tarou is the quintessential low-energy male romcom lead. The only remedy for such lethargy is edgy romantic confusion (spoon-fed to him in a linear, easy to digest manner). Guys are suckers for this kind of nonsense, as it is far easier and much more fun than paying attention to the person in front of you. Better than naughty knickers too!

If Hatsukoi Zombie lurches to a standard, predictable conclusion Ibusuki will decide that she-as-she still has feelings for Tarou and then stop “presenting” as a guy. Then the “super power” can get toned down or controlled for both her and Tarou, so that only Eve remains with autonomy enough to wander off and/or disappear as she choses. And Ebino-chan will find someone who makes her heart go doki-doki more than Tarou does.

BORING!

Ibusuku should be maneuvered by the mangaka into dropping their masquerade, trying girl mode for a week, surprising the entire school, claiming Tarou as her own and then reverting to a bifauxnen guy school uniform presentation because “I feel more comfortable this way’. She is rich and can do anything she wants. Drop in some mumbo jumbo about it minimizing Ibusuki-chan apparitions and this otherwise vanilla cheesecake manga can go out (or drag on) in ways that Uso Lily dipped its toe into but never developed.

I’m not gay, my girlfriend just likes the boi look“. Eve to have fun with Utena cosplay and otokoyaku Takarazuka outfits.

Straight folks won’t stop making up our ideas of the gay (etc.). We won’t stop. Ever. We have needs. The best that everyone can hope for is that some of the worst squick and dirty versions that get whomped up are retired as massively uncool and finally so hateful that to drag one out would indicate that something is not entirely ok with anyone who did so’s head space. Maybe real gay folks can even add some new, better stuff to the trope stockpile, so that the rest of us can pillage them.

Oh Lookie! A shiny, shiny new thing called queer! I got this great shonen manga idea…

Facepalm.

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] See “Japanese gay men’s attitudes towards ‘gay manga’ and the problem of genre” by Thomas Baudinette for a contemporary view of how Japanese gay men view these narratives and associated character types.
https://www.academia.edu/25044799/Japanese_gay_mens_attitudes_towards_gay_manga_and_the_problem_of_genre
Of note by the same researcher, on modern Japanese gay male identification by self-identity/preference-type; “Constructing identities on a Japanese gay dating site: Hunkiness, cuteness and the desire for heteronormative masculinity” and how this maps out in urban space in Tokyo’s gay bar district; “The spatialisation of desire in a Japanese gay district through signage“, available at his Academia.edu page:
https://mq.academia.edu/ThomasBaudinette

[2] I nominate Princess Principal to any appendix list, with “spy des” as stand-in for clearly imputed women’s affective bonds. All the father figures in that anime so far are sexist, often dangerously harmful shits. They get killed a lot too. Oh heck, there should be room for Haibane Remnai too; that face in the train apparition

[3]  I better watch my own soul here. Herr Doktor and an ancestor were academic rivals and the latter’s complaints with Freud were undoubtedly tainted by bad faith.

[4] There is even a curious rejoinder to this Fox News psychologizing effect; if the battleground shifts from science to fabulation then the fables themselves must become contested ground. Iwata was not the only example of this impulse. What the devil was I doing reading Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick? One of the founders of queer theory‘s main works was in effect historical literary analysis and critique: lookie at all those 19th century high literature tales of male friendship. Lookie what must be hiding between the lines. Ok sure, but I reserve the right to voice a “Helmut” rejoinder now and again. It is as easy to fetishize (male) friendship as it is to fetishize gay and lesbian desire. I would never consider imputing “slashy” praxis to Sedgwick. Nope, not me…

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Ch122fic: another final fantasy

Go hard or go home web.jpg

Madarame: “I’m sorry. I can’t go out with anyone here, I already have someone I like!
Hato: (removing wig, male voice)Sempai ???
Madarame: “Glad you could make it. Your answer?”

Last bit of fic before Chapter 122 hits the shelves.

Mada is even too shy to date Hato-chan.

Kujibiki Unbalance Rakugu Shinjuu

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

pulp scifi flowers

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cause I really like you.”

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

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

Who am I to disagree..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whew! Tall order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who eats the sins of the sin-eater?

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

De Profundis:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One more time, with expository notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could classic sparkling fluffy BL play out under withering spotlights?

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

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

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

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

Bad domestic press, Bad!

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

Holy right-wing sound truck parade Batman!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heavy Object.

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

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

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

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

Madarame took another big gulp of beer.

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

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

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

“What, uh?”

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

She turned and glared at Hato.

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

“Hato mine!”

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

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

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

She then noticed her mom and dad staring at her.

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

Yajima-san, please…” said Madarame.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hato’s face was full redder than red.

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

I think I need more beer.”

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

-30-

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

Win an internets.

LATER: Don’t skip the comment section

To denounce the error of truth and love

Some AU Chapter 122 fan-fiction; because Kio Shimoku can be a real demon of mis-direction when he wants to be. The only thing worse than being a stick-in-the mud, old-school cis het fanboy is being one with a plausible scenario that screws up everybody’s ships.

c 122 If you insist web

The Second President.

“Time to choose. This has gone too far”

Madarame turned to face them all.

I choose Yoshitake Rika-san – but only if she dresses like a boy.
That got your attention, didn’t it?”

“Ok; Not!

“I apologise to everyone. My deepest apologies to Kuchiki-san, whose celebration this trip is supposed to be for. Hold tight, I’m going to fix things for you.”

“My thanks to Yoshitake-san for trying to clear up the Harem, You were right, This could tear the club apart. Seeing what is happening tonight, I fear that it has already started. I must stop that even if it means ‘decide or leave‘.”

“I am the second President of the Genshiken, a club that I loved and am still very proud of. The new membership is different from my time, but in many ways just as exciting and even more productive. I will not be the reason that it breaks into pieces. I resign as harem-lead and circle-king.”

“Thank you Keiko Sasahara-san for your interest in me. You are right; like Saki-san, you stand in the riajuu world and can point out the obvious things that we miss. You are strong and beautiful… but I must consider the future. If we went out and it did not work, how could I ever face Sasahara-san or even Ogiue-san, your brother and your soon-to-be sister-in-law? Even while it worked it would be very uncomfortable. It is way too close; too much like a small village drama.”

Miss Susanna Hopkins. I am comfortable around you and I am very happy that you are now comfortable enough around me to look my way. What would happen if we ruined that?

You are a vital member of the club. I hope to watch you as your skills catch fire and you become a force at Comiket. And yet, neither of us know the slightest thing about real-world romance. The chance of it working is slim and the chance of bitter misunderstanding is high. And then I would never again be able to trade obscure otaku jokes with you.

That I could not bear.

Hato Kenjiro-san. How did we end up here? I tripped over you when we were both drunk and tired. You cooked for me and cleaned up after me when I broke my wrist. We both have a head full of fantasies swirling around us and most of the club looks at us as a pairing. I always said I didn’t mind… but I do mind! I don’t like being thought of as a sou-uke. And I don’t know if I can be a forceful seme either. These fantasies leave no room for me to just be me, a guy.

You gave me Valentines day chocolate and I felt something. Earlier I told you that I was not afraid of trying it, even as you tried to persuade me to give up. Thank you for your objections; If anything they re-doubled my interest. I don’t think I have turned gay and I don’t see you only as a guy or only as a girl. I wanted all of you. I have become greedy.

But you made your point. And we missed two bigger issues. Neither of us have the slightest idea of how to do 3D romance, let alone that we are two guys. I don’t think that is so much of a big deal; unless we try to behave like something in your dojins or in my trap games. That will not work, I guarantee that. And then we will grow to hate each other.

Right now, you are drawing, you can become a dojinshi artist, you might even follow Ogiue as semi-pro or pro. And you are an important member of the club. You said it yourself: If something was to go wrong, we would never speak again. And I fear that even if nothing went wrong, how you fit in with the rest of the club would be forever changed. You say that if I can understand that you have thought of both MadaHato and HatoMada that you will stop running. You have made me think of both of these and all the junk in my head from my trap games too.

And I am not afraid.

But I have also thought of how much effort you have put into becoming a fujoshi. I said I understood that you were a fudanshi. And you said you were a fudanshi. I was wrong and you are wrong. You are not a fudanshi, you have never wanted to be a fudanshi. You are a fujoshi. You are as real a fujoshi as the rest of the women in the Genshiken.

As a fujoshi you fit into the club. As a crossdressing fudanshi with a boyfriend, you de-stabilize the club, you break the magic circle, you destroy all the work you have done, you risk your friendships, you threaten the club. You can call me a coward but I have seen you with your first love. I have heard your true heart beat doki-doki.

I will not stand between it and you.

Had the stars been different, something different might have happened. Even now I hope that I can be your friend. But I am not your sou-uke. I am not your seme. I cannot even be your love. I must be your sempai, the second president of the Genshiken, who served this club and passed it on to Sasahara-san who passed it on to Ohno-san, as she passed it on to Ogiue-san. One day, it might be passed to you.

I will protect what was entrusted to me.

Susana-san, do you recognise the line: “No one will be happy. Everyone will be equally unhappy together”? That is the Japanese way. I will get my bags, catch the late train, get home, start looking for a job and think of moving close to it when I get one. I will see you all at Comiket, and maybe at the University culture fair. Do not disappoint me, become great.

Kuchiki, I return to you your harem fantasy. Don’t break it.

(Much angry grumbling from the group)

I am so full of shit right now that I am going to explode.
That cannot be helped. And I leave the story without a good ending.

I will try one last small hope. I will “look with unclouded eyes” at the one who has been right in front of me all this time.

Angela-san. (Ohno please translate – I must get a smart phone to help translate) I thank you for your earlier suggestion, but I would not care to be shared with you… or to share you. (pause) I think I would want you all for myself. (pause)

I hope that does not disappoint you. (pause) I know you have a wicked sense of humor. I thought that you were just playing with me when you went on about my fingers and stuff, but then you keep travelling all this way to come here. Thousands of miles, so many times! (pause) I know it is fun to visit with Ohno and Sue and the club, but I have been a fool not see anything else. I could be wrong. (pause) …But you were ‘first girl‘. First Girl always wins – if you still want to. (pause)

You are beautiful and scary and powerful and funny and I apologise for all the times that I have run away. I never meant to hurt your feelings. Please forgive me. I must learn from my friend Hato-san. (pause)

It is my turn not to run away any more. (pause)

And long distance does not look so far away any more. (pause)

Also; forgive me for being calculating, but if I am a complete loser and you dump me, It won’t hurt the club. I am new at this, please treat me well. Tell me soon how you feel.

I love you all. Speaking from my true heart and as your sempai and as the Second President of the Genshiken, this is my final decision.

And now I need another drink.”

-30-

 

 

C’mon! You have to admit it WORKS. Uses all extant parameters, dissolves the harem in such a way that everyone saves face, appeals to hierarchy and responsibility getting in the way of true whatever, leaves lots of room for happy fantasies, makes our loser hero so damn noble – he can snap to when put in an executive role – and lets him jump on the grenade heroically.. Only Angela can save his sorry ass if she wants to.

The fear of a runaway-harem-train-crash might be enough to overcome the fear of a sexy blonde gaijin bombshell who thinks he is cute. Pretty easy heroic sacrifice. Twist the other arm. Ooooh you forced me!

Booo Hisss Cheat! Yell the pro-Hato faction. Of course. I admit it.
Just sayin’. That’s why the patriarchy is a rat-bastard. It is always too easy. It owns all the default settings. The game is called Monopoly for a reason.

Doesn’t mean that I don’t think the pro-Hato forces of truth and justice aren’t up for the good fight:

Madarame: Hato, you’re the only one I can be forward with.
Madarame: Whatever’s stopping you from accepting that we could be serious with each other, I’ll help ease your worries.
Madarame: Seriously, don’t think the fact that we’re both guys means that we can’t work out together.
Madarame: Dang yeah, I’ve definitely thought about topping you.
Madarame: Sure man, I get that choosing you means I’ll have to consider role-reversal when it comes to sexy times.
Madarame: (literally in front of every one else, including the girls who are openly vying for his attention) Okay let’s continue our date in private, Hato.

Fuckboys: UHM YEAH, MADAHATO? IT’S JUST NOT REALISTIC. WHEN IS HE GETTING TOGETHER WITH SUE.
– muravie’s Tumblr

And:

“I’ve given up on trying to convince those types. Even if Kio dedicated an entire chapter to Hato and Mada getting it on in graphic detail, they’d still find a way to NO HOMO out of it like “Naw man he tripped and accidentally slipped his penis into Hato and because it was dark he couldn’t tell it was a man he was fucking so totes no homo Sue end when lmao”.”

#their tears are delicious though #they sustain me
-andialex’s tumblr

Even without the deep draughts from the tear bucket, they do make a persuasive set of arguments:

“Without a DOUBT Madarame is way more interested in Hato than any of the others he went on dates with, that’s just utterly blatant. And they’re able to discuss all this so candidly! They’re both trying their best to be totally honest with each other and say how they really feel and what they need and what they want, and it’s all looking just really good and really healthy, you know?

I feel like if they got together, they could have really good communication and that goes such a LONG way in a relationship. They could work out for sure, they really could.

This chapter IS beautiful, oh man. ;_; I love them both.””

-Hatomada’s Tumblr

Point taken. Well pitched. The “Fuckboy” contingent has been letting our end of the argument slip a bit. I fix.

I, or anyone else can write fanfic sequels where Angela told Madarame to go fuck himself, she is nobody’s last choice. Mada leaves, moves away and occasionally pops up again at conventions. (Which begs another question; where are the older Genshiken alumni?)

Or Angela and Madarame walk off into the sunset. Or Hato lends Rika boy clothes and they walk off into the sunset. Or Hato grabs Mada after the speech and sweeps him off his feet in a tango smooch. Or zombies attack just as Madarame is about to reveal who he has chosen.

For a manga about fans who take the stuff they love and make their own stuff to add to the love, there is a serious need for more Genshiken fanficton. Not to be a pest, but Hatozine Vol2 please! I’ll read it. I’ll help. Sorry, I have not enough cred to org it.

Now what do I do with this? I put it up here on this blog of course. Feel free to toss noodles at my ears via the comment section.

What next? I don’t think Kio Shimoku or any of his crew troll obscure English language blogs or English Tumbler space looking for ideas, or to frustrate obvious plot-line speculation by fans. Some time around March 25 we’ll get an idea of how Kio Shimoku wants to play this. If I come close I’ll buy myself a chocolate donut. If he does something else, I’ll look to see if he does it better and try to figure out why he did, what he did.

It’s a hobby.

No, wait. Put on your tin-foil hats and adjust them tight. Get your red and blue pills ready. The big secret that you are not yet ready to understand is that Kio Shimoku sends his minions to read this blog. He’s gonna be sooooooo pissed off that I guessed his solution for chapter 122 that he CHANGES IT. Yuppers! So if you get a nice juicy MadaHatoMada canon ship in chapter 122, it is so because of moi, this post and all my friends at the IATPT. You owe us all big-time. Don’t believe me? You aren’t ready for the TRUTH, Sheeple! Or you suspected it all along, forcing me into revealing it in a purposefully clumsy way as a false flag operation to cover the tracks of the great conspiracy. At least you have no idea yet about the Duck.

And there is no duck.  (1)

Yup, Uhuh!

Or I could just be desperately clinging to old stories. please see:

http://www.newstatesman.com/culture/film/2015/12/what-do-when-youre-not-hero-any-more

(You may have to reload a few times or turn off javascript to get around the effing sign-up pop-over.)

Thing is, I’m trying to get around all this. Maybe I just want ALL the alternatives. Mada walks away in disgust with everyone. And Mada walks off into the sunset with Angela or with Keiko or with Sue or with all of the girls or with all the girls plus Hato, as boy, as girl, as boy-girl. And Mada walks off with Hato and then…

No one said the modernist subject has to be a hysterically unified ego-structure. Duh; Joyce, Elliot, blah blah blah. We were fucked the minute they invented the movie camera. Read The Wasteland as screenplay, yadda yadda yadda. How sophomoric of me to mention this.

Does the way the walking off is done have to salve something in the way I want the forms of the symbolic order to play out?

Do the characters have to start acting brutally honest with each other and themselves? Is that just a fallback? Will I put up with some gay-lite if they act honorably and honest? What if Hato is being devious and Madarame is a poor little deluded lamb? What if Madarame is going to turn evil and exploit poor lovestruck Hato? Can they be equally deluded and make funny mistakes over and over and over again? An idiot guys’ guide to fakee gay relationship fun via BL tropes. Try this and fail! Hijinks Ensue. Ok Lets try the idiot guys’ guide to a fakee pervy-queer relationship fun via Josou game tropes. Even funnier fail. Haw haw Haw. Serves you all right.. Should have stuck to cis / het behaviour.

Don’t laugh too hard. In my youth I watched a horribly stupid and somewhat emotionally damaged young couple try to learn how to do “normal” romance by watching 1970’s soap operas. The results were ridiculous but probably better than their earlier attempt to figure out true love using massive amounts of recreational hallucinogens.

Or Mada and Hato walk off into the sunset and slowly figure it all out, with kittens and long walks in the park and finally after many many a chapter, in a special comiket-only 18+ dojin by “some other mangaka“, (special low comiket-only price Y1,000) the happy couple engage in a marathon of yaoi schmex acrobatics to consummate their union then hold each other tightly, talk of their futures together and profess true, unending love, forever, yawn and yawn ever, as Mary Jeanne Johnson once suggested; like happy, married, middle-aged lesbians. Of course she then added: “real gay guys don’t do that”. But what does she know? MJJ blogged before cialis, perhaps even before poppers. Heck, even before Shoujo Sect.

But hey… They could also turn into 70 meter tall kaiju and wreck Tokyo. (Bad fanboy in denial, Bad!)

HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! HOLY SHIT! Chapter 122 will be an extended plug-piece for the new Genshiken Eroge Visual Novel! Yes, you can get all the endings! If you clear all the routes, you get naughty bonus stuff too!

(I just collapsed in a pile of fannish steam out of my ears or something!)

Probably not. Dream on. Some folks will be disappointed.

I could, at this point bring in a few poignant essays from writers, with female and/ or non euro-ethnic and/ or not-straight and/ or not-cis identities about the shit of trying to get through the academic maze and/ or the publishing industry with that old white guy at the gates (gates also staffed by unpaid rich white girl interns) and in their heads, but shit…

The idea that anyone is going to give anyone else a juicy $150K tenured job for life at a university teaching other rich folk’s kids the magic of writing is soon going to vanish down the toilet of the “sharing economy” aka the new serfdom. And fanfiction will displace official fiction as they merge into each other on Amazon. Then Bots will get better at writing and all of us can go home. Gresham’s Law. Freedom of the press means freedom to own one and crank it yourself, and you are reading this hideous mess on yours. Ps: it is also your own personal music and movie studio. Enjoy, please don’t overload the interwebs.

Meanwhile, I get more new content then I can possibly even read at the cost of all my time and a $30/month DSL charge. Let’s so not go into the failing economics of creative production and distribution. It will all soon go belly up and if we want more Genshiken, we will have to make the trip to see Kio Shimoku perform the latest chapter of Genshiken as Rakugo; live with subtitles up on a screen. But we have to all strip and change into yukata first, so we don’t cam the show and bootleg it up onto the web.

Guess I should start running ads on this blog.
Nawwwwwww. Not yet, Feels like work.

Serves Kio Shimoku right for opening the Pandora’s Götterdämmerung of fan-fiction and secondary production in an age when the traditional male gaze diffuses under the pressures of new economic realities, distribution methods and electronically aided production. He will weave tales that take us through the long night ahead. When he falls silent, others will take up the storytelling.

At least none of his characters pirate their manga and anime. No one in Japanese manga or anime ever pirates their fave stuff. They never even go to Book Off for used copies in great shape, for Y100.

Dog most assuredly is not barking.

Let ten thousand flowers bloom.

25 more days.

Ps: the Ogiue Maniax write-up for chapter 121 is up:
http://ogiuemaniax.com/2016/02/26/nayami-heat-genshiken-ii-chapter-121/

 

 

(1)  Later: I just want to make it perfectly clear that the “red-pill” section above is a pure “down-the-rabbit-hole” bat-shit whooohaah attempt at conspiracy humor. You know like that meta-joke Stargate episode… or sumthin’..  What with current US politix, I thought it timely. I haven’t quite lost it… yet. Occasionally over-enthusiastic, guilty as charged. Also, I have nothing against HataMadaHato ships. I think they are cute. I’m not picking on Hato. Just wanted to point out the obvious biases in the structure.  However, I have been reminded that some folks don’t share my sense of the absurd and others find me a bit hard to follow, so I just thought I better… Oh heck, screw it… 

A month later, after the mess that is chapter 122: 
Well this reads like suck in the light of chapter 122. That was not a resolution. That was not a serious response, to anyone and from anyone. I am ashamed of this post but I will leave it up. There is still a lot of Hato, especially in female presenting, full-metal-fujoshier-than-thou mode that is deeply troublesome but during the trip, Hato was locked in her like a straightjacket. She could not break character, lest she lose everything. Besides, the Genshiken is about fans and geek and Hato’s fanning is as legitimate as anyone elses. But that also means Hato should have the right to dial it back if needed.

And Mada… Mada was pursuing, Mada almost went through with it. Only the thought of having to be the lead in a Genshiken no-privacy-ever dojinshi collapsed his resolve. His responses to the others were perfunctory. The response to Hato-as-chan was an invite to pretend it was all a rotten fantasy and damn everything. And so they did. In too many ways, far more insulting than “and then they woke up and it was all a dream”. An honest confession demand an honest response. None was given.

The club did not help, it hindered. Yoshitake was allowed to run her setup. I wonder if she now smiles her work to see. She always assumed that Hato was gay and Madarame would run. I don’t think Madarame suddenly has eyes for guys in general but he felt something real for Hato. He should have been allowed to. Was he “fooled”? Perhaps some of the melodramatics from Hato pushed buttons, but who the fuck was there for Mada when he was stuck at home with a dead wrist? Was that all delusion? Even Hato’s fannish enthusiasms are shat upon. At least I tried in my stupid thing above to value them. How can they even ever face each other again?

We didn’t hear enough from Hato in male mode.We never found out what the two talked about when they continued their “date”. Ogiue was ineffective. Ohno was out of range – no fairy godmother help this time. Sue folded like a house of cards. The entire club was drunked up and then scared shitless of what they had done. This fails the Genshiken, fails the general readers, fails the readers who cheered for a gender-diffuse, non-binary, trying to figure it our Hato (Kio, that is really is low), Fails the stick in the mud middle-aged guy readers who were trying to get their thinking past the angry ghosts of earlier times and even fails the rabid fuckboys who could have lost a bit of the fear that hides behind their snark. It fails as comedy, it fails as tragedy, it fails as slice of life. Fail fail fail.

Damn you Kio, you shat in our cornflakes. Repent!

 

The hammer of desire

On hand-waving… 

‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.’
— Bertolt Brecht

Objects-In-Mirro rblurr web

…Or a distorted mirror; one that does not announce its distortions. There are no OBJECTS IN MIRROR etc. markings below the images. The pretty pictures are but entertainments. If you take them as reflections, you do so at your peril.

Yet Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture (CJVC) operates with strong feedback loops between producer, publisher and consumer/ commenter/ transformative fan worker and gives rise to certain effects, most which could be roughly categorised as over-emphasis. More interesting is the way the process also serves to mediate participant opinions and desires. The temptation to stare into the mirror is great. As is the temptation to try to bend the reflection to one’s ends.

A few right-wingers and/or cults have in the past made clumsy attempts at taking advantage of this effect; so far their successes have been limited. A nominally ‘apolitical’ fandom holds advantages as well as drawbacks. But when the fandom devours stories that point towards a fleeting shadow of social progressivism, the temptation to nudge the canon is hard to resist.

At what point does Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture (CJVC) pick up the hammer?

Tgirls web

“Fuji TV announces Japan-first lesbian drama, but attracts criticism for ‘outdated’ portrayal by Andrew Mckirdy

Fuji Television has announced a drama series featuring a lesbian love story as its central theme — a first for Japan.

But a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist has slammed the show’s promotional material for portraying an “out-of-date” image of same-sex couples.
[…]
But Maki Muraki, the leader of nonprofit organization Nijiiro Diversity, which promotes workplace equality for LGBT people in Japan, believes the show is sending out the wrong message.
[…]
“Having two girls lying naked on a white sheet and using words like ‘forbidden’ is a little out of date, I think,” Muraki told The Japan Times on Thursday.
[…]
“The things we do are not about sex. We face a lot of difficulties in our life, for example in the workplace. To be told that the image of us is one of sex doesn’t make me happy.”
— http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/22/national/social-issues/fuji-tv-announces-japan-first-lesbian-drama-heels-advances-lgbt-rights/#.VkPujdSNg7X

A machine translation of an interview with Muraki-san:

https://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2015/01/01/lgbt-maki-muraki-1_n_6403210.html&prev=search

And a presentation on workplace diversity policies in Japan that she worked on:

http://www.outandequal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/0M12501.pdf

A few western fans gush over Transit Girls:

http://yuri-goggles.com/2015/10/23/transit-girls-j-drama/

More Google-fu reveals that Transit Girls is most probably going to be a live-action Citrus-lite retread. Nearly underage step-sister angst and fanservice. Not much chance to confront any real-life issues. Erica Friedman’s Okazu blog review was short:

“…just a typical unrealistic Yuri trope – sister[s] by marriage fall for each other. Snooze. LGBTQ activists in Japan are about as thrilled as I am. [link to Muraki-san reaction piece] You know what I say about this – how lazy do you have to be to not even leave your living room to fall in love.”
– Erica Friedman, Okazu blog, Oct. 28, 2015
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/10/31/yuri-network-news-%E7%99%BE%E5%90%88%E3%83%8D%E3%83%83%E3%83%88%E3%83%AF%E3%83%BC%E3%82%AF%E3%83%8B%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B9-october-28-2015/

Decide yourself (?) See FOOTNOTE FOR UPDATE (1)

http://jp.jplovetv.com/2015/11/transit-girls-1-transit-girls-ep1.html

The subs look like they are in old-school/TW Chinese. Skimming through looks like they swiped a bit of Kanojo to Camera to Kanojo no Kisetsu as well.

Contrast this to her review of Otouto no Otto:

“If there is, in 2015, a single series I would call “most-anticipated,” Tagame Gengoroh’s Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) is that series.

Tagame-sensei is best known in North America for his overtly sexual comics by about and for gay men, known as bara, with an emphasis on large, hairy men (what are called “bears” in western gay vernacular).

The protagonist of Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) , My Brother’s Husband, is Yaichi, a single father, who has been estranged from his now late twin brother for many years. The volume begins on the day his brother’s widower, Mike Flanagan, arrives at Yaichi’s home. Yaichi is not at all comfortable with Mike, or the fact that his brother was gay, or married, but Kana, his daughter, can’t see the problem. The only problem she sees is that she had no idea she had an uncle at all! So when she invites Mike to stay, Yaichi can’t really say no.”
– Erica Friedman, Okazu blog, Nov. 8, 2015
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/11/08/lgbtq-manga-otouto-no-otto-%E5%BC%9F%E3%81%AE%E5%A4%AB/

Is this juxtaposition unfair? Can Bara auteurs can do things that Yuri and BL auteurs can’t?

Meanwhile, IRL New York:

Equality, Then What? New Plays Explore Modern Gay Life
By ALEXIS SOLOSKINOV. 5, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/theater/equality-then-what-new-plays-explore-modern-gay-life.html

Note how the reviewer raises an eyebrow at the designer stage props.

The article is somewhat of a follow-up on:

A Baby for the Gay Authors Behind the Daddy Penguins
By Jennifer 8. Lee
October 2, 2009 7:30 am October 2, 2009 7:30 am
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/a-baby-for-the-gay-authors-behind-the-daddy-penguins/

How’s that for a range of fictional treatments of LGBTQ lives and desires; from silly fantasy through to social realism written by and for the community? Note the strident “anti-“ in the comment section that plays the class card. (And yes, the author of the piece has the numeral 8 in her name. Google her for her wiki page if you are wondering.)

I sincerely hope this stuff pops some reactionary county clerk’s cookies (or not; I suspect the whole controversy was a cynical attempt to cash in on the wingnut celeb circuit) Here’s a backgrounder, to soothe residual knee-twitching:

What’s Good for the Kids
By LISA BELKINNOV. 5, 2009

“…approximately 1 in 5 male same-sex couples and 1 in 3 female same-sex couples are raising children, up from 1 in 20 male couples and 1 in 5 female couples in 1990.

In most ways, the accumulated research shows, children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends. While girls raised by lesbian mothers seem slightly more likely to have more sexual partners, and boys slightly more likely to have fewer, than those raised by heterosexual mothers, neither sex is more likely to suffer from gender confusion nor to identify themselves as gay.

More enlightening than the similarities, however, are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families.

There are data that show, for instance, that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to aspire to professions that are traditionally considered male, like doctors or lawyers — 52 percent in one study said that was their goal, compared with 21 percent of daughters of heterosexual mothers, who are still more likely to say they want to be nurses or teachers when they grow up. (The same study found that 95 percent of boys from both types of families choose the more masculine jobs.) Girls raised by lesbians are also more likely to engage in “roughhousing” and to play with “male-gendered-type toys” than girls raised by straight mothers. And adult children of gay parents appear more likely than the average adult to work in the fields of social justice and to have more gay friends in their social mix.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/magazine/08fob-wwln-t.html

115,772 same-sex couples in the USA were raising children circa 2009. So says the statbox on the side of the article. That’s less than half the population of my town. C’mon folks, get with the program! Or perhaps I need to get with the program, as an “old” who hasn’t being paying attention to the changing social.

Since the NYTimes Magazine was running a series on the topic, here is some more fieldwork (note the approaches used):

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/theater/review-dada-woof-papa-hot-about-gay-men-and-parenthood.html

An older generation, a LGBTQ commune

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/magazine/out-of-the-woods.html

And still you get no guarantees;

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/fashion/weddings/unhitched-for-a-lesbian-couple-marriage-equality-was-no-guarantee-of-marriage-quality.html?_r=1

These families exist because in their neck of the woods the state can no longer deny folks their rights to get married and be parents. And random jeebus-spouting, publicity crazed asshats cannot grab the power of law and regulation and use it to bash a subset of queer folks for smug and profit. It means that happily married guy couples and happily married gal couples are afforded the same rights as everybody else. This is how we expect it to be in civilized countries. In some European countries these families, like all families would enjoy even greater rights and benefits; generous mandatory parental leave, better health and education opportunities, and even less Kim Davies.

Meanwhile in Japan…

Representations of minority sexuality and/ or gender expression in vernacular narratives are treated as entertaining variants on the theme of having a minor super power. Even Hato Kenjiro gets a super power (no, not be-dazzling Mada…)

It seems you can now build an interesting story either with the MC being bitten by a radioactive spider or by having the MC struck by sudden same-sex desire or with the incomprehensible urge to start dressing in clothing not conventionally ascribed to their gender.

Clumsy ensues.

Why not try all three?

You could kick it up a notch by actually having realistic tōjisha characters from the start, but perhaps Japan still finds that to be ‘too political’. There is also the readership’s fond attachment to the ‘out of the blue, its only you, mad love to ensue’ (tm) dance. If everyone already had super spidey powers the comic would be boring.

The limits to this type of use seem not to be “realism” but a simple-minded form of narrative utility. (lazy storytelling.)

Sometimes the thought experiment justifies the hack. There might not be that many crossdressing, liminal/ conflicted fudanshis struggling with their awakening sexualities at real university otaku clubs in Japan and even less of them back in 2009, yet Hato Kenjiro remains an interesting and useful construction. But Saki is right, the club should meet and try to make friends with some real gay/TS/TG folks.

At least these representations are not pulled out of the central casting sack for want of a quick clown or villain.

A sympathetic “truthy” representation of LGBTQ-ish characters is certainly better than using them as orcs and shikigami novelties and serves at least a few wider societal goods, but we should be cautious as to how far we suspend our disbelief. While these may serve an incidental purpose of “queering” a narrative, providing visible (shadow) representations of lives and desires, even offering the chance for the majority straight vanilla audience to dream in queer, ‘cross-dream’ or at least cheer on the cause of justice and true love; unless these narratives are positioned as testimony for and by the (tōjisha) populations they claim to represent, then these effects are afterthoughts and subject to problems.

And those of us who would examine why they exist risk missing the central question of their creation, use and popularity.

Why are all the straight boys and girls reading (and sometimes making up) so many stories about minority sexualities and gender expressions?

What’s with that? 

Sect detail mot web

Fanservice/ Mild kink?

Tourism?

True Romance?

Poisoned riajuu well?

Do the right thing/ Social Capital ?

For great Justice?

Admiration/ Akogare?

I should go on about each. Perhaps later. (1)

For now, please jump to the long-standing critique, visible (for example) in Erica Friedman’s weariness with the yuri genre Story A‘s refusal to engage with larger social concerns, supposedly rooted in the distaste of the readership for “the political”.

This observation is sound for the moment. It can even be taken as a mild reproach towards the timidity of the publishers and the conservative tastes of the audience. Stick to gauzy depictions of “forbidden love”, high school romances and secret crushes but avoid realistic depictions of the daily grind (and the daily joys) of living an “out” identity. Study after study, as well as the obvious structure of the stories themselves remind us that the main audience for these tales of “forbidden love” are not the people “in the life” / lives supposedly depicted, but the rest of us curious (mostly) heterosexual tourists. The timidity of the representations, the reassuring same-old same-old plots and the aversion to tackling serious issues is a side-effect of conservative traditions of production and conservative expectations in our escapist reading and viewing matter.

And you thought this meandering essay was going to be about social/ political activist tropes in vernacular stories that featured LGBTQ characters? I was going to go on and on and (shudder) make recommendations, do some re-inventing the wheel, mouth off and give free advice… Unfortunately, that too will creep in. But it is an afterthought. The focus must remain on the majority, nominally straight audience for these little tales and how this audience limits or could get behind activist stories.

Let me try to make this clearer by example. Assume there is enough of a market in Japan for a subset of gay desire to have their own vernacular narrative form. We’ll call it Bara. Gay guys write and draw stuff for other gay guys. Some of it is heartwarming, some of it looks extremely nasty, but it is a conversation within a social, with characters from that social. Whether or not it wants to go activist is it’s own business, because in the end it will be preaching to the choir. Few rotten girls go buying Bara mags for inspiration for their fantasies. Maybe they used to for drawing tips? Who knows, there are now pose-books out there for aspiring mangakas.

But for BL, Yaoi, Yuri and a few other odd genres that center around fantasies of gender expression, there is no “this is for real lesbians and or gay people and or trans people” subsections and/or “riajuu welcome but you may find it boring” sub-genres. And despite some of the warning disclaimers on Japanese (and other) fansites, there are no “real lesbians don’t act like this, these are straight fantasies, proceed at your own delusion” stickers on Yuri Hime or on Transit Girls. Obviously this warning is implicit, but we are easily distracted, we often forget. It would all be easier if we stuck to sci-fi and made all the queer folk Cat-aliens. Japanese Cat-aliens. Gay Japanese Cat-aliens. Oh wait, we tried that alreadyNevermind.

Along with real Japanese queer folk who might wish to see characters that they can relate to, somewhat realistically and sympathetically presented, we have a huge pile of straight boys and girls visiting for the fanservice and staying for the feels. Apparently my taste in feels, or at least the tastes of my Japanese LFB counterparts runs to the simplistic (or fantastic – and don’t forget the fanservice, we want our fanservice!). Across the boulevard, the shape of the rotten girls’ hearts is apparently equally simplistic (and fantastic – they want their fanservice too).

Understanding why we silly tourists come poking around could be useful.

Time for a digression!

There is an elephant in the room and it needs to be vaporized. It is the old “reading this stuff will make you gay“. First off; as quoted/ noted previously, gay folks have to deal with overwhelmingly straight narratives all their lives – these do not turn them (back into???) straight. Ah! that just means that gay is insidiously, powerfully contagious! Fine, then everyone would be gay by now. Besides, these stories are overwhelmingly cooked up by straight people. Ahah! That’s why they don’t work! Guys, stay away from the Bara! The Genshiken’s Hato Kenjiro is safe, fake girl-made stuff won’t turn him. Or it will turn him into… (dum dum Dumm..)

Don’t laugh. The contagion theory is still very powerful. Youth are considered especially vulnerable. Even if the gatekeepers admit the impossibility of the majority of readers being bent by these silly stories, there are always the few on the margins who should at least stay unhappily straight, marry, reproduce and then go off to have a sordid mid-life changing adventure later. Or kill themselves. More to the point is the worry that the proscription against the queer, as a social category itself may be threatened. Story A and “I’m not gay, its only you” may be grudgingly tolerated as fire-breaks but you get the sense that the mythical “authorities” would be happier if all that stuff stayed in the seedy floating world of “The Black Lizard“.

Too bad that we have finally figured out that this kind of bullshit is a drag on the smooth functioning of a modern post-industrial society and its economy. And no, we aren’t going back to slavery, bond servitude and private health care insurance plans either. (Right wingers forget that in the early 20th C it was business heads who pushed for early social policy innovations – they wanted them as common utilities that couldn’t be snapped up by the competition and used for unfair advantage – only my workers get a hospital bed, yours die, I will own whole town by next year!) Have an asbestos suit, welcome to Star Fleet, now get back to your post.

You doubt me? Go read why Bismark instituted old-age pensions.

Once the “contagion effect” is dispensed with, or at least toned down to a dull roar, we can go back to wondering why all of us straight people are reading Yuri, BL, Yaoi, even gender-benders and Josou weirdness. Start from the fanservice again and work through it.

And what of putting complex “political” situations into silly “feels” tales? Won’t the iyashi be killed?

Transit Girls could suddenly get “political” as easily as the usual “personal”. There was a strong tradition of hard hitting politically aware gekiga manga well into the 80’s, (Here is something typically class conscious, socially aware and grim) though the genre faded to yakuza grinders thereafter. Shoujo manga and later anime offshoots pioneered socially transgressive subjects and genres but now feels set in its ways. Transit Girls won’t break any new ground because it’s a Citrus retread and it is safer to play out the almost-incest schoolgirl forbidden lurv story but there is no structural storytelling reason why a tale of two young women who happen to like each other has to creep out and/or stick to hackneyed “personal” story tropes.

The limits lie in the perception of what the audience will buy.

Would a mostly heterosexual audience run away from a tale if a bit of social realism or “political” was snuck into the story? Can we lay the blame at the feet of Japanese LFBs and rotten girls? If you are a young person who suddenly finds themselves having feelings for someone of your own gender and all you have to go on is BL or Yuri (as the case may be) you sure have a good argument for being pissed off. Congratulations, you are now a unicorn! A bit of realism would sure feel supportive, even reassuring. Something that gives the idea that mundane every day life, friendship and happiness is within reach can go a long way. In some respects, the Story A bubble at least provides a small personal space where the impediments are manageable and a happy ending is possible.

Most of the time the impediments are personal: bullying, whispers at school, parents, the thwarted opposite sex suitor who thought they were close to winning true love. It does all get a bit claustrophobic, doesn’t it? Sure the meet the parents challenge can be dramatic. And the usual steam (and cheese) can be squeezed out of the step-sisters under the same roof set-up. But there is no reason why you can’t get good story mojo out of I can’t visit my partner at the hospital if it is done well. At very least, tossing one small true love vs structural discrimination challenge ups the story’s realism points. It also assumes that there is life after the happy pair graduate from high school. Will we fanboys and fangirls buy it?

If it works well once, can it too become a trope?

Then we can try for the family register hell episode!

Followed by the same-sex-partnership certificate on Friday, fired on Monday episode.

And the “stop listing our kid as a bastard” episode.

Better ration these lest the tale gets too dire: give the lovebirds a chance to surmount the obstacles, catch their breath, and cuddle. Friends and supporters can grin and give a thumbs up. A whole new slew of happy event tropes could go a long way too: visit Comike, go to a public bath and relax after, visit a shrine with your friends on New Years (hey, wait a sec, where have I ???) The audience wants a few victory parties and their D’awww moments too. Sooner or later some enterprising auteur must stage a vacation- marriage in Hawaii.

Throw too many bureaucratic bigotry hurdles at the couple all at once and it will smother the tale in grim. Then you end up back on the old “thorny path” cliché; which would be downer and a waste. Unless you personify each structural obstacle (Nurse impose-the-rules Ratchet comes with a tragic back story) and appropriate the endless level-up battles of shonen fight grinders as some kind of fantastic comedy exercise. (Once Nurse Ratchet is defeated, she realises that her opposition was because of a long suppressed childhood disappointment, resolves this and becomes an ally)

Too ridiculous?

Since the playset field somehow got flipped on…

…I always suggest a rich beta couple hovering in the wings (I’m hobby horsing, so what?) Maybe they went to New York on family business empire duty for a few years, met and tied the knot. Per the conspicuous consumption deployed in the play referenced in the above NYTimes article, a shitload of posh from the prop dept goes a long way toward legitimizing ways of living in aspirational fiction.

Ah, for the support of the wealthy and sophisticated almost-foreign other. Naysayers can’t even play the nihon-jiron card.

I’m playing clumsy social tinkerer here. I wonder what someone more knowledgeable about the issues would have to say about the series if they could contrive to find a way to watch it? Or if better extant examples exist?

Along with the attractions of more “truthy” representations of minority sexuality and gender expressions in terms of verisimilitude, interest and a ripping good yarn with a happy ending (or a wise and poignant one), the possibility for the advancement of a social policy agenda comes into view, at least to the extent that the changes advocated and the support for these can be personalised. In other words;

We’ll probably keep reading if you make the political personal.

Heck, we might even start seeking out stories with such tropes in them. Why? Here’s where I go out on limb:

1) Do the right thing:
People as individuals are fundamentally good at heart. (Hand-waving; it gives us bystanders something to do.) Neighbors and small socials invariably support and encourage diversity if given a risk-free chance, though older and/or wounded ones may struggle dramatically with their initial reactive positions. Common folk support one another, this is the wisdom of the village. This is flattering for us hand-wavers. It makes us feel like we are townspeople in a Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie.

2) Fight the evil machine:
Only bureaucracies, faceless edifices of power and profiteers enforce repressive structures and punitive rules. Again, we didn’t act like shits towards you folks, it was the bad bureaucracy!

3) The wars are over:
Conformity/ taboos/ rituals which once saved the tribe now weaken it. A new generation points the way forward. … Even if we did behave like shits it was because of the “old ways”; which we are so over with…

4) Careful with that hammer Maxwell.
Don’t go overboard on the new personalised political challenges; keep the main story on track with all the usual hackneyed melodramatic same old same olds. Yup, the happy young couple still get the bed-sheet publicity pic – we drooling fans expect it.  All peasant village weddings come with a wedding-night charivari! We really do get into hand-waving, and pot banging, and…. Any excuse for a party.

Sure it’s all fantasy, but it comes with a bonus drama CD.

Given the opportunity, there seems no great reason why a readership that is somewhat predisposed to open-mindedness (we are reading about the MC’s neh?) would not adopt a supportive attitude/ enjoy the fantasy of activism, especially if the d’awwwwww payoff is presented at no cost to us.

In the United States, reactionary forces recognise this and have spent decades subtly insinuating narratives of fear and cost into arguments against human rights and social justice issues. Social justice reforms sound good but in reality they will steal our jobs, destroy our families, degrade our manliness, corrupt our youth, slip into our daughters’ bathrooms, cause bad weather and tooth decay…

…And they will take down those damn slaver flags.

Less so in Japan.

As Japan is a culture of conformity, surface appearances, restrictions and arbitrary rules, the overwhelming majority of which have long since outlived their raison d’etre, the attraction of putting the different folks out on the front lines for societal change is universally attractive. (sounds like the plot for the Seven Samurai) A large amorphous issue like gay marriage (what of all the rules and regs and forms and laws and procedures and the prefectural governments and the constitutional amendments needed?) might be too much (for now). But when a tale or a campaign takes aim at specific day-to-day petty injustices, most of which are part of the larger portion of the soul crushing bullshit that everyone has to suck up and smile at, we have a market for some good ending aspirational fiction. As long as Japan doesn’t get serious again and have everything end in a hammer-of-the-fates disaster barrage. (The Japanese movie happy ending: everybody dies.)

Unable to get an apartment (or twice the key money), bullshit at the municipal office, sleazy yakuza blackmail(!), a loved one alone in a hospital, civil union-ish certificate on Friday then fired on Monday; make the challenges specific, personal, understandable, unfair and let them loose to tug at the heart. I sense the chortling shades of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens in the shadows.

To a degree, the instability of traditional patterns has already wormed its way into the tropes of the social depicted in Japanese manga and anime. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the young MC’s family would have been fun, supportive and very nuclear. Now fractured families, absent parents, single parent households, dramatic fob the kid off on distant relatives (note the setup in Transit Girls) or not even relatives settings are all over the landscape. Strong, intact families like those in Wandering Son are rare exceptions. Compared to these, having two moms or two dads would read like an idyllic solution.

And here we come to the final reason why all of us vanilla fanboys and fangirls might be paying attention and cheering from the sidelines, even if it is a bit unfair:

Put the queer folk out on point

One would have to be in suspended animation to miss that for all the sturm und drang, the activist agenda advancing LGBTQ rights in the West has done an amazing job. It might not look like it from the eye of the storm, and it has been one heartbreaking mess of a long slog, but their activists and advocates have scored an impressive set of wins. Big wins that have and will shape society for decades to come. Compare these to say, average family incomes in America over the last 20 years. You have to respect what works. Seeing anything that works gives us all hope.

Is this too odd a reason to add to the pile of why so many straight boys and girls are fascinated with the odd notions they themselves dreamed up about LGBTQ characters?

Compared to the the rest of any progressive agenda, LGBTQ activists have done the impossible and that makes them mighty. So much so that reactionary types will even whisper of a “gay conspiracy“. Conspiracy? When is decades of hard work, organizing, lobbying, advocating and litigating a magical thinking “conspiracy”?

Guess what the reward is for a job well done. (2)

And yup, popular art forms get drafted do their part. Note the tone of this review, complete with the reference in the lead to earlier civil rights issue films:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/fall-films-emancipate-once-forbidden-love/article21023368/

See also:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

I remember hearing about the first movie; Love is Strange a year ago, it sounds like it is on program. The appeal to social justice is clear, compelling and personal. After all if someone can lose their job for one thing, anyone can lose their job for any other form of religio-bureaucratic sanctioned bullshit. I live in Canada. Most of the provinces (like states, only bigger) still implement constitutional guarantees that mandate taxpayer-funded school boards for certain faiths. You want to keep your taxpayer-funded job, you go to mass on Sunday and you watch your Facebook posts. Exceptions are at the discretion of the board. How’s that for faith-based exemptions?

The second film is new to me; it might be a bit too stridently bolshie for American tastes. The third, I had a chance to view inflight and it felt like a Cumberbach vehicle. It got grim really fast. We know what happened to Turing. Since I loathe the British class system, I found no entertainment value in watching a fetishization of its murderous small-mindedness.

Doubtless there are many more useful examples out there, with at least half of them making up episodes in Glee. I must get over my aversion to anything that flies under the dread flag of Fox.

In the meantime, off the top of my head, something close to this was pulled off for the girl couple in Mouretsu Space Pirates. Not content to have the thwarted arranged marriage trope leave a dangling disappointed dude, it went on to show our plucky heroines unmasking the boy as a young Goebbels fronting a crypto-fascist conspiracy out for power and big bucks. The arranged marriage was just part of his campaign to seize power. Well; that was kind of political, even if set in a scifi far future light-years away.

Why bother?

Activist themes and tropes within stories cannot directly change society, at best they can “win hearts and minds” and displace older tales of dire abjection and deviance while lessening “the shock of the new”. We all tend to resist things we have not run into before; if we run into them in fiction, we can fool ourselves into feeling some manner of familiarity with the situation and the folks caught up in it. Coupling a story to appeals to justice and enlightened self-interest; This sucks, we wouldn’t like this to happen to us, we should support a fix so that everyone can breathe easier has been a part of storytelling since we all sat around the fire in caves. Ally of Justice makes for a nicer story than “when bad things happen to people, run away from them and/or throw rocks at them to drive them off otherwise the bad things will get you too“. The latter may be closer to human nature at its worst, but it raises problems for story tellers; they risk getting rocks themselves instead of a meal.

These concerns are for the rest of us scared villagers. For someone who finds themselves trying to negotiate a queer identity, having stories that say “you are not alone“, and “this is normal, life is good“, “be proud of who and how you are“, especially ones that are not too fantastic and/or loaded with dire oppressions can be a life-changer. Not everything has to be a “fight the power” tale to do some good, but it’s OK too to add “why should asshats think they have any right to jack you around?” to this above list.

Why now?

Significant reform is more than ever now possible in Japan. At first glance the Oyagi-cracy of the LDP looks like the barnacle least likely to do anything progressive: first looks can be deceiving. It has been argued that Japan’s perpetual party of power, the LDP is no longer anywhere as ideological as it appears and that it will swipe any policy platform, even socially progressive ones, if it thinks another (non-communist) party could possibly get traction from such. For a supposed right-wing party, its appetites have become amazingly ‘catholic’. It has assimilated policy initiatives from opponents and allies alike, especially if these present a good face for Japan to “the West” (look how smooth-running and progressive our society is, please invest and do business with us.) Bonus points if the grab pulls the rug out from under an opposition (or even an allied) party. The Olympics are on the horizon, Japan doesn’t want to look like Putin’s reactionary Russia. Mrs Abe shows up at the Pride parade. The LDP reads Krugman for economic policy advice. It’s not personal or ideological, it is just what it takes for the LDP to remain in power at all cost and render any alternative parties or alliances thereof weak and ineffectual. The LDP is the developed world’s most left-wing right-wing government. They have a parliamentary supermajority and they no longer give a flying… squirrel about ideology. They can pass progressive legislation at the drop of a hat if it suits their party’s strategic purposes.

Operator: Main screen turn on!

in case you missed the original

Clickee for old time’s sake

To paraphrase Michael Cucek, You have no chance to be government, make your time. [https://www.google.ca/search?q=youtube+micheal+crucek&oq=youtube+micheal+crucek]

Aside: Shisaku and Tokyo on Fire are great Jp politics/culture backgrounders! (from whence I have have cribbed much of my sloppy analysis)

UPDATE: Tokyo on Fire does a short segment on “Tokyo’s First Same-sex Marriage Certificate”

Conceivably the LDP could even do something really nasty and militarist: full equality and marriage rights at all levels of Japanese government and civil society for same-sex couples as long as one of the couple is serving in the new bent-article-9 JSDF! Yearly mandatory visits to the that shrine required too. Nothing too good for our patriotic boys and girls in uniform. Supermajority, remember?

This loony example belies a serious point. The main legalistic impediment to same-sex marriage rights in Japan is a close reading of the Japanese constitution. Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. Any move to revise the constitution to fix this legitimises the Abe/ LDP program to revise other parts of it. Similarly, the re-interpretation of article 9 for “collective self-defense” points to the strong possibility of other re-interpretations, as long as one is willing to legitimise the entire exercise of re-interpreting.

Political chess-playing ensues. At least the pieces can move.

Despite initial appearances there never was a better time to sneak a few progressive social reforms through the Japanese Diet. Or I am completely deluded and the removal of one class of institutionalized pariah-dom in the Japanese social will so threaten the mechanisms of control and subservience that keep the salaryman at his (sometimes her) desk for 12 hours a day and the rest of the losers happy to scrape by on low-paid temp jobs, as to completely up-end the power structures and economic foundations of the nation. There goes our weekly group hate sessions… And those sound trucks.

Naw… The entire Abe/ LDP program has been to build up a monolithic appearance of progressive stability in Japanese society and politics. No more Prime Ministers of the month, no more low-class cabinet scandals, no more bureaucrats fighting out policy initiatives with competing press leaks. A nice promise of structural reforms for the business world. Quantitive easing to grease export earnings. Woman-omics. Now if they can get the Olympic stadium embarrassment cleaned up; the old pols who ran the original stadium committee have been ritually shamed and neutered. Abe’s technocrats can now step in to save the day. Everything looks stable and peaceful. As long as mildly progressive social reforms don’t come off as looking like something forced upon Japan by pesky outlanders, the pols have no reason to dig in their heels. We are talking at most of gay marriage here; not ending the whale hunt or that messy thing with the dolphins…

Oh my; a silly manga and anime blog is going on about pop poli-sci and Japanese politics!

Muda Muda Muda!

Watch for my future post on Keynesian macro-economics and Japanese monetary policy presented as allegory in Gintama:

You wipe first, you lose“.

Uh.. Where was I?

Any progressive and/ or activist themed expansion of the range of tropes and stories available to the hack mangakas and anime script teams is pure profit for ambitious authors a and publishers, as long as these new tropes can be successfully deployed at least once. I think the fandom/ public could well be way out in front of the publishers, authors, producers and TV executives.

Given that CJVC already supports a number of viable market niches that at least superficially appear to venture into the territory of representing (and perhaps supporting) minority desires and gender expressions, simple capitalist competition and the need for new interesting grist for the story mills should be sufficient to grease the wheels of social progress a bit.

There is no structural reason for the absence of activist, progressive story- lines in CJVC. Advocacy is possible and can advance progressive change. Politics has a nasty habit of getting personal but the personal is the realm of storytelling. These stories can once again recognise this as we take comfort and inspiration from the possibilities set forth in their telling and enjoy the opportunity to vicariously support progressive social change. Because the rest of us were all too busy and tired and distracted to have done anything to fix our shit; perhaps you folks will have better luck. We’re rootin’ for you…

Hand-waving for great Justice!

(1) Hmmmm… I could draw a pyramid chart of these and cash in big time over in theory land. Mudakun’s hierarchy of prurient interest over Yuri and BL ™. Come for the novelty pr0n fantasies, stay for the abstract concerns. Where my newest bit of why are we interested about this stuff slots in is another matter.

(2) For a job well done, you of course get another job. And raised expectations. And spectators cheering you on. And the idea that perhaps your program could make a nifty ‘point of the spear‘ for some larger, more diffuse program of change. And that your unique experience gifts you with rare insights and the facility to give general relationship advice to couples, fix defective technology by touching it and dress sharp. Such is the price of success!

 

UPDATE AND ENDNOTE:

This was not my brightest post but I still figured I needed to thrash out some of the ideas. Further attempts to develop them hit a snag, so still working on the troubling intersections of “gay” vs “shadow of gay, written by straight folks for their own odd purposes, not all of which involve pr0n” on one axis and realism vs fantasy on the other axis. Realism implies a certain temptation towards activism. Leave it at that for now.

Transit Girls has finished its run, and by reports, is not execrable. Shoujo, rushed, but at least the background characters are supportive. Google with the terms “watch” and perhaps the optional “247” (note download tab) added to the series name and you can probably find eng. subbed versions somewhere out on the intertubes. Raise ad-blockers to maximum, ahead full impulse.

The Okazu review of the entire series is also out:
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2016/01/25/lesbian-live-action-transit-girls-%E3%83%88%E3%83%A9%E3%83%B3%E3%82%B8%E3%83%83%E3%83%88%E3%82%AC%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AB%E3%82%BA/

At some point Viki and/or Crunchyroll might get with the program too.

A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

Worse, the Lucky Perv moment has passed not only without a man-smooch but without the long-awaited full-page floral background character portrait of either Hato and/or Madarame. Kio Shimoku sensei; how long do you think you can string your fans along without this tiny but essential bit of service?

I will accept either. I will even accept dopplegangers in Spotted Flower.

not a proper floral chara pageNot quite what I had in mind.

I will not be forever denied!

Perhaps I need to start a day counter page or something: 2,682 days without a floral chara portrait page…

I will have to change the name of this blog to “Why No Floral Chara Portrait Pages of Hato or Mada in Genshiken ???” , abbreviated as WNFCPPOHOMIG???

Kio Shimoku swears that he fears and abjures reading the fan commentary and fanfiction surrounding his creation. Such a statement is at best perfunctory: the levels of truth value, effect and shades of influence can be slippery once a fiction gets loose in the wilds of fanspace and takes on a life of its own. Weird stuff happens. I dare the author to remain oblivious. So far the dog might be yelping a few times per night, but it should be barking a lot louder.

So I vow to muck with the Genshiken fan-space-verse-headcannon-thingy until I get my floral chara page. Like floating transparent pink elephants in unnatural congress with cartoon unicorns, I dare you to unthink them once mentioned.

Which is by way of an oblique entry to another take on the auteur’s problem with fans. On one hand, once “invested”, fans want a story’s characters to perform in ways that they find satisfying. This can range from a happy ending, to behaviour, to the implementation of any number of plot cliches and tropes – all familiar and comforting to the readers.

For example; a full page, floral background chara portrait would…

If the story and /or characters poke at some larger issues that may reflect IRL concerns, more than a few readers and bloggers (including your truly) will burn too much powder on mapping loose congruences between the story verse and meatspace; especially if these have either to do with politics, religion, gender and /or sexuality.

On the other hand, fan imagination and secondary production; the theft/ appropriation of a story-verse for fannish exploration, amplification and elaboration all demand that the author leaving enough gaps, “space” and unknowns for fannish hearts to run wild in. Hence Comiket. Sure you can go postal on your intellectual rights, but then you don’t get any community or the marketing boost that comes from it. You lose the Love.

Even in Japan, the author, like the impossibly mythical Secretary of State, will disavow any knowledge of your action. Good Luck Mr Phelps. This mangaka interview will self- destruct in 5 seconds.

It is fun to read the fanfiction that grows up around the edges of an established and well-loved story. After a while, one can even get used to the slash-y (and/or pr0nish) nature of some of the output. Then I start wondering about patterns.

Fieldwork sitrep: Genshiken fanfiction is mostly too conservative. Even in its excesses it is either too simpleminded (Ohno or Ogiue get much pr0nish attention) or overly cute (HatoMadaHato make a sweet domestic couple). Yes, we all wish the charas well, (except when we want to see them hot and bothered) because like many other readers we want to see a happy ending that matches our own properly progressive IRL senses of self (without actually having to deal with messy real humans in meatspace), but Jeesh! Yawn! and C’mon! HatoMadaHato is never going to be Collectors, or a aspirationally positive LGBTQIA-lite version of Spotted Flower.

One wants the fanfic stuff to be just a bit over the edge in a weird or funny or innovative way. So far, Kio Shimoku and his studio minions are greedily winning the weird-a-thon in the fan-fic-verse. This is either cause for acknowledging the powers of le maitre or a bit of a failure of fan imagination.

lust und figurines

Consider the infamous Genshiken anime second season Yaoi episode (ep5). The wall of anime figurines and fine liqueurs,

the louche couple

Louche anything-that-moves Saki and Kou, SassXMada with Ogiue steaming as she winds her fancies about her.

Ogiue bliss

I also await the translation of the long-suppressed “The Return of the Otaku”. I think it at least had some Aliens, Time Travellers and Espers tomfoolery in it.

This is preposterous! Kio Shimoku has written better Genshiken fanfiction than his fans. Genshiken is all about fannish production, one would think that more than a few of its followers would get in the mood and start drawing and scribbling. A few do but want moar!

While chasing down some musings on Genshiken at wildgoosery.tumblr.com, I spotted a link to a bit of fluff by someone nymed Zpolice. I might have to reg up a pixiv account to see more of the HatoMada crossdressing date. The teaser illustration looks cute. Gotta admit that the fan-drawn Mada-chan has a real shoujo-ish vibe – I smell Uso-Lily-fluence. Main point in its favor: it shows some imagination.

With cable-tv’s backlot discovering Ho-yay, the mainstreamification effect is even more pronounced. USA cable viewers can watch all manner of gay positive retreads of 60’s social comedies. Meanwhile the grey lady, the New York Times has started running a Transgender Today series on the Opinion pages. The right -wing bible thumpers warned us this would happen. Next thing you know, blah blah blah… (time to smarten up and get serious, these are real lives here – must show some respect) Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture is suddenly feeling dated and musty, like Miss Haversham’s wedding table.

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

Oh, right: mess with the fan-cannon until I get my damn floral page!

“All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his.” ― Slavoj Zizek, “The Importance of Being Hegelian

Given how much fun Yajima’s mom is, what is Hato’s mom like? Massive bonus weirdness points if she looks a bit like Kaminaga. What if almost all the women in Hato’s town look like Kaminaga… (cue shining music)

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

What if Hato’s dad used to have a certain hobby? What did he look like crossdressed? Crap, (cue shining music) almost everyone, female or male in Hato’s town should end up looking like Kaminaga because of the weird rituals that call forth the eldritch horrors from beyond the colors of space-time each Walpurgis night – you do not want to be an outsider trapped in Kashukumaou over that weekend!

…Until…

…Instead of waking the sleeper in the pyramid, they summon up an infestation of telepathic, teleporting cartoon ducks who seem to live only for prying into human affairs, ruthlessly ridiculing them and popping into existence at mealtimes to swipe food – they love human food and booze. (per C.Smith, From Gustible’s Planet ).

“Do you eat this? It is not very good! Phhhtttthhhhttt!”

Just throwing out ideas here folks. I miss Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei, it was full of this kind of nonsense.

At least the 20+ year old Stop Hibari-kun! shows that one can have some fun with gender issues while not being overtly vicious. The last character addition is even more fun than the Bifauxnen sports star with ill-defined longings, a Taka mom and Village People brothers.

Read powerful manga web

Swiped right out of Family Compo, Geki (taiga-chan) jiro-kun has the heart of a manly guy-hero trapped the wrong body, determined to achieve an ideal of male-ness based on 1970’s gekiga guy manga, (see Otaku research and anxiety about failed men – Galbraith(1)) complete with delinquent haircut and yankii attitude. Pity the series will remain abruptly unfinished for all time.

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

Meanwhile, most of the diaspora talk about Genshiken (including my own in this blog) have been mulling over the “wither Hato” question, with regards to it resonance with larger issues of meatspace sexuality and gender.

Take for instance this extremely cogent summation of the argument in favor of emerging trans* Hato

“”Hato lives in a culture very different from ours and struggles a lot with their identity and doesn’t fully have the resources to accept themselves as trans yet, but as an omniscient reader you’d have to deny a lot of evidence if you wanted to read Hato as cis.

Even very early on, they were buying feminine clothing and doing vocal training a while before they started attending the club, they said they didn’t want to change in the club room b/c they wanted the club members to see them as a woman as much as possible, they expressed gender dysphoria when facial hair started to grow in while presenting as female, and they said Kaminaga was always someone they aspired to be. When Hato stopped dressing in feminine clothing, they became very unhappy and the manga treated it as a complete denial of self, and they felt compelled to keep up their feminine body care regimen even while presenting as male. If Hato were merely crossdressing, I doubt it would be handled in this way. And of course let’s not forget Spotted Flower, where Hato was shown post-op. It cannot get more obvious than that.

Anyway, I was just surprised to see this post and thought I’d talk about it a little since someone brought it up.””

– posted at http://hatomada.tumblr.com/ as reblogged excerpt

And yup, you gotta admit that it pretty wells nails a lot of the usual indicators, unless Kio Shimoku just read a whole bunch of pop-lit on mtf transfolk, cribbed it and jammed it onto a chara that he had other plans for.
.

Must I mention freight trains again?

(I have been looking for an excuse to drop that venerable ancient AMV chestnut into this blog for ages!)

Besides, Why should I give up on my original hobby horse of Hato-chan the virtual rotten girl lesbian in the Genshiken? (Invoke together: There are no lesbians in the Genshiken!) Mada cruelly rebuffs Hato-chan; fly to Sue’s arms for comfort! Sue would be ok with a Hato-chan romance once she is sure that she doesn’t have to gently protect Hato’s fantasies. Sue is mighty! Sue is always there, looking at Hato. (Not quite creepy, yet…) What is you waiting for kiddo- an engraved wedding invitation?

Yeah, I ship SueHato and AngelaMada, you got a problem with that?

tainted web

Or I am just in denial about the possibility of man-love (or MtTW warm fuzzies) in the Genshiken. Atavism, moi, darn.

On the other hand…

I cannot resist a rejoinder to one of Wildgoosery‘s questions:

“I honestly cannot tell what’s going on inside Madarame’s head at this point. And I get the feeling that’s intentional — that we’re meant to understand that HE’S unsure of what he wants. Undeniably, he’s interested in women and in sex with women — the ongoing tension regarding breasts, Keiko’s or otherwise, makes that that pretty unambiguous.

But there has also been so much time on the page dedicated to his emotional and sexual reactions to Hato — and to the IDEA of being with someone like Hato — that it’s honestly taken me by surprise. While Keiko and Angela — and even Sue — have appealed to Madarame for reasons that center on their appearance and/or anatomy, the way he thinks and talks about Hato has been so much more….god, I hate to even say this because I know it makes me seem like just as much of a fujoshi as Yoshitake, but more ROMANTIC?

Whether it’s being overwhelmed with happiness over valentine’s chocolate or replaying all of his trap h-games, Madarame seems to be taking Hato’s interest…kind of seriously? The whole reason that Kugayama dragged him to the cabaret club in the first place was to convince him to stop considering Hato as an option.””
– http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Yup, Madarame Harunobu is far too naive, too shy, too good-hearted, too open and full of holes to ever think of playing with the Hatos. He would never, even unconsciously engage in … baiting, or a little bit of turnabout is fair play, would he?

If Madarame was considering a smooch, one has to give Kio Shimoku credit for dragging him to the edge of the cliff in a very manly way. Mada finally taken the initiative and gets his moment of forceful action, even if all the rotten girls go Squeeeeee.

After Sou-uke, Sou-uke, Sou-uke, first from Ogiue and Ohno, then Hato  letting go with public Sou-ukes to block Angela, then Kuchiki going into ass-grabbing fugue state, then the whole new club membership including Hato-chan reprising,  the spying session, the ritual dragging him off in public for Angela at the last Comiket, the broken wrist, the sudden harem nonsense only after he gets to stew in injured ronryness for a while (Risa delivering the moratorium news over the New Year’s holiday), Hato Nadeshiko, Valentine’s chocos and then phhttt, vanishment(!)… After being the Genshiken goat for so long, after reacting, reacting, reacting and trying to cope with all the nonsense situations thrown at him, with  the Hato continuum front and center through most of them, Madarame finally lands on top!

(He did consider coming on strong towards Sue. She dealt with that fast enough.)

Dumped again? Sod that – it ain’t over till I say it is over. Oh, but pretty boy here thinks HE’s gonna be the top, yeah… How’s that working out for you kid?

Boobs boobs boobs, whatever – Lolicon, remember? Imaginary and flat like board. Pre- as well as innocently a- sexual, with a bit of fancy footwork to get past squicky pedo-bear concerns by edging over into Josou game territory… Please tell me Kenjiro Hato, who is the most innocent, doe-eyed, manipulate-able, fantastic and uke-sh in the room tonight? Where is all that judo you keep up your sleeve? What’s wrong; fantasies got your tongue?

Which all might be some sort of cliche’d rotten girl plot chestnut, but still has enough internal logic to propel it along. And sure, I would agree with Wildgoosery’s proprietor if Hato chan or kun had actually even once dropped shields and talked with Madarame as Hato Kenjiro, kun or chan. But it never really happened. From their initial Mada-cooks-dinner meeting onward, any words that flew by Mada’s face from Hato were all part of one or another Hato puppet dance. (I might grudgingly exempt Hato’s first Comiket morning with Mada, but then he started Sou-uke-ing Mada in front of Angela) The strangest thing about the whole accidentally- pin- Hato- to- the- bed scene was that Madarame finally got to talk to the Hato behind the curtain.

Or did he? 

Two points for Mada. I guess the frisson of man-love is acceptable if you get to be in control? Dude.. are you sure you weren’t set up? Oh well, I will grudgingly accept a man-smooch involving Madarame – archetype and stand-in for all us awkward nerds – If I get my full page floral portrait!

I might be easy, but Kio Shimoku wants cheap too? No way!

Contrast: at a similar point in a certain Sect, the player gets a ring as a reply to her teasing. Folks said it was all just yuri pr0n. Hmmph!

Meanwhile, I for one welcome the new forceful Madarame. Sue was right to bring handcuffs. Girls, you have created a monster.

All harem routes must be cleared! If it wears a skirt (ever) it is fair game! The Revenge of the Otaku! Devastating Mada, the heartbreaker unleashed! That means you too Rika – yo skinny ass are belong to us! …And your pedo bear sister’s too.. Circle King will get all the girls and destroy Genshiken!

BoooWaaah!

Keiko will be a bit of a challenge: screw and dump her without the right kind of dramatic bullshit story and she will set you up for a beating from bouncer ex-boyfriends or a “chance” seduction by a skanky(er) friend with the clap as payback. Bad girls play rough.

Meanwhile that’s three up for Kio Shimoku. No tracking distraught Hato to the train station and replaying Ogiue/Sass as dawn breaks. Nuts!

Best to ease off on the playset levers. The circle trip arc is fun enough with the exercise of watching how other fans react to it. I note that some of the respondents in a senior bloggers’ discussions on recent chapters are wondering how the Japanese fans are taking it. Need to Know! Finding and adding other fans’ takes on the recent chapters is a great POV-shifting exercise. I am tickled that I completely missed some of the takes on Hato’s behavior, Madarame’s conflicted actions and the rest of the chara’s maneuverings, even while many of us spotted other similar trends elsewhere.

This of course is how fannish interaction and exchange works, even anonymously and over great distances and time. In the larger scheme of things, what x character thinks of y isn’t really that important, but understanding how to consider (I didn’t exactly entertain the notion, I just gave it a glass of water and an after dinner mint) others’ points of view is a fine diversion.

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

“Madarame, good as I’m sure his intentions are, has put Hato in a really shitty position — by allowing this “harem” to continue for so long, he’s set Hato up to be in direct competition with three women, two of whom are so much more experienced that they may as well be from another planet as far as Hato’s concerned. So of course Hato is doing everything he can to perform femininity as perfectly as he can manage — those are the terms that have been set for him.
There’s no escaping his total lack of experience with sex and romance — the only thing he can control is how well he performs the role of cute, female underclassman. But even in that, Hato is way out-matched — the bit about his accidentally getting Kuchiki much too drunk, for me, was shorthand for “you are in way over your head, even in the ‘giggling and pouring beer for men’ department.”

Still, he’s trying his best. Madarame has given him very little indication that he has any other choice.”
— http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/112614213163/first-off-to-be-clear-none-of-this-is-intended

Note: WordPress is taking my links used as attributions and making frames that insert  sections of the quoted source into the posts. I am trying to figure a workaround, in the meatime – no appropriation is intended, and you may have to copy & paste to open a link manually.

Yes; Shimoku-sensei lampshaded this, but a fen take on the setup is 180 degrees from the male fan point of view: the whole could be trans/ could be crossdressing late onset chunny-fugue Nadeshiko act by Hato looks so far above the feminine presentation abilities of the core female club members as to seriously pose a challenge. Sue is non-committal and will never flirt, Keiko- well Keiko is Keiko, so for guy readers, Hato-chan was really coming on strong. The only serious challenge was Angela – and only if she would ever tone down the carnivorous Amazon act, but again, she only pops up a few times a year.

Note that both points of view are equally valid. Digesting both is a treat for any infovore.

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

Remember as well that Kio Shimoku loaded the dice long ago. Even if and when Hato finally ever realises that the Hato continuum was always a woman’s heart trapped in a man’s body, comes out and decides to transition and is treated in a positive and respectful manner by the entire Genshiken (that means no more shipping Hato, there would be no more male residual to ship); If the IRL concerns over respect of the fans are finally and fully addressed, do you think that the fan peanut gallery is going to shut (TF) up?

Fat chance: Hato is still a “fantasy of crossdressing”; too easy, too perfect, presented as as ideal cartoon transwoman while meatspace youth facing real challenges agonise over whether they can ever meet such unreal levels of presentation. Kio Shimoku isn’t off the hook yet. Look at some of the more respectful manga on gender issues. The “so cute she can’t be a girl” model is always a land-mine.

Hato might be better off sticking to their original mission: becoming a fujoshi (and/or a trans*fujoshi). Being fujoshi is Hato’s real and only one true love. If the Hato continuum ever really and truly falls in love for someone, the fallout will be a lot messier than “I am not the otokonoko you think I am, chose someone else“. Shimoku-sensei is weak at doing heartache. Time to dress like Sue or Ogiue, or even civilian Keiko, or stick with the frumpy Mikako Takeya persona. On the other hand, the Hatos’ insistence on an idealised presentation could – I guess – be sorted into the “arguments for a trans identity” column (dreams of an idealised female self).

And here is one final new yet old twist on HatoMadaHato that will really rile folks up: Consider the original complaint of Akio Nakamori’s second article in the July 1983 issue of Manga Burriko (per Galbraith op cit) “Do Otaku love like normal people

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

Don’t go there…

Note that Nakamori did not invent the term 2D complex, but he was the one who first dragged it out into the light of Japanese public discourse and stapled it to manga-maniacs-as-otaku in his infamously vitriolic  Otaku studies/ I am studying you column. And then he went on to paint this as the prime symptom of male otaku’s failure as men, calling them “myo ni okama-ppoi” or weird/ faggy. And then he conflated them with effeminate crossdressers, while his underaged girlfriend made eyh-yeuchh noises.

Clearly there is a lot more baggage hanging off HatoMadaHato than the euroethnic reader can first take in.

This is complicated. Which is part of the whole fan-space POV shifting/ sharing thing.

A full page floral background chara portrait would do much to allay the feelings of confusion…

…So would an action-packed fanfic of the circle on the run from the Kult of the Kaminagas and supernaturally animated 1962 era vintage Howard the Duck prototypes.(2) A few zombies would be kewl too…

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

…Or this whole post is too random; the shock of seeing Mada almost smooch a boy has obviously subconsciously upset me.

I wonder what Kuchiki is going to say in the morning.

.
(1) A recent chapter; “Otaku Research and Anxiety About Failed Men” by Patrick W. Galbraith from the upcoming anthology: Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons (Soas Studies in Modern and Contemporary Japan) Hardcover – July 16, 2015 by Patrick W. Galbraith (Editor), Thiam Huat Kam (Editor), Björn-Ole Kamm (Editor), Christopher Gerteis (Series Editor) should not be missed. Grab it here: [www.academia.edu/12327055/_Otaku_Research_and_Anxiety_About_Failed_Men] and read it now. The writing is straightforward, lucid and reflects up-to-the-minute understanding on the material. Madarame (and Hato) are deeper character types then we first imagined. Lots of good stuff on the historical roots of the rage of the Ota-king, the shoujo-fication of manga, the role of japanese fen-dom and complicit guy editors, and much much more. The full book is a bit pricey for moi; guess I will be pestering a local library soon. A few more chapter excerpts are available via Academia.edu

(2) Where ya think Howie was swiped form, along with Martians Go Home (1954) [en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martians,_Go_Home] The Kaminaga Kult is a blatant lift/ tribute to Stross’ Laundry series, especially The Apocalypse Codex, which you should hunt down and read, because they are massive fun and clearly Stross’ first love; they don’t go flat at the ends like his other stuff. Ps: brown as in “Dun”

An epistemology of the male fujoshi closet

The tragedy of our predicament, when we are within ideology, is that when we think we escape it into our dreams, at that point we are within ideology.”
– Slavoj Žižek (no, really)

Disenchanted and disappointed long-term fans aside, It is obvious where the attraction of the current Genshiken lies. The mangaka is also playing it coy; otakus and fujoshis are no longer the societal pariahs they once were, but that doesn’t mean that the franchise is now a comfortably boring slice of life sitcom. There is plenty of fun yet to be had, especially with the longstanding puzzle challenge: guess what Hato is!

Let’s try again. If you figure out what Hato “is”, you get the “reason” Kio Shimoku is telling the story!

Hato is (/written as):

A straight male otaku who was inexplicably drawn to BL, who uses female presenting personas to enjoy the fandom surrounding BL and who abstracts the desire portrayed within the genre to his own condition (whatever that may be).

He crossplays a fujoshi to be part of the charmed circle of fans. His conflicts over reading BL and his fear of being rejected and shamed again leads him to panicked fugue states wherein he offers “gifts” to the fujoshi social when he feels that his position is endangered. First he offers the possibility of shipping himself as a male seme to Madarame’s sou-uke. This causes distress and threatens his position in the group. Then he gives the circle the “gift” of his drawing potential, if they help him to unlock it. He cannot draw a full narrative, only clench scenes. The work is an amazing copy of Kaminaga’s, so he needs support to find his own unique style. Finally he must wear women’s clothes, or at least underwear when drawing. Boy-drawn BL might be too jarring to the circle – this blunts the shock, while retaining some shred of female exclusivity in the ritual production of fujoshi fan-made material.

His latest gift, the creation of Nadeshiko no Genshiken again offers a shipping fantasy/ possibility as a candidate in the Mada harem: a demure, passive ultra-feminine character, erroneously conflated with the josou/ otokonoko (trap) genre. The story that he believes that Madarame has an interest in these provides sufficient cover. As the rest of the harem is mostly composed of peripheral Genshiken affiliates, the circle is not threatened. (Sue really doesn’t belong and has denied membership in the harem, but as magical outlander girl she can claim observer status. This begs the peripheral question: how much could Sue blab? Harem dinner reports? The secret stash of Mada x Hato-chan drawings?)

Why BL (and yaoi)? It does something for Hato. I have previously wondered if he (could be written as having) tried  Bara/ “real” gay-male-made gay comics, but I missed something obvious. Hato has given no indication of finding these appealing. But neither does he offer any proof of interest in conventional m:f narratives, seinen or josei, yuri or even loli. He seems to like Durarara!! – based dojins and the works of a few hard-to-identify circles. He declines to borrow Madarame’s josou games. Male otaku style pr0n-ish loli ecchi stuff “works” on him (at least when in male persona, at comiket, reading the other guys’ hunt list loot) but it holds little of the fascination of rotten-girl authored smut.

Could it be that none of the other genres are interesting enough? Do conventional boy-plots only offer wish fulfilment along lines of now-disenchanted models? Yuri? (the female-authored/shinso variant) The girls are interesting but how to connect? Loli otaku smut? Creepy! Real gay guy comics – we like this, it is fun, you can do this/ fantasize about this, invoke often!

How depressing!

Hato’s fascination for BL seems to skip over commercial products for fan-produced works. His interest highlights the open-source copy and transform nature of fujoshi dojinshi culture. This is not surprising, given his interest in drawing .The rituals of secondary production, the fan communities and their tastes as well as the exchange and sharing of outre enthusiasms promises to be far more interesting than discussing the weaponry featured in Black Lagoon and Jormungand or arguing over which Gundam is cooler. Don’t even start with the ecchi stuff and the waifus – it is cringe inducing. The fujoshi stuff looks more “adult”, but not disenchanted. On a meta- level, his creator could be using Hato to acknowledge the incredible contribution womens’ fandom has made to Japanese manga culture, at the very least for expending story boundaries and serving as the backbone of comiket for the last 25 years. Hato’s fascination is a curious, but earnest tribute.

Contra:
Hato was drawing female Hato being clenched by manly Mada before the harem manifested. Before that he was interested in fantasy m:m erotica. Why can’t he just be a nice well-behaved male-presenting fu-danshi who likes guys? Or has he “the heart of a girl in a boy’s body”? He cannot draw BL in a polished style characteristic of the genre unless he is dressed, not as a fujoshi but as a woman.

Aside: I still think his male persona drawing is interesting – it should have been pushed further to see where it leads. Japan is full of polished manga illustrators, professional and amateur: why add another? – unless to worship his creator.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neue_Wilde (use auto xlate)

As well as these, these and these

Finally, note how Kaminaga’s chiding “You can’t read this stuff without it having some effect“, echoes Dr Mizoguchi, yet Kio Shimoku plays one further trick. The original statement is anti-essentialist and queer (completely straight for the female BL readership doesn’t quite fit), while Kaminaga’s restatement is heteronormative and essentialist (that stuff will make you gay!) Kaminaga situates fujoshi practice firmly within heteronormative female experience, She will soon marry to prove this point. Kaminaga is not (written as being) a nice person.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male homosexual. He wants (is written as wanting) Madarame, as a male subject to another male. All his desires are for other males, (any interest in Kaminaga was misplaced admiration, or even a gesture towards that most elusive of Japanese feelings; ittaikan ) BL provides him an alibi; “its only you” is his way of negotiating his emerging sexuality. He dreams of a romantic, intense monogamous relationship, rather than meeting lots of sex-friends, so he avoids any stereotypically imagined gay “scenes” and/or their fiction; the fantasies provided by BL are more than enough for him at present. His crossdressing is a method, a hobby and a kink. Crossplaying a fujoshi first suggested a possible way to remain closeted and later when Hato as seme proved unworkable, a fall-back strategy. Wow; guess he is a bottom. But watch the drama unfold as he gets cold feet in the harem. Back to fanning over BL guys and his solitary fantasies for now. His creator is spinning a tale by staging a battle between “that stuff will make you gay” vs “that stuff might attract repressed young gay guys – what would happen?

Contra:
Hato presenting as a male is rare within Genshiken-space. This can be finessed if his crossdressing is his naive interpretation of the josou (trap) genre or an earlier take on stereotypically effeminate gay male identities. To naive (or over-enamoured with tradition) folks in Japan, presenting a “drag” feminine persona is seen as fulfilling a normal, if somewhat out-of-date stereotype of public male homosexuality(1). Drawing BL in pantsu is a symptom of a larger kink: Hato enjoys presenting in drag as adjunct of the libidinous charge he derives from his thrice-forbidden (as smut, as gay-ish smut and as a guy reading female smut) fantasy material. If Hato was gay, then he would do gay desire without prodding and what would be the fun of that? If Hato was an emerging transwoman, then the Stands would not try to ship him, because it would not be BL, it would be kind of straight and therefore boring.

Further problem:
this interpretation verges on extremely contentious IRL controversies, being related to the arguments used by hardline female-essentialists to denounce trans folk and inclusive queer ideas of feminism and female identity.

Hato is (/written as):

A repressed male bisexual.

Contra: Hato doesn’t do sex.

Hato is (/written as):

An emerging, extremely repressed trans-woman. Hato is conflicted and his feelings of being wrong-bodied are just beginning to manifest themselves. Despite saying “I’m a guy”, Hato presents as a female in safe spaces and has idealized female selves; the rebuking Stands. Hato fantasizes about being female and intimate with Madarame (?), is concerned over facial hair when presenting as female, enjoys yaoi because it is a quintessential female libidinized activity and seeks out female socials. Hato naturally prefered to slip into the girls facilities to change (that’s stretching it – Hato feels no existential dread using the male facilities at comiket, except when costumed.) Trans-woman Hato would not be “gay” in her desire for Mada, as she would be female. Any residual male-ness in Hato is being shipped by the emerging female subjectivity via methods suggested by fujoshi enthusiasms, so as to be rid of “the accursed remainder” – how’s that for dragging euro-pop psychology into the Genshiken? Plot mojo comes from the unsuitability of the Genshiken fujoshi social in supporting an emerging transwoman.

Spotted Flower “proves” this. No-honestly-not-Hato-for-contractual-reasons will go on to become a successful BL mangaka, adopt a public female presence and undergo breast augmentation surgery.

Contra:
His internal dialogue as “a crossdressing male BL mangaka” does not acknowledge any gender confusion, simply that the sexualities implied by his interests resist conventional categorization. Initial BL smut drawn by Hato was m:m with him as seme. His first crush was the mighty, yet very female Kaminaga. Query: does the smut he draws for his private Mada x Hato posit him as female or as a crossdressing male?

As well, he has never expressed the feeling of being in the wrong body – the female Hato is an expansion of his self that he has created; She is limited to presenting as a fujoshi in fan-space socials. The Nadeshiko character is purposed to succeed as a harem member; if she was to succeed further by seducing Madarame, it would be cruel and disruptive. The heroic sacrifice also gives the retreat a storybook melodramatic tone. Any flirting has been within a chaste, Sue-chaperoned harem script.

The Stands are remarkably stupid or at least extremely purposeful: the original only teased Hato when he was in male-male ship-able situations, mostly with Madarame. It demanded that BL scripts be played out by male Hato. Perhaps this was to drive him more into a feminine persona, but it was sure a roundabout way of doing it. The second version, the flatter-chested Kaminaga-esque one, demands that he pursue Madarame even when he is in girl-character, but an internalized Kaminaga-ur-fujoshi-ish point of view would only do so if it still saw the core of Hato as male and therefore a target for demands he act out BL scripts. Even if Hato-san acknowledges and assimilates them into his conscious, admitted-to-himself desires, they remain focused on very limited concerns surrounding his fannish enthusiasms.

What little self-hatred or self-destructive behaviour Hato engages does not center around the suppression of a unitary female subjectivity, e.g. admitting that “he” “is a woman trapped in a man’s body”. Hato doesn’t engage in risky sexual behaviour, hang around in seedy bars or even engage in online attention-seeking/ shaming rituals. It is probably a good thing that his creator does not drag out all the tired and insulting stereotypes that suggest that anyone who suffers gender dysphoria issues will self-harm. Hato presents as female in a cloistered, extremely safe and supportive community and has used the space provided to develop new skills, make friends and enjoy normally proscribed enthusiasms. Hato! Check your privilege?

Finally, “word of kami” from Kio Shimoku and Spotted Flower are both notoriously hard to pin down. “Flower” may be any number of things. As well, the recent English language translated interview with the mangaka must be taken with a grain or three of salt, even as it adds very little to arguments one way or another. Contractual obligations forbid him from acknowledging ANY correspondence between Genshiken and Spotted Flower, and besides, he likes to play coy and maintain his secret identity; so even if he could, he wouldn’t. More questions are raised than answered by the doppelganger in Spotted Flower having a “boob job”  – which is how the mangaka lieks it! 

Hato is (/written as):

Originally straight, but inventing his own extreme (big R) Romantic, rebellious queer-ness/ gender-queer-ness. Part of this is a kink that fixates on sempais. All that Mada has to do is give him a pair of slippers and the kid would sit in a corner warming them against his chest (a historical trope beloved by medievalist Japanese fujoshi, as used in Haganai (2)) blubbering for the next hour. Hato holds the view that true romantic love must be powerful enough to break societal rules and bounds; that it is not only the finding of a soul-mate, but an extreme recreation of the self through desire. There are elements of classical masochism in his desires, but these run through fujoshi lore in any case. His cross-play and crossdressing serve to fit him to a fujoshi social, serve to offer the other members exchange and serve to pursue desire itself: gender and sexuality categories be damned – all while transcending, by transgressing not only his male role but the female social as well. The lad likes transgression, as long as it is well-behaved.

There is a strong whiff of narcissism here as well, although narcissism is less of a pathological  than a chronic condition of the modern subject, now that the global economy runs on it.

I repeat: the global economy now runs on narcissism. A bit of it is perfectly acceptable for well-adjusted citizens and don’t you really want an Apple watch?

If he was a transwoman caught in a male body, any romance would still be riajuu-ish. If he was gay, similarly riajuu. If he was “Bi” (that old standby of western slash-fen), he would be riajuu (and indiscriminate) If he gave up on BL and just fixated on loli charas he would still be uncomfortably riajuu, in the sense that all those other desires match up to what is expected of them, now that they are no longer deep dark secrets to be hidden but acceptable market niches and or “tastes”. In this sense, Hato is also Kio Shimoku’s way of dealing with the new-found acceptance that otaku and fujoshi have gained within Japan. He is a further disruption, in essence the last etranger standing in the Genshiken.

Hato’s desire has to be “you and only you” to break societal rules and thereby prove the power of its truth. This also confirms the authenticity of his self and that of the equally true and free and yet to appear soul-mate. This spell always invokes desire for desire, the lover is a phantasm that has yet to appear.

I take my desires for reality because I believe in the reality of my desires.

Then they take you.

Once more note that his original cross-play as fujoshi was an uncanny replica of his first crush, now soon to be his sister in-law. If she ever cuts her hair short she will look like her husband’s brother! And she has a bad case of rotten too, so she shares the itch! Hato: avoid family reunions!

Cross-dressing adulterous quasi twincest is best!

Otaku-dom is no longer seen as an abject, pariah state, but as an otaku cross-dressing male fujoshi mangaka in training, the transgression is restored, redoubled and redoubled again. All Mada has to do to avoid the drama is to play boring until Risa enrolls.

Whoever most takes their desires for reality, wins.

Contra:
All this may be Hato’s cover/ rationalization for an underlying gender dysphoria condition, as it piles absurdity upon contradiction, upon further absurdity. Oh, and he is a manga character, so the mangaka is being clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive.

UPDATE: April 2016, post Genshiken ch122:
In light of the way in which Hato’s sexuality and gender expression was “slipped by” as the harem arc was ended, it is important to acknowledge that the mangaka has somewhat-formally acknowledged his creation’s “queer” not just with the consideration to enter into a same-sex relationship, but with the “fudanshi” identity:

An excerpt from a later post:

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 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.

“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 than 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 , McLelland, 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/ josou  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

 

Most of the confusion leads back to the logic bomb that is BL and yaoi.

As a spectre of male homosexual desire created and enjoyed by the female gaze, it haunts the Japanese patriarchy, positing an eroticized romantic exchange that both abstracts male behaviour stereotypes, including aggressive/ violent ones and rewrites them as female authored scripts of repressed, forbidden desire and identity to be shared among women.

It is raw, undiluted, powerful female sexuality. It disrupts. it mocks. It rages. It refuses “to take responsibility”. It plays hob with every “official” categorization it can lay its mittens on. It has issues. It is not well behaved. Bakhtin’s Carnival theories cannot touch it. It is far more insidious than “drag”. It will kill the puppy if you do not buy the magazine. But it also screams out for what it finds lacking in the real world.

It is the desire for desire, for a tale of “love” that destroys and remakes the entire world.

“Apres notre amour, le deluge”.

This is not uncommon in romantic fiction and there are plenty of other genres that take a related, but more well-behaved approach.

Hato is moving towards an extreme acting out of individuation within Japanese society, based on fujoshi romantic tropes that privilege transgression against social codes of sexuality and power, not transgendered identity. Hato’s solution seems to start with folk notions of two-souled individuation and play with them. It is a trial by combat of desire, as a possibility for escape or accommodation or salvation; against a society whose rules and structures appear to make any love or desire an impossible, naive longing.

Shut up and get back to work.

It is also a very old story: like Quixote, it dares to remake the world, hurling defiance while demanding that society obliterate it or accommodate it.

The problem for Hato and the furtive kami that creates him lies in the confusion that this presentation offers: within the Genshiken-verse it makes for fine plot mojo. However IRL concerns threaten to make the extreme liminality of the characterization and the situation appear (again) clumsy, disrespectful, exploitative and insensitive. Nerves, in some quarters of the meat-verse are raw especially when you have skin in the game or know someone who does. Whatever “girl’s heart in a boy’s body” notions that have been left to float around should fast be circumscribed, or at least toned down to:

“Hato’s rotten enthusiasms made female, sharing space with him in his body”.

“Why can’t I have both? It’s less ronery this way!”

It would be wrong to go towards any soap-opera notions of split personality/ dissociative disorder. Both versions are aspects of Hato. Gender is what is treated as optional, yet essential to the “role” required. It is as if “male” and female” are relative and situationally based public facets of the self, like “sempai” and kouhai”. Extreme Judith Butler time. The female aspect of Hato declines to “drive the Hato truck” for any other purpose than her fujoshi interests. This begs the question: what role and/or purpose does Hato-as-male answer? Student? Son? The guy who helps carry drunk acquaintances back to their hotel?

Perhaps in a rejoinder to the pop psychology surrounding otaku (and fujoshi) studies, Kio Shimoku is edging towards positing moe otaku and fujoshi desire as emergent variant sexualities in their own right? (3)

Extreme otaku and fujoshi desire as a new form of queer, part of a larger tendency in the meat-verse towards asceticism and virtualism or fantasism? This strategy also holds the promise of understanding cybersex enthusiasts, cosplayers, furries and the Takarazuka Review. (Fantasy is fantasy and reality is ugly, complicated and leaves me cold!!!!) but is closer to the range of paraphilias than a sexuality. And it does nothing to answer messier questions of gender identity – unless gender identity takes a back seat to individuation in construction of subject-hood.

If this sounds too weird, imagine individual practitioners of an outre kink, who are fabulously wealthy, head a commercial empire and are descended from European nobility. Their indulgences are consensual and they do societal good works; no Dr Evil with fluffy white cat stuff.

Suddenly acceptable, neh?

Everybody knows the rich are different from us…

Lookie how thin our modernist-derived ideas of “identity” are. Storybook critters all!

Hato likes BL, likes BL fanning and enjoys BL sexual fantasies (but he won’t say how). BL works for Hato and that’s the way he was created, even if it has been made difficult to precisely situate Hato within the enjoyment.

Bara and the rest of it doesn’t turn his crank. Doing fujoshi stuff as a guy is uncomfortable and has been a real heartbreak. Now that he can do rotten girl, it wouldn’t be as fun: he is comfortable with his fujoshi aspect and she helps him draw too! He only goes a bit weird when his place in his fannish circle (which underpins his identity) is threatened. The most maddening thing about Hato is that he is “just what it says on the label

He is also plainly uneasy with the idea of having 3D secks with anyone, male or female: at very least he must be in love first. Not mere riajuu love either: crazy, hits like lightning, very very frightening, break all the rules love. Special, unique, uncategorizable love. Not riajuu. Riajuu=death. Gay would be riajuu. Bisexual would be riajuu. Transwoman to male would be riajuu because Japan’s laws say that a transwoman is a woman and Hato’s rebellious subconscious is also very law-abiding and polite. Asexual would be riajuu. Aliens, time travelers or espers might do in a pinch but if they were too random they would be riajuu (they are alien, one expects them to do alien things) as well and therefore unsuitable.

The ideal lover would probably be someone as equally plagued by fantasies as Hato is. This of course is the older “misfits into the sack” view that posits that the best match for an X is another X – a large part of why we do the whole categorization thing in the first place. The further complication to this, a sardonic jest on the part of the mangaka, remains that so far Hato can barely manage friendship.

A further interesting question pops up. The libidinous spaces of Japanese fandom are filled to the brim with invented others defined by odly imagined sexualities and desires. Genshiken’s Saki lampshaded how tenuous these can get when she casually alludes to having (“real”) gay friends. Buzz-kill! But if the world is full of interesting real folks, why spend so much time creating the fantastic? Why all the straight boys and girls keep making up their versions of others’  sexualities, goes far beyond imagining what those people do and/or boxes of tissues. The latter wouldn’t be needed if these shoddy constructs and the fantasies created with them didn’t scratch some deeper itch. These needs are complex, submerged and multi-faceted, but by no means unique: they are largely conventional and mundane, when taken in toto. As such they appear as tantalizing clues that promise insights into how we fit into the messy world that we have created. They make fine fodder for pop psychology and sociology.

Nawww… It all means nothing. Just kick back and enjoy the silly stories…

A radical queer/ genderqueer approach is probably the most productive means of situating the questions posed by the Hato character, (and /or just throwing up one’s arms while exclaiming “fugggettit!”) as long as we qualify it by positing an extreme aversion to any limiting aspects that societies always seek to impose on any categorizations.

Demanding a place in the world that fits the shape of one’s own heart is always a risky and somewhat foolish enterprise but given the state of Japanese society and the Japanese economy, Hato’s passive-aggressive rebellion is not risking much. It isn’t like he is sacrificing a job for life, a loving bride who becomes a shufu and a happy family – these are in short supply lately. With little to lose and the breathing room offered by university little prevents him from doing some product development research.

Stranger things have happened, even IRL:

Sometimes the world finds a place, even a tenured teaching position for nice Jewish cis-grandmother-ly folk, who are also gay “bear” trans-men. A trick like that however takes a lot of chutzpah as well as relentless, persistent and creative kicking.

Kenjiro Hato should seek out (or be written as seeking out) some new reading materials for pointers.

The alternative is to adopt the radical view championed by grumpy old neo-Hegelian Lacanians that the pursuit of a sexuality that fits one’s heart is fool’s errand because all sexuality is a manifestation of the universal force of human fail. Sexuality=fail and fail=eroticism and no one really fits in to anything or anywhere until we are measured for a pine box…

Suck it up and keep rowing.

 


.

(1) As well as the monk/ acolyte, warrior/ page tropes contained within the nanshoku/ wakashūdo/ shudō traditions, Also of note are the Onnagata (female-role) and wakashū-gata (adolescent boy-role) historical traditions of the theatre and floating world, Citing these however draws criticism from those who claim that an essentialist historic view is too often deployed to mask contentious current issues in Japan. For an overview, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homosexuality_in_Japan and an older work that was often cited in BL/yaoi bibliographies 10 years ago; an historical survey of male homosexuality in Japan, as it applies to the yaoi genre by Mark McHarry, originally printed in the Boston-based gay magazine, The Guide, November, 2003. Had to scrape “The Archive” a few times for this one: http://web.archive.org/web/20050111090154/http://www.guidemag.com/temp/yaoi/a/mcharry_yaoi.html
Note as well the interesting side-note in the wiki regarding the curious absence of the female from the first three generations of the genealogy of the gods, as found in the Nihon Shoki, which begs a whole slew of questions.

(2) The “jump the kouhai” scene from haganai is now even more confusing as Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai’s Yukimura Kusunoki turns out to be a girl who normally presents as a boy but also presents as a boy crossdressing as a girly maid to “learn masculinity” from the male main character. Yukimura-san’s gender-fluidity is ascribed to “family circumstances“, the other great explain-all of Japanese comedies of gender identity along with “it’s a hobby!” Now that her secret is out, she has switched to a butler routine, which just goes to show that trying to get any sense out of a comedy manga might be asking too much.

(3) Dr Saito Tamaki has wondered about this, but put it aside preferring to see otaku behaviour as an elegant adaptation to contemporary conditions. Dr Akiko Mizoguchi has suggested that nominally straight fujoshi who internalize the fictional sexualities are not “straight” any more, but is imprecise as to how one would characterise them – either as virtual yaoi males in bed or virtual lesbians in their fan circles: the “you cannot look at all that…” effect once again. Earlier hints of this tendency to “ghost the shell” of the Japanese otaku can be found, such as in the 1999 “I’m alone, but not lonely”, Japanese Otaku-Kids colonize the Realm of Information and Media, A Tale of Sex and Crime from a faraway Place by Volker Grassmuck, as well as his 2000 Man, Nation & Machine: The Otaku Answer to Pressing Problems of the Media Society. Although both are highly conversational and impressionistic, with too much bubble economy and Gibson references  they have been widely cited as early materials in what would become “otaku studies”.

 

 

Afterword: As always this blog’s coverage of the Genshiken remains indebted to the “senior” bloggers on the series: Ogiuemaniax at WordPress and Astro Nerd Boy, as well as their commenters. This post and the last would have been far thinner without the discussions therein, especially https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2013/11/12/scattered-thoughts-on-the-view-of-anime-and-manga-as-sexist/  and  https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2015/03/31/hatoful-genshiken-ii-chapter-110/

My gratitude and admiration also go out to the anonymous folks in the grey reaches of the interwebs that make the series available to my outlander eyes, and to the mangaka, whose unreadable original tankobons I am accumulating as I can. 

Insane Bonus Track: A french documentary film from 1994: Jean-Jacques Beineix’s (Diva, etc.) rather sensationalist  ‘Otaku’

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRCj9cQdIr8

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!

Teenage wasteland

Don’t cry, Don’t raise your eye, It’s only teenage wasteland – Slavoj Žižek

Funny how references from the Monogatari franchise (1) sneak into Genshiken. Sue’s initial Shinobu act (btw: my previous Hato- build up logically references Shinobu Handa of Shoujo Sect infamy, not Mono’s fallen demiurge.), the “hardware store, pot lid and awl” quote are just for starters.

I stutterd Genshiken_v10_035wb

We know that Kio Shimoku and Kōji Kumeta are friends, and that SHAFT creative light Akiyuki Shinbo [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akiyuki_Shinbo] worked on the SZS animes – anyone care to do a full 6 degrees of… ?

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Wasn’t that supposed to be “My abusive language is alchemized through 40 kg copper, 25 kg of zinc, 15 kg of nickel, 5 kg of ice and 97 kg of spite” ???

Ice pick Genshiken_v10_121crop

What if Genshiken was written as Bake(etc.)monogatari?

A great deal of the story in Genshiken moves along because the characters cannot bring themselves to say what they need to say to their friends, and that they stubbornly refuse to deal with their own internal contradictions. In the Monogatari franchise, everybody gets to talk at length and then some about teen neuroses; as these become the cause of their monstrous “aberrations” /possessions. Everyone eventually gets extremely personal. Sure they take the roundabout route first and look at every freaking angle in nearly endless bouts of dialogue, but they inevitably get painfully intimate as they examine each other’s internal “truths” and “lies”. It is always the lies told to one’s self that power the possession de jour.

capture_10092014_224548

Hato’s stands never grow cat ears or snake hair and set off on murderous late-night sprees.

The Genshiken’s members are isolated monads. The closest Mono-like comments in Genshiken are made by Kousaka on Madarame’s Saki crush. Keiko gets to prod Mada too, but it never goes too deep. It is that honne and tatemae thang again, yawn… but this goofy what-if contrast highlights the seductive appeal of the Monogatari franchise.

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At first it the Monogatari franchise looks like a quirky supernatural high-school harem grinder, with plenty of outre fanservice, weird SHAFT design conceits and annoying pacing. TL:WO&O:DW

Lets take a closer look:

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Welcome to the nightmare that is Chiba/ Kawasaki/ Yokohama Monogatari-Alphaville. Definitely a “new” town with too many wide- open streetscapes, big parks, empty pedestrian malls, industry on the edges, a beach/ waterfront and woodlands in the hills surrounding it.

deco bunk bed NiseMon e4web

An affluent burg; a three child family with both parents working in the police force can afford an amazingly spacious modernist/ art-nouveau deco house. Check out the bath room (Japanese homes traditionally put the john in a seperate water closet room) that looks like it is a cross between a spa and a church loft:

isanely large bath web

(Aside: A nice consideration of Degas and bath scenes and loli fanservice in the show can be read here:  http://karice.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/p239/ 
And while I’m at it, a tips of the hat to “Entravity” http://www.entravity.com/monogatari-series-second-season/  for its episodic reviews, and to “Wrong Every Time” http://wrongeverytime.com/?s=monogatari&submit=Search for the considered essays on the series !!!)

The young rich monkey-armed fujoshi lives in a huge old-money walled and gated Japanese style mansion: it comes complete with the requisite tippy bamboo water gong. Her bedroom is the size of a banquet hall and is filled to her height with BL books.

uH7EeqI

Another of the female characters has a spacious bedroom with a balcony and a huge closet for hiding her deepest secrets within.

monogatari-5-38

Still another heroine has a terrible family situation and sleeps in the hall of her un-parent’s house, but it is a big hall. She will eventually get a good-sized bedroom of her own.

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Even the tsundere heroine’s cartoon poverty digs are not too bad for an incomplete  construction site turned into a home.

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The school grounds are massive and fitted out with finishing design touches that would make a freshly built regional university drool. Sometimes the classrooms look like they could seat 200 students. Other times they are a bit more reasonably sized.

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And then there is that donut shop on the edge of “town”: did SHAFT get a product placement deal? Western franchise style donut shops are rather scarce in the parts of Japan that I have visited. Equally scarce are highways out of town leading to Nevada-esque plains.

monogatari-8-17 (1)

These visual quirks and contradictions are there for a reason. Unlike the close, confined, safe and often claustrophobic social of a “real” Japan, Monogatari-Alphaville is a late-bubble economy, somewhat west-coast USA -like nowhere-ville. There is no “here” here. And it offers a cautionary frisson of danger to the Japanese reader: you want more space, more privacy, more autonomy?

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Be careful what you wish for!

The distance between buildings and structures is mirrored by the distance between people.

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One interesting way around this is the notion of “the character lens” brought out in this blog; http://surprisinglycomplex.blogspot.ca/2013/05/bakemonogatari-behind-summer-triangle.html . Definitely one of the go-to resources for the series, the reviews and essays on the franchise are excellent fun reading! You should visit! The idea behind the lens is that the exaggerations we see are the point of view of the main character.

To restate for clarity: most of the first Mono (Bakemonogatari) is from the POV of the recovering teen vampire Koyomi Araragi. Buddy-boy’s brush with the supernatural has brought on a bit of maturity and he is now a bit less of a rebellious slacker and a bit more thoughtful, introspective and tyro- superhero- “responsible” – especially if the problem involves a girl in distress. He is good-hearted, tries to control his impulsiveness and ecchi urges and is in the process of learning how to negotiate his first serious romance with a formidable girlfriend.

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Because he IS THE POV, we get to see his world in a slightly distorted way; sometimes through his eyes, mostly from tracking perspectives but always exaggerated by his perceptual leanings and state of mind at the time. The gory fight scenes were used as the primary example in the Surprisingly Complex essay. He might have extra ex-vampire strength and healing powers, but the violent stuff still hurts like heck; hence the over the top blood and gore.

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His two younger sisters have become strong skilled brawlers and his chances for brotherly skinship and good-natured harassment – which often descend into borderline lolicon excess are limited…

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…so they are for the most part transferred to lost snail-cow ghost girl. The rest of the over the top fanservice can be similarly situated. Along with a trademark SHAFT ironic presentation, we get our pantsu shots and bath scenes but we can say that we are just laughing at the excess.

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As well they can be read as subjective exaggerations to highlight the residual character flaws of our slowly maturing male hero. He may have Ecchi urges, but he is controlling himself. He and his lady-love are even saving their virtue for after high school graduation. Even if they are almost “engaged” complete with meet the parents, they dont do the teenage lust make-out thing. It is a wonder that they had one good romantic kiss on the night of Tanabata. (D’awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

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 Just ignore all the loli pantsu stuff…

Yup, tell that to the customs officers. Oh well, that’s what streaming sites are for.

Let us return to those wide open spaces. The character lens effect from buddy-boy’s POV can only explain so much of the expo/ world’s fair post-modern design nature of Mono-Alphaville. Time to drop a note over to the folks at Neojaponism – they understand commercial design trends, typography and layout a whole lot better than moi. They would have a lot better idea of what “era” is being referenced: I will stick with “bubble economy” because it is easy and vague.

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Aside from freeing the SHAFT animators from the expense of detailed backgrounds by allowing for a clever reworking of CGI savings (dial DOWN the rendering quality from 2.9D to “superflat” then overdo perspective and colour shift for mood. Sell your production economies as style!) the design-conceit heavy spatialized mood of the setting emphasises the social ISOLATION of the characters and strengthens the bonds that form between them. The crowded, visually cluttered, complex and sometimes suffocating modern Japan that gives rise to rigid codes of honne and tatemae, honne and giri, uchi and soto, etc., are blown away like dust in the sterile, wide empty streets.

Cold Equations:

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Aside from the superflat treatment, another inescapable characteristic of the background treatments are their linearity, their hard angles and the use of only the simplest geometric operations for curves. The streetscapes and the city may be jumbled, but it is a jumble born out a dropped geometry set, perhaps an echo of one of the heroine’s school supply weaponry. There are not a lot of complex, natural curves in Monogatari-Alphaville: everything looks like it came out of a 40-year-old street furniture supply company catalogue.

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Even ruins are linear, hard horizontal and vertical strokes, as in the derelict cram school, set off by the one organic oddity that marks it as a magical space – a giant tree that has grown up through its roof.

Life goes on despite, rather than with the help of such a setting.

“To yourself be true. Don’t stress out. Don’t lie to yourself. If the truth of your life is unacceptable you can change that truth but you must change it through deeds not words. Skill suffers if practiced from a personal agenda. The kids are all right. Travel broadens one’s horizons. You can’t choose your family, but they are still your family. There’s no place like home”. These are the commonplaces of coming-of-age tales, and can be expected in a young adult story. Mono has got all these o’ plenty, but the supernatural focus on lies, especially lies told to one’s self verges into almost un-Japanese extremes and in doing so offers a Japanese audience the chance to vicariously experience the shedding of a claustrophobic tatemae in parallel to the experience of the anomic wide-open spaces of Monogatari-Alphaville.

You also get donuts!

And you get frenetic production-fourth-wall black, white, red, whatever transition frames, graphic conceits, text cards, stock illustration fast-cuts and other almost subliminal visual clutter to keep the eyes busy while the platitudes are being endlessly mulled over by the characters.

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Jeesh! All they do is talk talk talk, but seldom has talk been so visually dynamic; except for the Zetsubo Sensei animes which shared the same frantic visual overload to compensate for inane dialogue. The Monogataries seems to have a more consistent style book governing the application of these distractions – as if the producers are trying to stay on a linear storyline, while keeping up the supply of eye-candy. Sometimes it just becomes a bit too much.

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I would guess they are hoping the fans buy the blue ray and endlessly rewind pause-play for hidden extra bits.

This visual clutter adds a certain mood to the story; Shifting POVs, the consideration of multiple subjectivities and multiple, diffuse interpretations of barely understood events. While the roots of this kind of video trickery run deep in Western crime/forensic series, the effect here is to expand “width” of the storytelling and slow it down rather than chivvy the action along.

“How can you make Art out of the internet?” – R.A.Stone
“SLOW… IT… DOWN!!!” – overenthusiastic art student in the audience

Female trouble:

Many late-modern Japanese harem grinders lean toward odd female-centric exercises. The absence of males in the Mono franchise is glaring: the male lead’s dad remains offstage – we see mom do a cameo warning cat-girl not camp over too much, but no dad. The female lead’s dad silently chauffeurs them on a date.

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Guys with agency occasionally make an appearance as part of the ghostbuster irregulars: Hawaii shirt and the con man form a good uncle/ bad uncle tag team that in the end perform similar functions. Of the two, the con-man Kaiki is far more nuanced. Supernaturally limited, he first appears as a Ray Bradbury Carnival devil and finally evolves into a flawed tough-love destroyer of delusions and a hopelessly romantic old dude who still cannot resist playing puppeteer.

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It is fitting that he gets his head severely whacked after saving the day at the end of one arc, reassuring that he pops up again sadder and perhaps a bit more of a shady uncle in a later storyline.

Otherwise it is the girls that get themselves possessed by gods, demons and other aberrations and the girls that eventually solve their own problems. Unfortunately they only seem to be able to solve their problems after being provoked, prodded, questioned, challenged and talked at by buddy boy and his uncle substitutes. At least they usually get to use buddy boy as a punching bag during the exercise, so fair is fair. When buddy boy has to go up against the women members of the ghostbusters, he again gets to both lecture them and get the stuffing beaten out of him.

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The loli vampire Shinobu ex- ridiculously long fake English name heart-under-blade occasionally helps out a bit, but usually buddy boy has to take a beating in order to underline the seriousness of his statements. And of course he then finally gets listened to, the woman/ girl in question goes Eureka, Duh! The problem is solved.

Humph!

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At least in one of the last story arcs (considered chronologically) Hanamonagatori‘s tomboy gets to take on a problem herself. Free-er of outre fanservice than the rest of stories, it resolves as an odd tale of suspicion, respect, affection and regret between two young women who had once been rivals on the basketball court.

Suruga Kanbaru self-identifies matter-of-fact-ly as a lesbian, has a ridiculously excessive taste for BL books, (Note to Ogiuemaniax: Found another one for you!) and is getting used to not being able to hang around with Hitagi Senjōgahara (her first idealized “sempai” crush) and the once-rival for the affections thereof and now only male friend buddy-boy. Her demon monkey arm is still with her and slated to keep her away from sports (and soul-selling wishes) for another two years.

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Up until this tale, she had been the quirky athletic fanservice lesbian almost-member of the Araragi harem, but Hanamonagatori is her tale and she takes what she has learned from her sempais and her own possession experiences and acquits herself and her once rival with honor and dignity. Kaiki buys her Korean barbecue and drop vague hints (see bad uncle above) but leaves her to figure things out. We know he will treat her half fair-and-square because he owes a debt of respect and unrequited love to her deceased mom – who also just happened to be one of the most powerful ghostbusters ever. Another quasi-relative, a sex-shifting cypher with a face that recalls the mask of Darker than Black’s Hei pops up to prod things along, but his (currently) advice is always fraught with danger.

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When earlier story arcs needed a menacing bit of set-the-disaster-in-motion, mask face always appeared as a girl. It was a spooky touch to genderswap her for Kambaru.

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Araragi pops up too, but declines to meddle or ask too much until all is well and done. Friends, not so much sempai and kouhai (or dearest sempai’s tolerable boyfriend) any more; a distance has also grown between them.

Maybe we are getting fed a yurified retread of an old shonen-ai story. Jeesh, the name (!) (a famous early 20th C Japanese f/f romance tale), the lily motifs in the credits, trolling, trolling, trolling… but still remarkably restrained. The previous arcs were not exactly a shining model of empowerment for young women. This time a reluctant girl apprentice takes on the task and does it in a way that only she could manage.

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Of course there will be a duel on the basketball court – which goes down a lot faster than the talk, talk, talk on the court that proceeds it. The basketballs were a nice touch.

So Monogatari(s) for the win…

But just think how much fun could be had if Genshiken had a Monogatari-ish cameo episode:

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Rika chiding Yajima over the Hato-crush, their voices echoing through a deserted Tokyo Big Sight as the winter afternoon sun sets…(cue shining music)

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Ogiue haunting a strangely derelict club-block (cue shining music) as a cat-eared monster that jumps out of windows, kicking Sasahara around until Ohno and Saki prevail upon her to heal herself.

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Hato turning into gawd knows what with the stands, Kicking around Mada along campus plazas that seem to stretch on for miles (cue shining music).

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Sue as Shinobu getting to beat the Hato continuum up, while telling them to heal themselves in fractured anime quotes.

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Saki turning into a busty moe-blob fire starter Maid, kicking Madarame and Kuchiki around a a strangely deserted mall-scapes (cue shining music) until Kousaka gets her to calm down and heal herself.

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Ohno turning into something Bayonetta-esque, or better; a demonized Murcielago knock-off and ripping apart the entire damn Genshiken membership male and female in a deserted onsen (that seems to stretch out for miles – cue shining music) until the batteries give out on Tanaka’s camera. She then reasons with her many alter-egos and heals herself. Some magical bullshit treats everyone’s injuries and they complain about too much cosplay in the Genshiken during a mixed bath scene.

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Rika turning into a mean cartoon drunk (cue Tom Waits music) kicking nobody, nobody really caring enough to tell her to snap out of it and heal herself.

Nawwwww, that probably wouldn’t work.

Random Endnotes:

1) Yes, the word monogatari is just the bad romanization of the Japanese term for “tale” or “story”, so of course this refers to the SHAFT produced anime franchise and the light novels by that they are based on. See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogatari_(series). Excerpt: “.. A series of Japanese light novels written by Japanese novelist Nisio Isin and illustrated by Taiwanese illustrator Vofan. Kodansha has published 18 novels since November 2006 under their Kodansha Box imprint, with at least one more novel planned.

One fan’s listing of the anime so far:

Story’s Chronological Order
1. Kizumonogatari -Movie Prequel (in perpetual post-production)
2. Nekomonogatari: Kuro
3. Bakemonogatari
4. Nisemonogatari
5. Monogatari Series Second Season
-Nekomonogatari: Shiro
-Kabukimonogatari
-Otorimonogatari
-Onimonogatari
-Koimonogatari
6. Hanamonogatari should be between Kabuki and Otori  (no, it happens after, Duh!)

And unreleased parts are:  
7.Tsukimonogatari
8. Koyomimonogatari
9. Owarimonogatari
10.Zokuowarimonogatari