Small gods

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

Why oh why? (mild spoilers ensue)

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

Merlin web600

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

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

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

Or…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh Fuck!

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

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

Ahhhhhhhh! Bliss… What could go wrong?

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

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

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

[Hachimitsu Hana_wa_Nisemono_c04_15 Web600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why oh Why?

Magical castration is funny.

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

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

Rom-com to 11 ending in reassurance.

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

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

Well, duh… Cut to the manga.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A digression on romance:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh heck, brain beginning to hurt!

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

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

Too much speculative pop sociology!

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

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

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

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

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

hothead paisan collection cover web600

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

A romantic comedy with extra low comedy on top.

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

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

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

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

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

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

For Science!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quit not thine day job!

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

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

LATER: Random intrusions from nasty reality

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

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

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

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

The paper tigers roar at noon

“The number of persons or institutions by whom the existence of gay people–never mind the existence of more gay people–is treated as a precious desideratum [something wanted], a needed condition of life, is small, even compared to those who may wish for the dignified treatment of any gay people who happen already to exist. Advice on how to make sure your kids turn out gay, not to mention your students, your parishioners, your therapy clients, or your military subordinates is less ubiquitous than you might think. By contrast, the scope of institutions whose programmatic undertaking is to prevent the development of gay people is unimaginably large…”
— Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, The Epistemology of the Closet (1990)

“Anthropologist David Graeber argues that we must move beyond the definition of value in terms of the economistic individual evaluating objects’ exchange value or use value and beyond the overly holistic and static structure of a society’s ‘values’, because neither is much help in developing social theory that accommodate people’s efforts to [change society purposefully] [ital mine]. Instead, Graeber encourages us ‘to look at social systems as structures of 
creative action, and value, as how people measure the importance of their own actions within such structures’ (Graeber, 2001: 230). I am interested in seeing what thinking in terms of characters and premises might do as a kind of ‘operating system’ on which dispersed participants work in their particular areas of expertise. Few people within the process feel that they have a tremendous amount of ‘power’, but they would likely concede that as a group they work towards common, or at least somewhat shared, notions 
of value. As one anime producer said to me in an August 2006 interview in which he discussed his enjoyment of script meetings, ‘You get hooked (hamacchau). You like the characters. They become like friends, and you want to spend time with them.”
Anime Creativity Characters and Premises in the Quest for Cool Japan by Ian Condry

The attraction of the manga narrative lies precisely in that it is not great literature. It a simple, small machine that sets out to do one thing.

MIZUTAMA HONEY BOY/ 水玉ハニーボーイ; 水珠HoneyBoy
Released: 2015 Author/Artist: Ike Junko.
Genres: Comedy, Romance, School Life, Shoujo, Sports

Honey boy frontspiece C0p4

(Mild spoilers ensue)

They riddle and corrupt the heart

Aside from a few publicly funded art galleries who go hunting for “inclusive content” to assure their next year’s grants, some of the oddest examples of “want more hoyay” can be currently found in Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture and the vernacular narratives that it spins out. Paradoxically, these are overwhelmingly straight-created fantasies of gay, lesbian, queer, trans*, inter-sex, asexual or just plain “non-conforming” identities and desires. Even if some of the creators are from minority identities, the overwhelming majority of their readers remain vanilla, boring “straight”. These go to their manga to dream in queer. That they so dare, in their society which is so fixated on outward shows of conformity and homogeneity, makes these dreams transgressive and that much more appealing. Those “in the (real) life” get to shrug their shoulders (or roll their eyes and grit their teeth) and wonder if the column inches are worth the confusion. The stuff is annoying, it seems to get in the way of realistic depictions of sexual and gender minorities but on the other hand, it does some small work pointing out a degree of dissatisfaction the mechanistic societal ideas about who should do what, why and to whom. Meanwhile a lot of weird manga characters get whomped up and turned loose to run about finding the true love that threatens to elude their readership.

Shoujo manga, seems to lead the way as the go-to genre for characters and stories that push at and play with the normative assumptions surrounding identity, sexuality, desire and gender conformity, all while at the same time-serving as a reservoir of stories that exalt frighteningly conformist ideals of the status quo. The real estate covered is sprawling, the inhabitants unruly and the readership more varied than one would first imagine. Shy girls find strong, good-looking boyfriends just as often as girl princes ride off into the sunset with rose maidens, cheered on by happy seme x uke BL couples. Many theorists from Matt Thorn on have pointed out that the shoujo genre has a habit of pushing boundaries and nibbling away at convention. Yup, it’s just romance tales for young women, pay not attention to the weird stuff behind the curtains but if you are wont to pay attention, why waste any effort on a piece of fluff like Honey Boy? This one is not only odd, but “wonky” in the sense that its pieces don’t quite fit together properly, or rather they hold together just well enough for fluff.

The harmless paper tiger bears strong fascination for the young

The first problem is the mangaka, Ike Junko. Honey Boy is penned by a very shoujo mangaka, an up-and-coming talent whose one-shots have been popping up in Lala Magazine since 2011. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LaLa]

Lala’s readership is, per 2009 figures;

“97% female while the other 3% are male readers. Its age demographic consists of 4% percent for under-13 readers, 23.4% for readers aged 13–17, 20% for readers aged 18–20, 13% for readers aged 21–23 while the remaining 29.7% of the readers are aged 24 years old and up.[3] Readers aged 24 and up are the demographic of the highest percentage.[3]”
– ibid Wikipedia Lala

Previous/ other works by the mangaka include: See You Again (2011), Sabaku no Requiem (2011), Bear Bear (2012), Tsubakizaka Tricolor (2012), Sora no Yousei (2013) and The Thief and the Jewel Girl (2013), all are standard shoujo fare, some set in high schools and others in fantasy settings. The characterization, dialogue, action and emotional display center around the young heroine and sometimes include her female friends. The guys are all pretty standard bishie teen guys who the heroine can get interested in and happily-ever-after on.

Honey Boy drops a young gay-boy stereotype into the mix and then makes him straight.

Superficially, it looks like Ike Junko is a fan of Ayumi Komura’s Usotsuki Lily. Mizutama Honey Boy reads like an homage to it, or at least some of its female characters. Bits of Morinaga Miruku also seem to pop up out of the whirlpool and I’m sure I am missing the footnotes for an entire stadium full of venerable shoujo manga tropes and quirks.

What is a level-headed, competent and strong young woman to do, besides transferring to an all-girl’s school?

All the boys in high school are scared of Mei Sengoku (that family name!) or consider her a weird “warrior girl” or a “Samurai” and too many girls are writing her confession letters. Does she have to start deferring to any and all loudmouth young guys and/or walking pigeon-toed in order to have a normal high school life? Should she cut her hair short and go for the bifauxnen vibe? It would make for less time in the shower after a good sweaty Kendo workout. At least she isn’t being bullied (the women’s Kendo team captain? bullied? By definition she is un-bully-able), but still she feels something is missing.

Sengoku-san is a strong female lead, beautiful, intelligent and heroic in her day-to-day life. She doesn’t act deferential and soft-spoken and neither does she act genki or delinquent in order to pull it off. When she walks, she walks like a person who is going some place rather than a knock-kneed baby woodlands creature. She cuts a striking figure in her hakama and is seldom seen, even in civies without her shinai case. What she wants is to get on with her Kendo practice, keep her grades up, help people who need her help and make a few friends.

They drink no blood, they taste no meat

Perhaps in a more typical setting the boys would be all over ms. warrior. She is constructed as one of, if not the most beautiful woman in her school. There should be the athletic good guy and the slightly dangerous delinquent-ish guy competing for her attention, but they are nowhere in sight. Instead…

Shirou Fuji has family circumstances; a mom who wanted another daughter and a classically away-on-business father. A bishonen who runs more than a bit over the herbivore line to the point of effeminacy, his gender performance is nuanced towards what he likes (mostly domestic home-ec-ish stuff) rather than a full-on roll-out of cartoon dysphoria. That is if you look close enough. At first glance he is what can be un-charitably described as a flaming pooftah. His worst fault is that he is over-supportive to the point of being a parody of a classic helpful female chara. He is a boy Morinaga Miruku home-ec club heroine who won’t stop baking cookies and cakes for the one he admires. And yup, he makes a tasty bento too.

Make no mistake though, he is straight enough (or functionally straight enough) to thoroughly desire Warrior girl. He may like frilly things, might even crossdress every so often for situational reasons (Make mom happy, school festival, etc. this variant of shoujo is too chaste to suggest any kink) and may view intimacy only as a subset of overblown romance, but he is after her bod as well as her heart. He wants to marry her. He isn’t too particular about who will wear the bride’s outfit as long as Sengoku-san ends up standing next to him. More than a gender inversion of teen dating tropes, it is as if he has decided to do a full-on faux-yuri girl-crush on Warrior Girl, piled on top of every cliche of demonstrating domestic skill as courting that can be dredged from the pages of the shoujo genre…

With one glaring exception; he will be there to protect her.

Honey Boy has twigged to the fact that warrior girl can’t be in %100 full fighting trim all the time. Every hero needs backup and Honey Boy will be there to take the hit whenever she needs a moment to get her twisted ankle taped up. A guy will put himself on the line to protect the girl he has feelings for – them’s the rules. Once upon a time she carried him to the school infirmary and he will carry her as many times as needed to prove how moved he was by the experience. Whether or not he can pull off his odd courtship is where the fun comes in. Being strong is important to Warrior Girl, and she wants to be powerful enough to protect herself and those she cares for, so she is extremely conflicted about his efforts or even how she fits into his romantic notions.

yes you can Honeyboy C0p42

Both Warrior Girl and Honey Boy are straight yet superficially inverted variations on their proper assigned gender roles, though he is clearly a more fantastic construction, whomped up to serve as a foil for the “problems” that her independence creates. Guy’s manga have plenty of initially scary high achieving high school heroines, all with secret weaknesses and flaws ready to be exploited by a harem lead; in that respect Sengoku-san is drawn and superficially resembles any number of tall, dark-haired formidable and supposedly unapproachable high school beauties. On the shoujo side of the street, she most closely resembles Uso Lily‘s (and Sword Fighter Komachi‘s) Ashiya Komachi.

The small romantic bits are secondary to the what-if speculation about what kind of guy can be a comfortable and fun match for a high-achieving heroine, even as it carries the question off into a series of comedy skits. Honey Boy may be fey, but the cookies are good (not -too- sweet), he is solicitous to a fault, supportive, there for her in a pinch, doesn’t over-talk her, has empathy power to 9000 and shows enough attraction – including physical attraction – to flatter but never crosses the line. In short he is posited as an unlikely but almost perfect fantasy boyfriend for the young female readership; if they ever decided that they wanted to act in a self-confident, strong and forthright manner. And he is gently, persistently and actively courting her. He has promised that he won’t give up and he doesn’t, but neither does he overwhelm her (At first it looked like he was, but the over-gifting turned out to be the work of an otaku stalker)

The first problem with Honey Boy develops from the narrative structure borne out of the inversion. More and more screen time is spent on Honey Boy, until we almost have two girl leads, with both of them occasionally popping back into hetero-normative behaviour during romantic situations, then reverting to inverted roles to defuse the tension. Usotsuki Lily used to do this to great effect; the cross-dressing male lead “glowed” even more than the girl the day after they finally consummated their long romance. Somehow what worked with an average girl and a straight boy into crossdressing is unstable when it is done with a tsundere and effeminate quasi-gay guy.

In both instances:

“”The underlying perception of (girlish) femininity as unfavorable, is exemplified in the monographs by Fujimoto Yukari and Oshiyama Michiko. Fujimoto’s Where is my place in the world? (1998), one of the most frequently cited works in shōjo manga studies. Based on her extensive experience as a magazine editor, Fujimoto offers close readings of shōjo manga through the concept of gender.
[…]
Fujimoto argues that shōjo manga represents girl readers’ fear of sexuality, and hence their perception of “femininity,” a word which she uses almost synonymously with “female sexuality” in a derogatory tone (50). For Fujimoto, shōjo manga is a medium for women, a text that reflects the values of women most accurately, including the ideology of romance, which teaches female readers to dedicate themselves to love, whether mutual or unrequited (14). Men, she writes, do not fall into that “trap” because they know romance is another name for lust (25). Her negative casting of “femininity” is also evident in her interpretation of Boys’ Love, where she endorses the view that “beautiful boys” in shōjo manga (and yaoi) are nothing more than girls without the female body, and are hence liberated from (unfavorable) feminine sexuality, which for her is synonymous with passivity and objectification in the beginning (142-3).

Manga Studies #7: Shōjo Manga Research: The Legacy of Women Critics and Their Gender-Based Approach by Masafumi Monden
http://comicsforum.org/2015/03/10/shojo-manga-research-the-legacy-of-women-critics-and-their-gender-based-approach-by-masafumi-monden/

Honey Boy also seems to play out a rather simple form of a longstanding tradition of proto-feminist complaint; Welker noted it in a study of 40-year-old Japanese gay magazines. (Flower Tribes and Female Desire: Complicating Early Female Consumption of Male Homosexuality in Shōjo Manga by James Welker)  It periodically resurfaces; this 2012 viral YouTube short re-purposes it to a contemporary cause

Gay Men Will Marry Your Girlfriends [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-YCdcnf_P8]

Honey Boy also harkens back to the early 20th century Koha and Nampa typologies of Japanese male behaviour. Recall that the “soft” Nampa tribe was far more appealing to and by most accounts also more interested in women. The “hard” Koha were male isolationists, valuing a male homosocial, if not exclusive desire for males.

A further echo of this pops up in late 1970’s and early 1980’s western queer theory.
Per Sedgewick:

“According to that framework, there were essentially no valid grounds of commonality between gay male and lesbian experience and identity; to the contrary, women-loving women and men-loving men must be at precisely opposite ends of the gender spectrum. The assumptions at work here were indeed radical ones: most important, as we’ll be discussing further in the next chapter, the stunningly efficacious re-visioning, in female terms, of same-sex desire as being at the very definitional center of each gender, rather than as occupying a cross-gender or liminal position between them. Thus, women who loved women were seen as more female, men who loved men as quite possibly more male, than those whose desire crossed boundaries of gender. The axis of sexuality, in this view, was not only exactly coextensive with the axis of gender but expressive of its most heightened essence: “Feminism is the theory, lesbianism is the practice.” By analogy, male homosexuality could be, and often was, seen as the practice for which male supremacy was the theory. A particular reading of modern gender history was, of course, implicit in and in turn propelled by this gender-separatist framework.
– Ibid Sedwick Ch1 p36

So, gender non-conforming Honey Boy is less suitable for same-sex desire as he presents as less manly? This is complicated! Brain hurts!

For the young women readers, Honey Boy posits an extreme makeover of the qualities of an ideal boyfriend while it highlights, again in extremis, the dog-work behind the ideal of a proper supportive (usually female) role held up to them in their fave reading materials. All of the cookies, bento, cheering for their crush at sports events, walking home, waiting with the umbrella on rainy afternoons, shopping dates, skiving off from your school festival duties to fill in for a last-minute drop on your crush’s team, taking their place piloting the giant robot…

Having a Japanese high school crush is a heck of a lot of hard work!

This however leads to a further problem: as an effeminate male who is considered as verging toward gay by his classmates, he wields the threat of same-sex desire as a weaponised cliché against male aggression. Usotsuki Lily had a bit of this too, but when the trick is transposed from crossdresser-lite to okama-lite the undertones are meaner.

Fuit weaponized Honey Boy C1p32

There is however a floral background character portrait (Yo! Kio Shimoku! Still waiting…)

It could be worse; at least Honey Boy is not nominally attracted to other guys and Warrior Girl is a case of “only you”, although the possibility of such a dynamic lies lurking as an extra frisson for the readers. Honey boy feels good old-fashioned heterosexual male lust, but he doesn’t need to fake any romantic slip-covers for it; like the pseudo-gay males of BL, romance and lust are inseparable aspects of his unified desire. This is something that conventional straight males are supposedly incapable of. They are too self-absorbed and too busy over-reacting to hide their discomfort with the idea of subsuming any part of their nascent identity to another’s happiness.

Will Honey Boy “man up” for true love? What does that mean? Are the parts where Honey Boy earnestly declares he desire for Sengoku more “heterosexual” and “true” to his male nature than baking cookies?

The primacy of America’s most popular threesome, two dudes and an Xbox, is safe.” – The Lobster Dance, a blog.

When Honey Boy tries to use his gay threat nonsense to dissuade the not-really-a-suitor Kendo Boy from pestering Warrior Girl, he ends up making a rash wager and gets clueless Kendo Boy as a third wheel. After all, Kendo Boy promised he’d “go out with him” if the wager was lost. Kendo Boy may be an idiot but he doesn’t care one way or another about the norms surrounding sexuality, he probably doesn’t even care about intimacy or desire either. He just wants to perfect his kendo on everyone (and any critters) who stands in his way. At least he has one redeeming quality though; he loves his five unruly siblings and they love him.

A happy family is after all the good ending for a shoujo story. It helps to validate it within the narrative. Happy offspring will be raised and a living for them and two adults will earned, even if someone has to run the family dojo and someone else has to work at a pastry shop part-time and take care of the kids. Salaryman and shufu-hood as a future looks pretty remote for non-conformist couples of all kinds, but the dream of a cottage business is still dear enough in the hearts of the Japanese readership to paper over that problem.

They roar in chorus, not in tune

The expression of sexuality and gender and its place in our modern societies is a work in progress and the big stumble seems to be finding a nice simple rubric that can explain and organize everything and facilitate a societal consensus. The current liberal compromise in the West, especially the United States is that “presentation of self” eventually manifests innate characteristics and since these are innate it is profoundly immoral to social engineer against them. (as long as these stick to consenting adults, etc., etc..) Besides, creation arranged it that way for a reason, therefore there must be a benefit to its expression; natural is good, authentic is good. For want of a better term, I call this “the doctrine of authenticity“.

The drawbacks to taking this too far are obvious.

On the other end of the nightmare wasteland of easy answers lies the great promise of the social order as a construct and of its malleability. Secular prescriptive systems, the sociological and radical programs that supplant earlier religious attempts to mold societies all posit absolute faith that if social arrangements and structures are tweaked to reward and punish behaviors and expressions, then paradise is at hand; except for the sad need to break a few eggs for the perfect omelet to come. Since societies are a billion times harder to turn than ocean going oil tankers, the lag effects always call for more egg breaking.

Of course there are ways of negotiating between these extremes, but they are a bit hard to explain in a soundbite, and therefore far less satisfying or useful. When you try to yoke these onto a simple story line you sometimes get a brilliant synthesis, other times you get a hot mess, or worse, a warm one.

Innate is Honey Boy’s posited full fledged desire for Warrior Girl and her fluttering heart when his true feelings reach her. Learned is her masculine-ish warrior devotion to “getting stronger so I can protect” and his over-supportive interests in the domestic arts. It helps that both of them are idealized physical types; this story would be far more odd (and ambitious) if he looked like Genshiken’s Madarame and she looked like Yajimachi.

A bride img000022

All the above might drag a bit too much baggage into a simple romantic comedy manga aimed (primarily) at young women. Shoujo manga story lines and characters offer subtle variations to well-loved, well established standards; they are designed to be comforting familiar and reassuring. What remains, after all the tricks and inversions can be seen as the distillation of what is supposed to be safe and appreciated.

The one thing that seems to remain constant in shoujo manga is the romance. So far Honey Boy has used the residual tropes of physical attraction in a way that breaks the inversion spell and drops the characters back into their proper gender roles, if only for instants of hearts skipping a beat and forceful “I will have youtete-a- tete declarations of love. The guy is still proposing, the woman disposing. This is the catechism of shoujo manga, which is also one of its blind spots considering how often girls and women have to take the lead in real-life romance and even, yes, lust. So one would hope that the mangaka kicks it up a notch and finds some reason for Sengoku-san to pin Honey Boy against a wall and make his heart do a few doki dokis too.

Alas the current chances for Honey Boy’s fluttering heart are slim. Sengoku-san may occasionally have a glimmer of feelings for him, but she will continue to brush these away, because she has effectively friend-zoned him – or he had friend-zoned himself. The message is clear; not masculine enough is not good enough for a shoujo heroine.

So much for transgression.

Zen and the art of harem maintenance

Shin jigoku nan desu-ka?

very hato ish

“Pity boy, can’t you show me nothing but surrender?”

I keep going back to Genshiken’s chapter 111. A few things, besides Madarame starting to act like the lead in a BL tale, suggest themselves. First; when Kio Shimoku originally brought fujoshi fandom into the Genshiken, he was way over his head. Hato was a useful smoke screen lest any IRL rotten girl readers detect in-authenticity in the fannish exchanges of a pure %100 female fujoshi enthused Genshiken. By now he has had plenty of time to do his homework. Look at Hato-kun just lying there pinned on the bed and consider all the small purposefully BL-ish details; the arms, the hand ,the turning of the flushed face… This stuff feels cranked – if not to 11, then at least 10.3

And here is out- of- my- depth- ness part one. I don’t read BL or yaoi. It doesn’t work for me and I have enough residual phobe-bosity that almost all the bits I see in passing either irritate me, put me off or leave me feeling very uncomfortable. It is just me. (and if you want to split hairs, if I am going for nondiscrimination points, shouldn’t I be trying to get used to something other than straight girls’ m:m fantasies?) I also find too many m-f manga romances unconvincing. Everything is going along smoothly and then things get clumsy and sad. Society tells someone to act too forceful or someone else to just lie back and think of their duty to the country, or to some stupid idea of how they are “supposed” to act. it all gets sad really fast. I have a similar trouble with fetishes and paraphilias; they seem to become more important than the warm fuzzies. (One of the odd things about mass culture is how repressive cultural and religious traditions surrounding intimacy and outre fetishes seem to have jumbled together in disappointing ways.) What I do find interesting usually has a strong female character who is just as interested in buddy boy as he is interested in her (…and he mustn’t be a complete clot). No wonder I am a sucker for respectable “Story A” Shinso/ V2 yuri stories.

Kio Shimoku is a pro. If he had any discomfort reading BL, he has set it aside. It sure looks like he has done his research. I suspect that he leans heavily towards dojins or pro works that started out as dojins and that he has also done a light sampling of representative works in the josou genre. And that he is looking for the mushy stuff rather than the over-the-top hardcore stuff. “Think pieces”, BL versions of the complex emotional tales he used to spin.

After years of building up the Hato continuum, and then dragging a hesitant Madarame towards the edge of a m:m romantic cliff, the rotten girl audience is finally getting some fanservice. While a rough translated script was available some weeks ago, the grey English version of chapter 111 has just popped up, at about the same time as chapter 112 has been published. I searched for the “Hato Ultra-Uke!” line that I saw in the rough script, but it was the fan’s comment, not a translation of a ghost caption on a dialogue-free page. Still it seems to fit.

In case you are impatient, here’s the executive summary for chapter 112: Kio Shimoku goes overboard with lovingly detailed background sketches of historic Niko, while Risa gets folks to pair off to tromp around historic sites. Thanks to Ogiue Maniax for pointing out the importance of the way she paired them off. Madarame is hanging back letting Kuchiki have his day. No embarrassed morning-after glances are being exchanged. Hato-as-chan gets paired off with Keiko. We will have to wait for chapter 113 to see if she tears a strip off of him.

Meanwhile back in chapter 111, I must continue my longstanding Kübler-Ross “fear of a HatoMadaHato hookup” routine. Nope, not buying it at all, still, yet, Nope… Big, big river in Egypt. “Why can’t two guys just be friends, asks Helmut?” It’s just me.

I could go on about “the doctrine of authenticity” and add more about how the two haven’t really talked that much, can’t even do male friendship, Mada’s shyness around women and the pain of the extinguished torch he carried for so long, Hato’s incredible nested layers of liminality and avoidance; “so far back in the closet that he’s half way to Narnia” (as one fan put it) yadda yadda yadda, but of course that would be no impediment for a conventional f:m pairing, so I lose. How atavistic of me. Back to the re-education sessions.

Ideally, at least for some of the invested fan-verse, Madarame should toss Hato-kun over his shoulder and only let him down only long enough to pick up a night bag stuffed with Hato’s chan gear, while announcing to the rest of the Genshiken that his heart (…now and forever, even after the flames take…etc) belongs to all aspects of Hato-ness and that at least a week of privacy will be needed before the happy couple-plus surface for air. Snacks and tubs of magic yaoi lotion can be left by the door. Think of it as a partial harem ending: As Hato is written as being notoriously unwilling to decide on any matters of sexuality or gender, Mada gets twink-Hato, otokonoko-Hato and transwoman Hato as a package deal.

And while we are at it, Madarame is also revealed to be the next Demon-King.

spotted-flower-go extinct

Madarame doesn’t seem to be treating Hato-dysphoria and the possibility of m:m romance as much of a problem, at least in comparison to the shock to himself of actually taking some initiative. With words paired to pictures, heart-breaker circle-king Madarame recedes into further realms of impracticability, (along with Dai-maou-rame) but he was still agitated enough (and drunk enough) to act. Being dumped again seems to be the hinge on which the whole scene turns. Madarame seems free of any kind of “eyuchhh, gross!” ‘phobe reactions. His rolling around embarrassment scene affords Hato, as kun, equal footing with any of the females in the harem, or otherwise.

Madarame felt no qualms about nearly stealing a kiss from Hato-as-kun, and the “you’re the only one I could be forceful with” line, while egregious fujoshi service (shame on you Shimoku-sensei!), does make a point. Madarame isn’t looking at this as a problem of the love that dare not make a too much of a fuss in public yet – the hurt of another dumped-again routine has completely preoccupied him. Those chocolates meant something, on whatever level, conscious, unconscious or suppressed and those feelings are being pushed aside before they can even be talked over. Valentines day choco is powerful magic!

The whole fantasy is fantasy thing is just one more excuse for playing him like a penny whistle and then leaving him stuck back in his room with one more bad case of “what happened?”

Having heard Keiko’s surprisingly bitter, out of the blue appraisal of Hato, Madarame at least has a small sense of permission to act upon his feelings of being a tad ill-used. “What about my feelings?” is a pretty big step for Madarame the doormat. He would never get up the guts to do that to Sue, Keiko and Angela, so it is also only a teeny tiny step. At least Hato’s “chose someone else” has relieved Madarame of any responsibility to show concern he would feel for extremely liminal-read-as-confused Hato chan-or-kun one-sidedly crushing on him. Being a harem lead entails or at least strongly encourages certain behavior requirements, and to Mada’s ill-fortune he seems already to be predisposed to many of them.

I don’t think this is happening (yet):

“In The Seven Basic Plots Christopher Booker uses this concept as his definition of the Comedy genre, only the point is that the Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends isn’t a shoehorn but the soul of the plot:
Start with at least 3 ideal relationships;
Each relationship is stymied because the people involved are:
1. Fixated on the wrong partners and oblivious to the good ones,
2. Failing to communicate, and/or
3. Suppressing their desires due to other factors (e.g., taboos, class distinctions, family pressures, etc.).
The Villain (or sometimes the Hero) is the source of the biggest road block, so
Make him repent (dramatically), and then…
Everyone can cheerfully enter into the relationship they were meant to be in all along.
The Villain (or Hero) acts as a Fisher King, casting a darkness and confusion across all the relationships until his Heel-Face Turn, which frees up the main couple to get together and that, in turn, frees up everyone else.”
–The Seven Basic Plots – TV Tropes

If the Genshiken was a certain spy-novel genre send-up by a sci-fi writer I have been making too much noise about of late, one could even say that Madarame is under a harem-lead geas (cf The Jennifer Morgue). Another way to look at it, and one that is telegraphed repeatedly is how the Genshiken characters go all “meta” with their trope knowledge and look for suggested behaviors, – do this next to follow these tropes – as a way of avoiding/ ironically (go on, lie to yourself some more and call it objectively) distancing their actions in difficult situations. “Fantasy is fantasy” and the dangers of this as a strategy of accommodation with the real world has been the background tune of the Genshiken since it first started. Don’t get me going on it (again) being a rejoinder to Dr Tamaki’s year 2000 book.

You could be too meta by half

And Madarame’s Harem geas is particular, in that he plots out as a subtype of a very conventional, as opposed to fantastic guy harem lead. Mada has no super powers, and neither do the harem members (Hato-dojin-ka-in-panchu comes close, but no cookie yet). He is neither abnormally rich or mired in cartoon poverty (which would then conveniently have him “working off a debt”). After he graduated, he went immediately from nerd archetype to prematurely worn-down low-level salaryman archetype. He is just the classic unlucky in love, socially clumsy around girls, every-guy, or every-otaku.

The only thing that the everydudue can do in such a harem is to try to maintain the wa and to step up and try to protect a harem member in harm’s way. And perhaps steal a kiss if he gets a lucky perv moment.

So, as long as you are willing to put yourself on the line for the girls (1), even the nebbish guy can be a hero suited to his means when the chips are down. After all, the harem genre wouldn’t be anywhere near as popular if the leads could only be all-powerful perfect heroes, neh?

And besides, males are all ultimately disposable drones, neh?

Out of my depth part 2:

This begs a further question: given the popularity of the harem genre, it is surprising that a typology/shorthand for male harem lead types does not exist. Male POV privilege? The girl charas come in well-sorted typologies, the rotten girls have typologies for their semes and ukes, even the plotlines have categorizations, why no harem lead breakdown? Am I missing something? TV Tropes isn’t being too helpful here.

How 2 Harem ichiban_ushiro_no_daimaou_Web

“It normally takes place in a High School setting, with one male lead, and at least three, often a lot more, girls who are romantically interested in him, or at the very least are bound by circumstances to live with him. Gender Inverted Examples also exist. Usually, each girl personifies a single classic characterization archetype. The protagonist either takes it as an Unwanted Harem, or reacts as a Harem Seeker, or Oblivious to Love. Works where a Harem Genre set-up is put in front of other relationship dynamics, and the plot is written with the intention to keep the “race” for the male protagonist’s heart as tied as possible, are known as the Balanced Harem subgenre.

In recent shows, the Harem genre has become somewhat divided into two “routes”. The first, the legitimate “Harem Route”, has the girls choose to share the lead character, equally or otherwise, rather than risk losing him and their friends completely. The other, more realistic route is called “Shuraba”, sometimes translated as “Bloodbath”; here, there can be only one, and all contenders are willing to destroy their enemy to achieve their own happiness.
In other cases, when a work uses this genre together with a more traditional Romantic Comedy Official Couple relationship, that is called the Supporting Harem subgenre.

Many of these works are also shared with the Ecchi genre, as it is harder to find a Harem story that isn’t filled with gratuitous Fanservice than one that is.”

A further point of the harem genre is how completely separate, 180 degrees inverted and sanitized the trope-verse remains from horrible meatspace “harems”. ISIS and barbaric sexual slavery (which they use as an effective recruiting tool for the lumpen-proletariat children of Europe and the middle-east), Amurrican right-wing “quiverfull” cults of female subservience and abuse. Pols, tycoons and celeb guys wanting an “open marriage” after they develop late-onset magic cock syndrome (wow! worked once – must be magic!). The manga and anime harem-verse is for the most part, surprisingly well-behaved. It might be a stretch to suggest that the women in the harem have a some agency, but the story is seldom all about the perfect guy hero accumulating smitten babes.

Here is a real good short and sweet history lesson the modern origins of the genre in CJVC:

History

The lineage of harem is more difficult to trace than one would think. The comfortable, cookie-cutter tropes known today evolved slowly from broader ideas that began to take shape in romantic comedies.

RumikoTakahashiThe thematic elements of harem, though not yet defined, began with the work of Takahashi Rumiko (高橋 留美子). Her 1978 publication of the sci-fi romantic comedy Urusei Yatsura, published in Shonen Sunday, served as a framework for future series.

Urusei Yatsura (1981)

Ataru Moroboshi, the unluckiest young man alive, is selected to defend earth from an alien invasion. This brings serious complications to his love-life.

32 years after its original broadcast, Urusei Yatsura, aka “Those obnoxious Aliens”, became a catalyst for the creation of future harem anime. It is significant in being the earliest series to feature more than two love interests for the central character. Also, unlike modern harem heroes who can’t appreciate their good luck, Ataru Moroboshi ranks as the most perverted teenager on planet earth. The only reason he can’t pick a girl is because he wants all of them. Then, in an un-harem-like fashion, he gets turned down a LOT. Humorous physical abuse abounds. Also worth noting, Urusei Yatsura had a “Beach Episode,” a result of the characters winning tickets via a supermarket lottery prize. Yep, it goes back this far.
– Read the rest at: http://annesanimeblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/better-know-a-genre-part-3-harem-anime/   

Another short history: http://www.the-games-blog.com/history-of-the-genre-harem/

An early, somewhat theory-esque analysis of the genre: All in the anime harem family at:
http://eugenewoodbury.blogspot.ca/2005/12/all-in-anime-harem-family.html

See also Astro Nerd Boy’s quick list of classic Harem franchises: http://anime.astronerdboy.com/2011/05/why-harem-genre.html

What models of harem leading man manly ness are out there? How does the guy navigate his sudden good fortune? What is the take-away from the good ending?

I was thinking about this lately, because the harem genre is surprisingly flexible and durable. A search on a certain aggregator site with High school and Harem checked off yields 249 manga that were interesting enough for groups of nameless folks to scan, translate, clean, shoop and typeset for the rest of us leeching cheapskates. A similar search on an anime site yields about 65 properties, with numerous second or more seasons and OVAs doubling the count.

One of the genre’s big attraction is that a nominally second or third rung guy, even a “failed male” can be the focus for the female grouping, if not female attention. Often the romance is pretty well pre-set or not even that important; you do not really need a fierce competition between the girls. It is as if the guy is an excuse for them to socialize and the harem provides a similar excuse for the guy to have some women friends (who may be his only friends). Hato; you didn’t have to crossdress – you just needed to have all the Genshiken girls “aware” of you. Nope didn’t work, and it didn’t work for Kuchiki, but it adds a bit to what he was referencing.

That the typical male harem lead can be a completely forgettable regular/ everyman guy has been suggested as a hold-over from the harem game where you could enter your own name onto a blank-slate character. A self-insert, often a bit withdrawn, a bit socially clumsy and wounded, wanting to have a boring, normal life, but ready with the minimum of prodding, to help out – even at the cost of getting in way over your head.

ijitsu confes web

“Everymen types usually aren’t so literal about the whole self-insert thing. It’s usually more about being able to relate to and identify with their situation and general reactions/decisions.

The ones from porn games, which are the types that harem leads grew out of, were more literally characters you were supposed to live vicariously through in the games. They’re “blank” and might even allow you to input your own name so that they can be the player’s avatar. This doesn’t transition well to anime and manga, so the archetype evolved to be one where the lead is both bland (personality and design-wise) and incapable of making any sort of decision. That way the story can happen -to- him and focus on harem antics.

Harem series are moving away from this in general, though. Most of the big, popular ones have a defined lead with a unique look/personality these days”
– some Forum

Meet interesting new people, interact with them, hope they crush on you.

But getting more than, as one blogger put it:”Boobies!” out of the harem genre gets confusing fast. An above-linked essay suggests that ultimately the harem genre provides a  fantasy “replacement family” setting for the male character to fantasy-regress in. Good to be fawned over like a kid. Female centered harems, so-called reverse harems seem to provide honorary membership in a male homosocial – one series with a fujoshi lead even features a definitely female-interested oujo-sama bifauxnen as an additional “honorary male”, which is a step up from the overdone predatory “Maria-sama watches over our girl cult” clique in Ouran Host club. The male social is almost the secondary lead character, as the female social is in conventional harem tales.

But the genre lays down far too much smoke and blows off too much chaff to easily get a handle on. A guy is surrounded by pretty femaloids who want him. It’s Good to be King. Time for a beach or onsen chapter. Supposedly; out of proximity, boredom, competition or lack of imagination and/or alternative options, each of the harem members decide that they want buddy boy. Is there more to this? As in much of CJVC, the women get to carry the social-emotional bucket; they do the relationship-py dogwork. Buddy boy simply hangs around, acts un-committal and waits for Lucky Perv moments and free food. Sometimes he has to do “a date” with one or another of the members.  In more action-oriented versions, he may have to defend one or more of the members from some threat. He doesn’t need to be a perfect hero, but he has to try and be seen trying. The threat can be other rogue males looking to clumsily usurp his position, generic dangers or some hidden flaw within a member herself. In any case, a division of labor is presented as conforming to a greater, natural “order”.

The exception being that the natural order of man proposing, woman shooting him down hard down is done away with. There are of course exceptions to this, as when the “I’m magic” effect compels buddy boy to want all the harem members, rather than make or allow a final choice to be made for him. The fearful pressure of rejection has been lifted and replaced with a warm fuzzy blanket of female attention. Kio Shimoku was being brilliant when he decided to play this note. Sue doesn’t turn Mada down, she just gets flustered and even more cute and vulnerable. Hato’s “rejection” for all we mortal guys know could be a well-worn BL trope to bait a seme into hotter pursuit. I wish I could get some useful advice on this from the rotten readership. Even if the fear of rejection is removed, the male lead gets a new fear to replace it. Fear of making a choice and leaving the happy world of plentiful slack for the adult “desert of the real”. Haiyore! Nyarko-san‘s lead boy has a mom and a dad, but we never, never get to see pops. He has to sleep under his desk at work to catch up after he dared take a vacation with his wife. He never gets home. This is a good ending?

Of course our hero could always just go back to his room and be a NEET. Harem lead role getting to be too stressful? Stop bathing. Problem solved.

Since the “girls” carry the emotional and social load of the harem, they soon end up setting the rules of engagement. Buddy boy had better behave himself unless specifically invited to do otherwise. And if he is invited, his poor brain-box has to attempt to process what the effect on the other members will be. Did he make the right choice? Will he slip up, collapse the whole shaky edifice and be forever branded an enemy of all womankind? He might even end up with his head in an overnight bag! Nice Boat! No wonder the Harem story as romantic comedy is full of titillation and more titillation, but seldom any bonking. Female mangakas seem to be better at pushing this to extremes. Girl Saurus, especial the DX reboot quickly escalated to levels that would make Ken Akamatsu blush. It remains my all-time favorite.

Since the currency of a good romantic comedy harem story is dating fail, the readership can vicariously learn all manner of different ways to screw up and dig oneself into a hole in the presence of a woman. And the girls get to screw up nicely too. This is probably a lot more humane than hanging out on PUA forums. I note that a Western comedian has just released a book written in collaboration with a sociologist that is full of folksy dating advice for modern hipsters, but also plenty of examples of dating fail. [http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2015/06/modern_romance_by_aziz_ansari_reviewed.html] It should be immediately translated into Japanese, so that mangakas can glean a whole bunch of new chestnuts to adapt into their stories. Even p0rnish harem ero games can trace their lineage to ‘dating sim” games that were supposedly originally developed to help overly shy guys figure out the basics of going on a date. That they evolved into pure 2D fantasy play could get a few folks a PhD, if anyone ever cares to dig through some 30-year-old Japanese console and pc games. I wonder what influence ‘Leisure suit Larry” had, if any?.

As the harem genre is a fully developed one, it is harder for a mangaka and or a studio to just toss a bunch of nubiles at some guy while cranking the panty shots, boobie jiggles and onsen episodes up to 11. If you want to do a harem show in 2015, you need to do something fresh.

The Genshiken may be in the forefront in that it already is a fully developed slice-of-life ensemble tale that is using an alumni character as the lead in a harem composed of current main and peripheral characters in a story arc. The conventional harem story can look like an ensemble story at times, but the focus on buddy boy and the absence of non-harem characters cripples it. Adding “those two guys” is never enough. Having a few folks who are not part of the harem, who are already in relationships, or outside consideration adds depth, as well as providing a convenient chorus. Advice and meddling can come from beta couples and the peanut gallery. If needed, a second, overlapping harem can be cooked up.  Hato needs some Sadie Hawkins adventures too, so my bet is that it will soon be his turn in the cross-hairs. The poor fool thinks that a dress will let him escape his fate.

Hijinx Ensue!

No idea whatsoever...

Maybe I just needed an excuse for reading a whole bunch of harem manga. I have of late harem manga’d out. Open multiple tabs in the browser, skip between them and watch the whole mess melt unto itself. Occasionally something awful, or something really odd pops up. Hooray for Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture!

What follows is my attempt at a preliminary schema of harem leads. Much more work is required, so feel free to drop a line, suggest examples, categories and better Japanese category names for such. No way Japanese- illiterate me can come up with something like “Yandere”.

Ex-delinquent or mistaken for such.
Haganai/Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai – mistaken for a delinquent
Fujimura-kun no meitsu (ex-delinquent)
Enma no hanayome to kimetsukerareta fukou na ore no jinsei keikaku (ex delinquent)
Yamada-kun and the seven witches (slacker/ delinquent)
Nisekoi’s Raku Ichijo – Yakuza heir

Ex-weirdo/ sordid but non-violent past
Chuunibyou Demo Koi ga Shitai!’s Yuuta Togashi
Genshiken’s Madarame

So fixated on 2D he can’t clue in
Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata

Hidden Super-power guy
Araragi from Monogatari (see also footnote 1)
Aria The Scarlet Fanservice Loli’s forgettable horny hero
The World God Only Knows
Noucome
Ichiban Ushiro no Daimaou.
Trinity Seven: 7-nin no Masho Tsukai
A Certain Magical Index/ Scientific Railgun’s Kamijou Touma
Tsukihime/ Melty Blood’s Shinji
Ratman’s Shuto Katsuragi

Grumpy loner guy
Hachiman from Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru

Normal clueless guy (TV Tropes’ Unlucky Everydude)
Kuromine Asahi from Jitsu wa Watashi wa
Mysterious Girlfriend X
Gate – Jietai Kare no Chi nite, Kaku Tatakeri

Everydude’s mostly faithful quest
Keitarō in Love Hina

Reluctant Normal clueless guy – Very Unlucky Everydude
Rosario + Vampire
Haiyore! Nyarko-san/ Nyaruko: Crawling with Love.(2)
Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-ohki
Girls Saurus’ Shingo

Normal clueless guy bloodbath
Many games’ bad ending route, School Days/ Sukūru Deizu’s. Nice boat! meme
only gets an honorary mention because it is a simple triangle-tale rather than a harem.
Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni

Normal pervy dude – (At least he’s still interested in 3D!)
I Dont like you big brother/Oniichan no Koto Nanka Zenzen Suki ja Nai n da kara ne
High_School_DxD
Bludgeoning_Angel_Dokuro-Chan’s Sakura Kusakabe
Boys, be ambitious! (but don’t be a complete asshat!)
Ben-To
Sora no Otoshimono/ Misplaced by Heaven

Complete Loser until noticed by girl #1
Also Madarame in Genshiken
Keiichi Morisato of Ah!My Goddess
Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei

Thinks he is a harem lead, but he is a mascot for a female social.
Student Council’s Discretion/ Seitokai no Ichizon

Puppet Boy/ Bullied by Girls
Minamoto-kun Monogatari
Koimoku’s Inamine
Himegoto (etc)’s Hime Arikawa – current prime exemplar of the jiggly panchu josou trope.
Mei no Naisho c.a 2007 magical panchu boy x girl school otokonoko fanservice.
Witch Craft Works
Seitokai Yakuindomo’s long suffering tease bait guy.

Don’t do it sensei!
Any number of teacher crush plots

Girl #1 is stuck to his right hand
Midori no Hibi (Huh? WTF?)

Examples needed: Marty Stu, the perfect harem lead
None exists, because he gets violently hacked to death the second he appears.
No magical girl revives him, he stays dead, all order sweets to celebrate.
Negi comes dangerously close at times though…

I guess one could set the wayback machine and include The Tale of Genji – Hey wait! One of the first known works of Japanese narrative fiction is a harem tale! I guess that explains something…

Examples needed: A tall harem lead
I read a complaint in some blog, there have to be one or two, don’t they?

Female harem leads…

Every-girl’s harem of bishie guys
Pick one, any one. Some other reviewers’ suggestions and musings:
http://okamizchan.blogspot.ca/2014/06/the-reverse-harem-genre.html

Deadpan snarker girl’s harem of bishie guys
Ouran Host Club

Fujoshi harem of bishie guys, pursue each other, please!
Watashi ga Motete Dousunda (3)

Normal/ naive girl’s harem of bishie guys bloodbath
A staple of Otome games, but I am out of my depth.
Hatoful Boyfriend has this; avoid the school infirmary !!!!

Polymorphously playful secondary female lead – Buddy boy hasn’t figured it out yet, but she has a solution to the entire problem.
Genshiken’s Angela
Haiyore! Nyarko-san/ Nyaruko’s Cthuko-chan

Fanservice “lesbian” will give up all her girlfriends for OTP
Shoujo Sect

Magical “lesbian” sex-bot commune (because that’s what we do, teee-hee!)
Pick any of ’em (4)

Mary Sue the perfect girl who attracts worship, mostly from other women
Manga no Tsukurikata’s insufferable young mangaka

She is beyond good and evil, but is completely good anyway and likes girls, lots of girls.
Iono the Fanatics with her tens of thousands of ladies-in-waiting. Exception to the no monogamy, no true yuri rule, as she is sponsoring and defending a magic sapphic realm.(5)

Rotten girl all male variants:
Go find your own.

…And so it goes

On the other hand, this schema could be ditched in favor of one that ranks by nature and degree of interest by the members in the lead or vice-versa. After all, a harem usually starts with the classic new girl vs the never-considered-her-that-way childhood friend, then piles a few more folks on. The androgynous boy who radiates girl-aura also seems to pop up too many times, but this runs the danger of making just one more schema about harem members, rather than buddy boy.

In the days of my youth, I was shown what it means to be a man.

There is an IRL reason for why an investigation of harem leads, specifically male harem leads (I tossed in the female leads for the heck of it) is such an interesting bit of pop social psychology and it gets grim really fast.

What the classic harem lead of a thousand faces is not and never ever has been is the silent, stoic, real man talks with his fists, takes-it-all-on-his-shoulders type of manly man hero. Otoko wa tsurai yo. The kind of guy who is admired in both his Japanese and Western variants, and who in real life is far too likely to suck it all in until he suddenly goes POP and kills himself, and/or others.

Betcha ya didn’t know that the suicide rates for guys in the UK are fast approaching Japanese levels, and that plenty of survivors confess that they tried and tried and tried to live up to this kind of manliness and it almost killed them. That’s what I get for putting The Guardian on my Facebook feed – how disturbing.

The economy sucks all over the place but how the economy, changing societal gender roles, dastardly right-wing corporatist gummints and the rest of the bad-news-du-jour actually plays out on the macro level of bloke after bloke after bloke violently snuffing it is scary and tragic. Male hysteria can be fatal. Suicide is the leading cause of male death in the UK for ages 20-50 I thought the food would have got them first (Stop it, not funny..) Dudes, go easy on yourself!

See:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/15/suicide-silence-depressed-men

http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/feb/19/rise-in-middle-aged-men-committing-suicide-all-the-uk-data

http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_351100.pdf

Could slacker everydude”harem lead characters offer a model of guy-ness that can serve as a prophylactic against such despair? Otaku guys are supposed to be pretty marginalised in society, are often used as the exemplar of failed male-ness in Japan. You would think Japan could barely run any commuter trains for the danger of otaku deciding that otaku-ish life sucked so much that oblivion was preferable and yet…

Dr. Tamaki did say otakudom was a very successful adaptation to the stresses of modern life.

Better to bend than to snap. It’s not really your story anyway, let the girls figure it all out. Shut up and smile. Learn to get along in a group. You can’t do everything yourself. Learn to ask for help, that’s what friends are for. Speak up. Even a blind pig with a head-cold can find a truffle every so often – as long as you get out of your room and interact with folks. And if you do find someone interested in you, take your lessons from all those harem grinders, and behave in a properly monogamous, good ending way.

I wonder how the stats play out in Japan.

.

(1) Araragi Koyomi; thrower of self onto too many grenades. He really is a serial suicide risk, except that as a vampire he originally considered himself already dead. By the time we meet him in the first anime, he is still harboring a huge load of guilt about the ruined vampire that he will still protect and feed for the rest of his life. I was going to go on and on and on about his character in this essay, but then I fell down a hole at the Monogatari Wiki, and a further hole at a certain light-novel fan translation site and read his yet-to-be-animated origin and ending stories. As the anime Monogatari-verse is still incomplete, it is a major spoiler risk to do any heavy analysis on him, as the source light novels add much to his character and that of the one who was Heart-under-blade.

It is good that he finally calms down. It is good that the young women he helped have taken up the task of helping others and helping him, as he is literally his own worst enemy. One thing remains fairly constant; saving young women from deadly supernatural afflictions seems to be a great way of getting noticed by them. However if your main super-power is getting beaten and mangled to a pulp, regenerating and then doing it all over again, it might be a good idea to develop a few less painful approaches to problem solving. Especially if your for-real girlfriend is getting super-annoyed at you for taking stupid risks. The latest of the series to be animated, Tsukimonogatari rubs this bittersweet lesson home: disenchantment strikes with the realisation that he cannot save everybody all the time just by serial kamikaze-dom, even if that strategy was what got him into this mess in the first place.

I have been reading a lot of Monogatari reviews and analysis from years ago, when the anime(s) originally aired and many are amazing in their insights, but few consider the effect that pairing studio SHAFT with an immensely popular and long-running light novel series produces. What was the strategy behind the adaptation order? What are the effects of the jumbled timeline in the presentation of the tale by the anime? (I would lean towards arguing that it made a narrative space that allowed the series “breathe” and expand in a magnificent example of synergy, but it also toned down Araragi’s self-destructiveness considerably) Can we consume all of our SAHFT fanservice and still have it (as fulfilling a higher purpose -ironic contrast and/or symbol of an all-too-human teen male normality that Araragi feels is slipping away from him) too? Why Senjougahara has to be the most “normal” woman in the harem and why her fierce proprietal and very adult love for Araragi is in the end all that can save him and how the anime adaptation brilliantly, deftly, economically shows this time and again.

But I digress…

(2) What was I thinking trying to out-weird Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture with last post’s Kaminaga Kult? The Lovecraft mythos turned into a junior high school harem series? Why not. Lead girl is Nyarlathotep, the crawling chaos (“Chaos serves love! Squeeee!“) It looks like it is a deft updating of one of the first Harem animes ever (Obnoxious Aliens) I can’t believe I’m watching this,, How low have I sunk, wait – it’s actually quite funny, he writes as his critical faculties have been turned to tasty vanilla pudding oozing out of his ears. Gaaaaaaahhhhh! 

Also possibly female lead section; Girl #2 has ideas that she is the lead, not buddy boy. “I bear Nyarko’s child, the boy bears mine!” Hastur the ganymede figures that he could bear buddy boy’s child too. Haiyore!‘s aliens are all perverse outworld otaku and fujoshi in search of romantic happy endings. The rest of the Universe spends most of its entertainment budget on bootleg CJVC goods (very funny). Same sex attraction comes off as pure burlesque fodder, but then so does heterosexual attraction. At some point almost every sentience on the planet seems to be fixated on buddy boy. I was waiting for the vacuum cleaner to get a crush on him (“Cy-clone!!!”) Does any of this matter when most of the charas could be mind-destroying horrors from beyond the colors of space?

(3)Wonder how much of this thing gets ripped off by Yuri Danshi? Wait a sec, it looks like it returns the gift as well; nice Bifauxnen ‘got there…

(4) For example, a recent stumble-upon: Mai no Heya, classic light hentai fanservice “yuri” pron. Not much plot. Color pages in Penthouse cartoon airbrushed style. Girls living together in lingerie. F:f fooling around while waiting for the “right guy”. Gratuitous bondage play. One instance of non-consensual m:f sex (anal rape) when bondage play goes too far. Not funny. Ends with an underage otokonoko who marries the pervy sexpot of the girl power apartment and fathers her child, with the rest of the members continuing to hang around. W T F ???

(5) Re: Iono: “That’s an order of magnitude more than Solomon. It’s strongly implied her country has been reduced to [penury] mainly due to the cost of supporting so many free-loading lesbian love-slaves […] The kicker? She has a place in her heart for each one of them.” – per TV Tropes.

Iono is a pure Takarazuka Girl Prince. Fantasy aristos are different from us, so we admire them as we cut them slack. On the other hand, no readers, male or female would put up with the guy version of this. Besides, even Iono makes an idiot of herself occasionally as she importunes office ladies on the streets of Tokyo. It is all rather pleasant and well-behaved; instead of lingerie, the mangaka really likes drawing full, elaborate outfits on the cute girls and women. Crap, I like the outfits.. Who would have known that an overdone neo-baroque chapeau could affect me so. Damn! Iono is Sooooo impressive in formal dress mode! I am sure a certain space pirate gang learned something from her wardrobe department. But that ridiculous hat,.. Dat Hat on her… Excuse me for a moment, I feel a bit embarrassed. I guess if it’s not baroque, don’t fixate on it..

A TANGENT: Rebellion and Despair, Children and Adolescents in Recent Japanese Films by Jose Montaño https://www.academia.edu/12130480/Rebellion_and_Despair._Children_and_Adolescents_in_Recent_Japanese_Films

A FURTHER TANGENT: Play It Out Before You Live It Out: Are ethical video games the future of on-the-job training? By Rachel E. Gross (Naw, just one more thing to be Ecchi-fied for otaku! On-the-job harems! 2 Fantasies in one! Employment AND female attention!)
See: http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2015/05/will_interactive_video_simulations_ptsd_sexual_harassment_hiv_on_the_job.html

COMPLETELY GOOD, BUT OFF TOPIC: Something from Mechademia that we proles can read for free: James Welker’s review of The Heart of Thomas [Tōma no shinzō]. By Hagio Moto. as translated by Matt Thorn. 5/20/2015, Seattle: Fantagraphics, 2012. Note the historical details, Very well done!
http://mechademia.org/reviews/james-welker-review-of-the-heart-of-thomas-toma-no-shinzo-by-hagio-moto-trans-matt-thorn-5202015/ .

FOR SCIENCE!
The International Anime Research Project is looking for people to fill out its 2015 survey.
I have sworn a blood oath not to reveal what it is about, (Ok, no dramatics, it’s well done and looks legit…) Their site here: https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/
Survey link here – if it doesn’t work, go to their site, in case the links magically wiggle for some super-duper web 2.0 reason:

https://texasamcommerceed.co1.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_ai3dYy4ZLlKZCBL

Results of the previous year’s survey are here: https://sites.google.com/site/animeresearch/iarp-2014-3-fandom-survey-results

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!

My characters are making love, so it says

It is difficult to write this, so bear with me. I was scanning the feed on Academia.org, which lead to an article at the TWC Journal, which led to another article about (wtf???) Iron Man x Captain America slash (apparently a very big thing in the West and in China – who’d ‘ave thot..), which led to An Archive of Our Own and then the folder of Genshiken -urrrm- fanfiction. It is difficult to write this because what left of my honor as a middle-aged cis straight male compelled me to try to gouge my eyes out after a cursory reading.

So I exaggerate; it didn’t kill me.

I didn’t try to gouge my eyes out in a fit of ‘phobic guy hysteria. I didn’t even blush. I blame Genshiken and this blog. (I award myself two adult maturity points, take back one for the eye gouging intro gambit) I saw a lot of care and concern in the writing, even though it didn’t work for me. A few of the stories activated my clunky prose warning light, but that also made me recall the ancient and venerable words of slash-kami Alias Mary Jeanne Johnson about fanfiction, and what the heck, it keeps ’em out of the pool halls.

Oh heck, I over-quote this one in too many posts, so this time, more of it:

…And there’s a third detail that needs addressing here. Fantasies are nothing if not personal. The yaoi writer is writing what turns her on- what satisfies her – what consoles her. A reader isn’t really necessary. You didn’t want to hear that, did you? But it’s a fact. Yaoi is a personal fantasy, written primarily to satisfy the writer’s kinks and those who share those kinks. Like porn. Other people can come and read it, no doubt, but if they don’t share that kink, they might as well go away again. The story isn’t written for them.

Yaoi isn’t like other fictional writing. It’s a private vision written for personal satisfaction, and to apply the standards by which we judge ordinary literature to yaoi is to willfully ignore this private element. You can say ‘Male pregnancy stories don’t do it for me’ if you like, but to say ‘Male pregnancy stories are stupid and childish and people should stop writing them’ is not only arrogant, it’s dangerous. All fantasies are legitimate or none are, and to discredit the male pregnancy fantasy is automatically to discredit your own fantasy of mutual empowerment and non-penetrative sex. As for trashing a fanwriter’s style, it’s like shooting the piano player. Chances are she’s doing the best she can. The only way you get to play the piano better is by playing the piano more. And quite possibly she writes that way because she likes writing that way, typos and all, and belongs to that huge group of people (of whom Word’s Spell-check is one) who really believe that its should be written it’s on all occasions.”
– The Top Ten Things I Love About Yaoi , Oct, 2001 by M.J.Johnson,  Aestheticism.com (site archived at:)
http://web.archive.org/web/20080820030543/http://www.aestheticism.com/visitors/editor/jeanne/10_things/index.htm

Perhaps this is too reasoned and calm a defense of the personal for our troubled times. A bit more anger makes the point too:

“So they place unfair expectations on what you create. Tell you it’s too short, too ugly, too personal, ask you why it doesn’t resemble what already exists. And the answer is, why would we want it to?

They impart the subtle idea that a handful of geniuses are born and the rest clean up after them.

They want us to believe that our thoughts are not worth voicing.

How the fuck is life worth living if the brains we have right now aren’t good enough?

The audience/performer dynamic as it exists is built on capitalism, on academia, on a proper way of doing things defined by people who do not have our best interests at heart and indeed don’t care if we live or die.

Like I wrote here, “Under our capitalist system, to accept other ways of communicating is to devalue the cash value of the communication style learned in college.”

They don’t want your stories because the idea that someone can tell a story without going to college or someone can make a game for free is a betrayal of capitalism, it’s a betrayal of an industry that says creativity can only be imparted for money.

People are taught to believe they aren’t someone. Taught to believe they aren’t a Creator. Not an Artist, not an Intellectual. No one is taught that more than minorities.”

– Creation Under Capitalism and the Twine Revolution,  November 25, 2012 By Porpentine , a game creator.

I stand corrected, – scratch the pool hall comment.

web commenter dude

My clumsy compare and contrast exercise is presented only to drive home the point that if Kio Shimoku ever chooses to slam Hato-chan (or kun) and Madarame-sempai together, it should be an epic tale of comedic fail. Far more fraught than a late-night brush with Keiko’s charms. I now await the train wreck; it must at least measure up to fan attempts. What the few slash fics I sampled glossed over in their hurry to bring direct resolution to certain longstanding tensions in the Genshiken epic is how massively inept, hesitant and pathologically skilled at avoidance and self delusion both Madarame and Hato (kun, chan and fan posited josou-game otomeyaku variants) are. A steamy ending is by no means guaranteed

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_15.59_[2013.09.03_13.03.02]

Faced with an emotionally uncomfortable moment Madarame would first try to run, then if cornered would start dissembling in planet Otaku-speak at 200 wpm. Hato meanwhile would turn beet red and start yammering on about pairings, though he may also instinctively take Mada’s enthusiastic waving gestures as a threat and shoulder-throw him.  It is inevitable. Poke armadillos and they roll up into a balls. They have been so constructed for a reason – which if tracked back far enough probably involves Kio Shimoku’s mortgage.

(Btw, don’t you think that Poke Armadillos would be a great name for a band?)

Sayonara fetish

…Or a band name

One Ao3 writer had an interesting, if under-developed angle. Madarame, if driven to fits of uncontrollable lust, would try to act out the ero bits of josou games. Hato would go from what he read about weirdly improbable yaoi lust techniques. Much clumsy pawing would ensue. Those little mentions were funny as heck and could have been dragged out for many, many more laughs. I advise Shimoku -sensei to start with at least a case of beer (no, not for him, for the nervous couple) and be aware of the comedic possibilities of classic pratfall slapstick.

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_06.13_[2013.09.03_12.50.53]

As if he needs my advice.

I wonder if any Japanese fan-fiction writers are writing Genshiken fanfiction and how they are writing it. A few smutty dojin are scanlated but he imaginations of the fans for whom the work is written for remain tantalizingly obscured from our view. Ao3 works are all “diaspora” artifacts.

A question for the slash-writers: where are all the Heart of the Wind and Trees and Thomas high melodramatic declarations and emotionally bits? The Cliffs Notes say these are important to the genre. Perhaps less so for the Western variant?  I feel a bit let down. The chorus from Ao3 chides me that if I have ideas, I should put up or shut up, but I don’t want to start writing Genshiken slash, (Oy Veh!) so my opinion doesn’t count.

So I like the heroic mushy stuff, you got a problem with that?

So I like heroic mushy stuff, you got a problem with that? 

I will say that Usotsuki Lily does a fine job with fantasy cross-dressed characters without falling into josou game inspired otokonoko ecchi-ness. The mangaka Ayumi Komura went as far as to try some real-life 3D cross-play at some of her book signings – so while her critters are still complete fictions, she at least dipped her toes into it. Apparently her fans loved it. So what if Lily gets a bit preachy…

Wherein our hero begins to feel a bit overwhelmed

Usotsuki Lily’s cross-dressing hero begins to feel a bit overwhelmed

Stop straw-dogging the fan-fiction writers. Time to prod the mangaka.

Viewed in the light of fannish fun or teachable moment shoujo romances, Kio Shimoku is playing it very, very safe. Presumably the tastes of his readers reflect approval of this as well as some kind of climate-of-the-times effect. Genshiken has evolved from being a mildly transgressive comedic effort that skewered Otaku foibles to something closer to a comforting slice of life “safe space” for grown-up post-Otaku.

This isn’t a bad thing in itself, but I am wondering if this is a case of “not much is being done with it“, or something else?

The contrast between what Genshiken could do and is doing is not just pointed out be fannish fiction. Enthusiastic scanlator types have of late resurrected some mighty odd 1980’s and 1990’s examples of “non-traditional sexualities in domestic settings” comedies and slice-of-life potboilers. One would expect these to be clumsy and politically incorrect as all heck. Surprisingly enough, they are not too vicious. They often verge on the considerate. They are bitingly funny in parts. Someone so inclined might even be tempted to rehabilitate them as proto-queer fiction for some academic grist-mill, even as they remain rock steady in adopting a cisgendered straight male POV. Blah blah blah… Academic fads invariably slide so sideways that they end up in “I am the Eggman territory”

Set the Way-Back Sherman; we are going to visit some slightly transgressive historical manga:

Stop!!_Hibari-kun!

Stop! Hibari-Kun! is frightenly politically incorrect and with its 1980’s drawing style an even odder read. Hisashi Eguchi‘s Hibari-kun (note the lack of Butlerian “presenting” concerns here) is the only son of a proud, though somewhat inept yakuza family. He has hit upon a sure-fire way to avoid the responsibilities of taking over the family business. He likes being a girl a lot more than he likes the idea of being a proper young male thug and boss-in-training. When the orphaned son of Pop’s old flame comes to live with the family, Hibari Oozora decides that Kousaku Sakamoto is just too much fun to leave alone and that they both should attend high school together. Naturally, Hibari-chan insists on attending as a girl. Hijinks Ensue.

Hibari is probably a prototype for a slew of comedy- of- gender- identity manga (and anime) that followed and it remains enjoyable because it writes Hibari as having almost superhuman sang-froid, competence and good, though mischievous nature. Hibari-chans just wanna have fun. Most everyone else around who would threaten his hobby/ inclination are over-the-top idiots, except his adopted step brother, who gets to be the goat during most of the ensuing chaos. Hibari may aspire to femininity, but her ideal feminine is a younger and richer version of Fujiko Mine. Hibari is a slightly queer-er and slightly more criminal predecessor to Kuragehime‘s Kuranosuke Koibuchi. As the manga progresses, the characters who take a longing interest in Hibari-chan become odder and odder. When the slavering moron son of a rival yakuza clan becomes fixated (said creature being too developmentally challenged, in a nasty way of course to even be smitten) on Hibari and yakuza Dad proves unable to fend off its slimy father’s attempts to coerce compliance by threatening Kousaku, Hibari goes into full metal Mine mode

full metal_hibari-kun_v001_c016_014

When a very severe bifauxnen sports star heartthrob at high school suddenly develops uncomfortable feelings of longing for Hibari-chan… to play on her volleyball team, we even get some light yuri steam. A subsequent glimpse at the bifauxnen’s home life is over the top burlesque; too silly to even call out as insulting. Having Mom as a Taka otoko-yaku who insists on practicing her Rhett Butler routine at home is a stroke of genius. I should also mention the Village People dance line of brothers… Jeesh!

Jeesh Mom hibari-kun_v002_c021_005

Not at all shabby for a 1980’s effort. The whole thing was re-released to an anniversary edition a few years ago – I have a feeling that it must be some kind of minor cultural artifact.

Odder still is the 1990’s Family Composition/ Family Compo or F.Compo (1996-2000) by Tsukasa Hojo. This is the most earnest heteronormative gender-bent family slice of life story I have stumbled across since the last stories of R.A.Heinlein. Love (and an independent income gained through professional skill and hard work) conquers all. Tsukasa Hojo is also known for the long-running City Hunter, Angel Heart and Cat’s Eye (co authored with Rieko Fukuda) series.

Family-compo-manga

Oh heck, cue the TV tropes synopsis:

“Ordinary college student Masahiko goes to live with his aunt and uncle, Yukari and Sora Wakanae. While excited about meeting his relatives for the first time, he is surprised to discover that his lovely aunt Yukari is actually male and his handsome uncle Sora is physically female. Their plucky daughter, Shion, is revealed to be… whichever gender she feels like (Though for the time being she’s sticking with female).

However, given Masahiko’s current fate: living alone in a fetid apartment that he can’t afford and with no family to return to: he decides to stay anyways. Eventually, Masahiko’s desire for a real home coincide with the Wakanaes’ surprising generosity to anyone who is willing to accept their family at face value, and he quickly becomes Happily Adopted into the household.

By the mangaka Tsukasa Hojo, Family Compo is a Slice of Life manga that, perhaps, is a more realistic than average depiction of trans* sexuality, and at the same time has a remarkably positive tone with tremendous emotional poignancy.”
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/FamilyCompo

The artwork is striking in a retro way; It verges towards comic book “realism”, or at least a more detailed style than is the norm today. Moe-free zone ahead! Once you get over the odd premise that a trans-man and a trans-woman (both pre-op, though both are hinted to have undergone hormone treatments, the transwoman mom, Yukari breast augmentation procedures) would settle down to maintain a boringly sweet and conventional household and raise an upright, high-achieving (most of the time, lately) daughter, you can read a story with plot lines would do Laura Ingalls Wilder proud.

The kid wanted us to dress according to our birth genders, We obliged

The kid wanted us to dress according to our birth genders, We obliged …

The daughter, Shion is the most interesting character in the whole story. Genderfluid, or verging on post-gendered at first, her final challenge to Masahiko is a reassuringly pure 1950’s man-up = get the girl challenge. Even as it is also gets the girl to decide to be a girl.

Because this is a 1990’s artifact there is a lot of blur between transfolk, crossdressers, gay folks of various stripes and gender dysphoria issues. Everybody so concerned ends up either at the Wakanae household or at a seedy crossdressing gay bars. Of note is that the nightlife is not portrayed as an evil in itself; only as an inadequate substitute for a fantasy “normal” (DAB inverted) domesticity. There is also plenty of crossdressing, both for identity and tourism reasons which mixes up transvestite, gay and transsexual identities, but the Wakanae household is so happily kumbaya supportive that it doesn’t really matter much. The second floor is also uncle Sora’s manga studio and the assistants are a comic-relief mob of bent DMAB gals, each with their own reasons for wearing dresses. They are the closest thing to an insulting stereotype in the story, but reserve their alcohol fueled “Surprise! It’s a Trap!” man-chasing forays for rude-boys who come on too strong towards “real” females. And Sora in manga-deadline mode is fearsomely serious. Disturb at your peril. Get back to work!

Sooner or later most characters get gender-bent a bit. Before long Masahiko is wheedled into crossdressing for his University film club and the next thing you know a yakuza boss smitten with him. Some plot turns later and the delinquent son of the same yakuza boss ends up living at the Wakanae house, but it turns out delinquent son started out life as a girl and is really over-compensating. He hates everyone; male and female and most of all himself. Yakuza dad tries to do right by the youth and means as well as a noble thug type can manage, but needs to ease off and give his now-son some space. The yakuza mom is a bitter piece of work, a classic scheming feminine betrayal engine but eventually even she shows a tiny shred of parental concern. Love conquers all. I should also add that the entire artifact is almost completely devoid of fanservice and that there are no sex scenes.

The only recurring motif appears to be that in a choice between your child’s needs for understanding, compassion and support and obeying the rules and strictures of society, one had best chose the child and damn the rest the to the fire.

Given some of the grim news in the real world of late, this is very good advice.

The only character who really gets short shrift is Masahiko’s long-suffering girlfriend. She is convinced that any straight male who sets foot in the Wakanae household is going to end up queered and bent either to crossdressing male gayness or an awakened trans* identity (which never seems to be same-sex attracted in the F-compo universe). The stuff must be contagious. Masahiko is too wishy-washy and is of course also attracted to Shion, but can never get up the nerve to ask and/ or directly confirm what genitalia Shion has, so he cannot acknowledge his feelings and/or break it off with girlfriend. Girlfriend finally dumps him for a more traditionally manly man childhood friend, leaving him to get over his little problem with whether Shion is or isn’t or if it even matters, or does any attraction feel a bit incestuous now that he’s living under their roof? Yikes!

Shion of course is there to shift the goalposts of the whole game – her parents encouraged her be whichever gender she wanted as she grew up, (and yes, it is pretty well intimated that Shion was deemed female at birth and remains biologically female-bodied) so the whole gender role thing is a bit of a needless complication for her. Towards the end, she begins to consider that it might be necessary though, in order to develop any romantic feelings for anyone. Mostly she doesn’t sweat too much about any of it. Besides, she, (at college he) wants to be a film director – so who has time? Shion’s radical indeterminacy is possibly the most interesting component of the series.

Moral of the story: Your gender identity is important, but so is developing a creative skill-set that will let you earn enough money to make your dreams possible – unless you aspire to become a perfect trans-woman housewife to a trans-man professional. Oh, and “inverts” (to use the dreaded archaic sociology term) make the best partners for each other.

Hmmph!

More Hmmph: While Compo looks like its author did a bit of research, the trans-folk portrayed within as well as all the other non-het characters were and remain cartoon creations; “fantasies of crossdressing” to borrow a term from Nagaike. They, like Hibari-kun were whomped up by straight guys for comedy, posing a few questions about gender and sexuality and advancing a few pleasing nostrums while selling manga. As imagined others/ imagined other sexualities, they fall prey to the same complaints leveled at fantasy yaoi puppets, fantasy yuri puppets and Kenjiro Hato, They pose far more questions than they purport to give easy answers for.

We are back to Chip Delany’s quip “if gay men and women didn’t exist, straight men and women would have had to invent us.” …And my previous rejoinder.

Aside from a tour of retro queer-ish Japanese manga, I bring these up in contrast to the current story-line in Genshiken. For now, Kenjiro Hato’s little problem (or enthusiasms) look bland when compared to the neighbours. So do Madarame’s. Yawn! On the other hand, no one in the Genshiken is having family problems and what Family Compo, and to a lesser extent Hibari-kun are about are families, so perhaps a compare and contrast exercise is a bit of off.

Facing dad after all those years web Fcompo_v3_ch21_174

The best moments of Family Compo are when Uncle Sora has to return home to face his angry patriarchal father with wife and children in tow. This stuff is of course a gender-bent variant on the classic Japanese theme of family duty, which is still a big seller in today’s Japan.

Watch this mini documentary [http://vimeo.com/114879061] on Japan’s second oldest onsen and note the daughter’s quiet plight. This is right out of the pages of Compo, mirroring the Girlfriend‘s situation (or perhaps the filmmaker can’t resist pinning a comic book plot on a real-life setting?).

yajima family

Only with Kuchiki (perhaps soon Yajima??? All things considering, Rika’s folks are saints) do we see any hint of family pressure in the Genshiken-verse. Hato’s family is a cypher; all the tension is so far limited to his brother and sister-in-law to be. How did they react to their son’s ostracism at high school? Do they know of his enthusiasms? Genshiken members’ families are the classic absent parents of late-modern Japan.

Another note: the fictional trans-continuum characters of these early comics are nothing like the even odder fantasy Josou/ otokonoko/ third sex creatures that sprung from ero games in the latter years of the ‘aughts. They were not built for male-gaze moe. The otokonoko character may well be a stealth retread of an older rotten-girl pairing archetype, introduced into the male pr0n fan community to wreak havoc on hetero-normality, but it bears little resemblance to its crossdressing manga predecessors that were more for comedy and gender tourism. Genshiken’s Hato X Mada X Hato dynamic is firmly set in the current 2007-2015 archetype-verse.

mada should try this web

Aside re: the “That’s a bit obscure” rejoinders by Madarame to Sue’s initial Bakemonogatari references. In Genshiken-time only the light novels were available. In the real-time of serialization, the anime was current. As a fan and a friend of the Bake cabal, a shout-out was irresistible, but Kio Shimoku used to worry about situating his universe in a coherent time-frame. Less so now.

One further small thread of analysis to be tugged at: the quick trip with the Wayback Machine seems to point to a profound shift in manga storytelling conventions that has been brought on by the parallel evolution of games and visual storytelling. I wish I was more of a game person, but even my cursory experience seems to suggest that the effect is powerful, almost inescapable. Especially from dating-sims, eroge, otome games and the like. The references are unavoidable, as are the shorthand posited by the conventions of these games for interactive behavior among characters.

genshiken_nidaime_8.mkv_snapshot_09.56_[2013.09.03_12.55.47]

Often lampshaded for extra comedic effect, they turn every poignant, difficult moment between characters into a mechanistic, alienated exchange.

terminator_possible_response_600

More Symptom or Condition of The Fall than aid to the shy, tongue-tied character, they increase isolation while invalidating the communication that they propose to aid. Of course their ironic use has its moments of genius.

bucket of puding

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“It is not up to you to determine who you are. It is up to the people around you..”

Since New Year’s eve at the public bath, the current Genshiken members plus Keiko, Angela and Kousaka have made it clear that they are aware of Hato’s tentative you-and-only-you feelings towards Madarame. Hato knows that they know. Madarame and Kuchiki are out of the loop; we can assume that Tanaka gets filled in later. Hato’s nadeshiko power-up after returning from home must be taken as a sign that he intended to follow up on the idea. Soon there are all the dinners for Mada, until… Hato finds a new thing to obsess over. Some crush. Seduced and abandoned! No Hato coming by means no Sue either, except for the one weird visit with the mask and handcuffs. I guess Mada’s virtue is once again safe!

How 2 Harem ichiban_ushiro_no_daimaou_600

Nine more years and Mada will get Wizard status! 

Here is an odd thought: Spotted flower is not only where Kio Shimoku plays Red Dwarf double-double universe, it is also where he turns off the liminality field that smothers and yet propels so much of the Genshiken tale. The last two omake out have older Hato and Yajima analogues as friends, working a winter and then a summer Comiket. The entire purpose of theses two two-page shorts seems to be to blatantly telegraph: “yes analogue-Hato went on the be a mangaka and live as a trans- person, yes she got breast augmentation surgery, but kept the boy bits below and yes she still hangs out with analogue-Yajima, who while supportive, will still chide analogue-Hato even more than she used to chide analogue-Rika.”

The uncertainty from the previous “meeting” chapter is reduced. Decisions have been made.

The new “safe-space” Genshiken seems to be more about not deciding if it hurts. After all, who says that a decision is mandatory? The fans? The mangaka-gami? Society? Religion? Manga Studies Departments syllabii? Tv Tropes? Some Blog?

“What happens to the daughters of these housebound women in the suburbs? Have they turned into the yaoi girls who are the consumers of the cute boy images and their erotic stories? The participants of the otaku debate unanimously agree that in this context gender difference is asymmetrical. The girls who do not want to repeat the Mothers’ life have two choices; to embody their time-frozen images as a little girl in order to get men’s attention, or to live in the liminal space between such images and their own bodily actuality.”

– Rio Otomo: A Girl with the Amoebic Body and her Writing Machine
https://web.archive.org/web/20120609085942/http://coombs.anu.edu.au/SpecialProj/ASAA/biennial-conference/2006/Otomo-Rio-ASAA2006.pdf

no more despair 600

In a time when real world conditions conspire to inexorably choke off and limit choices, perhaps the indeterminacy of the Genshiken was overlooked and undervalued, even by fans like me. It is ok, Genshiken critters; you don’t have to resolve if you don’t want to. There is comfort and support in that too.

Be safe and happy.

Speak like a child

It’s that time of the year again!

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Nothing quite sets the mood for the holidays like a a bit of Scrooge and his 3 ghosts. While I have given up on my conceit that Kio Shimoku should just drop everything and do a Hato- is- visited- by- his- 3- stands (or two stands plus “Where should I go?” guy), I still appreciate an innovative retelling of a classic, especially if it can serve as an excuse to forgo the original.

And since I am Canadian, I might as well hold out for an anime-esgue retelling of Forsyth’s The Shepherd, done by studio SHAFT and the Bakemonogatari team:

dawn

“He held station alongside me for a few seconds, down moon of me, half invisible, then banked gently to the left. I followed, keeping formation with him, for he was obviously the shepherd sent up to bring me down, and he had the compass and the radio, not I…”

I need more silly stories to displace the previous silly stories that got stuck in my wetware.

The blame for A Klingon Christmas Story and the whole Klingon language thing that turned STTOS Klingons from cold-war artifacts into flawed yet noble alien-furreign “others” can be laid at the feet of the scriptwriters and fans (and fan scriptwriters) who took the sneaky, duplicitous evil commie Russian/ Chinese enemy late cold-war stand-ins of the 1960’s (the Romulans were “good” German WWII submarine captains) and turned them into Japanese Cat Samurai in the manner of Larry Niven’s Kzinti. The present-day appeal of cosplay Klingon is obvious from the theater clip: you get to be loud, speak in short, harsh, spat out syllables and posture heroically. A Klingon warrior does everything loud and heroically – except when they are heroically trying to control themselves and remain silent, for a few moments, before exploding in a loud and heroic manner.

“It is not a victory unless you say `Jumanji´.” – Slavoj Žižek

There are more reasons to create imagined others and stories for them then there are readers and viewers to consume them, so perhaps it is a fool’s errand to try to hunt down some of the tastier similarities and make wild guesses about them.

“It’s the slightly late brain-eating fungus from beyond the colours of time that gets the Doritos!” – Slavoj Žižek

While trolling around Academia.edu I saw a paper listed by James Welker, I like his writings, so when I found that the actual essay had yet to be uploaded, I emailed him a request for it and found out that it was developed for a conference talk and was not available, but that a related essay on the manga Yuri Danshi (aka Yuri Boys), in Japanese and part of a current special edition on Yuri as a genre by the Japanese pop culture magazine Eureka.would soon pop up.

Those of you who follow such things might remember what Eureka did back in 2006 with fujoshi and their fiction. Short answer: No Eureka yaoi issue, no Genshiken Nidaime as we know it. I wonder if they did an issue on popular misrepresentations of the “trans*” spectrum? They do seem to have the gift of grabbing fringe enthusiasms and dragging them out into the light of pop culture critique and commerce.

I was a bit surprised when James Welker wrote back to fill me in on the above details and to add that the latter work would eventually show up on Erica-sensei’s great yuricon project/ web domain, as part of a translation of the entire issue, along with the section by Erica Friedman herself.

Dec 2014 issue of Eureka, Japan

So Yuri about to try for another breakout in Japan, neh?

This prompted a rabbit hunt for a look-see at Yuri Danshi, the manga. First stop; the Okazu review. Executive summary: odd premise, creepy male gaze. Doesn’t seem to function as intended. Further blog reviews; file under the Ring-tailed Roarer heading: Apparently it parades BL style cartoon bishies around while they act like male flip-side versions of rotten girls and try to ship any and all females who come into their view.. 4Chan /u -style LFB yuri goggles… In a Japanese high school.

Time for a drinking game where all sentences have to have the phrase “In a Japanese High School” appended to them.

yuri-danshi

It seems that the Yuri Danshi manga wanted to both swim and fly, so it grew scales and feathers and thereafter found that it could do neither.

Further digging turned up four volumes of raws and the listing of the series on the “dropped projects” pile of a major scanlation group. Also a bit of title disambiguation: Yuri Danshi is also the name of a photo-book of Japanese otokonoko / otomeyaku cross-dressing guys who dress up as Japanese school girls and pose with longing glances at each other.

The other yuri danshi

.. In a Japanese high school.

You see they look like Japanese pop culture style faux schoolgirls doing the yuri titillation thing, but they are really….

.. In a Japanese high school.

Which is a quick and messy way of summarizing the complaint and the project of people who want to see real (istic) lesbian experiences reflected in their lesbian characters and what they are striving to change. Past Yuri was for the most part always a bunch of guys making up the whole “lesbian” thing for their (our) own prurient (and / or other) reasons. Kinda like the boys in drag from the other Yuri Danshi. Real women who happened to like other real women felt a bit left out, if not righteously cheesed off at some of the distortions that crept into the stories. Undoubtedly it was and remains complicated. I am sure some Japanese people find Belushi’s Samurai Deli skit a hoot.

Unlike the rotten girl tribes of Japan and their Euro-ethnic slash cousins, male heterosexual enthusiasts of hawt rezbian pwp pr0n have yet to adopt apologetic tones along the lines of the “these characters are in no way meant to depict real… and exist only for our own sadly rotten tastes and enthusiasms” warnings that preface so many slash/ BL/ yaoi fan archives. Dominant cultures seldom apologize for their excesses; we just kind of kick the embarrassing old stuff to the curb and make pleasant noises about the new, more sensitive and inclusive (and curiously hawt in its more truthy-ness -ness) stuff.

hideaki-kobayashi-japan-cosplay-old-guy-sailor-school-uniform-3

“To know your Asian girlfriend, you must become your Asian girlfriend.” -Slavoj Žižek, apres Sun-Tzu

And there are always reasons beyond the solitary vice why such exercises continue to hold such appeal. Why on earth is Kio Shimoku investigating “the problems of creativeness” (Google it; it is the title of an acerbic short sci-fi tale) as the “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka” ???

Gimme a bit more time, I’m still working on it…

Why did the author of the light novel series and the SHAFT crew behind the Bakemonogatari franchise feel the need to invent a young athletic monkey-arm-cursed female character who calls herself a lesbian and have her do an exorcism in her own (and IMHO far superior to the gormless male hero’s previous efforts) way? And then drape the story in cheesy Yuri visual motifs and title it apres the signature s-class tale of f/f love and friendship from 1920’s Japan?

.. In a Japanese high school.

One idea presents itself: the Bakemonogatari crew (who I bet are mostly or all male) heard of, or intuited something like Erica -sensei’s rules for commendable female protagonists. She has to have agency, but not be a guy hero in a female skin. Creating an athletic young woman who just happens to desire other women (but has a not-unheard of over-the-top taste for yaoi tales) sets her character apart from the other in-harem female characters and makes her style of direct agency more believable within the context of the tale. Besides, she was too much of a good character to waste after she had given up on beating the crap out of Araragi-kun because she was jealous of his relationship with her longtime crush Senjōgahara.

“Have you ever heard a quote that you were so sure was real? What if the first time you’d heard of that person was from that fake quote? How could you tell the fake quotes from the real quotes?”
– Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The simple mechanics of storytelling sometimes conspire with an odd conceit to create inadvertent feast for the theory hungry.

Why did the author of a relentlessly smutty old-school yuri girls’ school ecchi manga go out of his way to drop little bits of characterization, high romantic melodrama, Japanese isolationist feminist literature references and an over-the-top jealous, manipulative, possessive “bad lesbian” character (who ruins the idyllic everything- can- be- resolved- by- screwing- everybody- immediately “wa” and gets whacked with a fire extinguisher for her misbehaviour) into his otherwise simple smut-fest ??

.. In a Japanese high school.

“Do not try to re-write the blog. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.”
“What truth?”
“There is no blog.”
“There is no blog?”
“Then you’ll see that it is not the blog that you re-write, it is only yourself.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

Aside from a welcome antidote to romantic tales of youthful longing that take virtual angst-filled years and years for the main characters to even hold hands, a certain “sect” had the virtue of getting right to the naughty bits, followed by more naughty bits (did I mention the naughty bits?). But the characters are in no way “lesbians” or even female.. The only way to explain them as a coherent whole is to posit them as a male yuri enthusiast’s recasting of BL /yaoi character tropes into female skins, minus overt seme and uke trope clutter. Ken Kurogane’s signature work is a reworked BL grinder, written for guys.

“Did I mention we’re all going to Hell in big Chinese ovens?”
– Sylvia Plath

.. In a Japanese high school.

And of course there is the elephant in the room; the odd habit of so many women to make up faux-male- homosexual characters that can play out a form of -ahem- romance, along with plenty of incomprehensibly wrong naughty stuff and never-will-issue-forth-from-the-mouths-of-actual-males romantic blather.

Oh shit you read that stuff!

I just love the idea that they exist and have figured out how to ruthlessly pursue what turns their cranks.

Heck, their characters in their most advanced Japanese form of the genre disavow “official” male homosexuality, instead insisting that only mad desire for that one and only other dude has driven their characters to pine for male-ish intimacy. Here is a weird bit of cross-cultural compare and contrast: the Japanese rotten girl will adhere to the “only you” trope, while at least some of the Euroethnic slash-fen tribes will engage in endless speculation as to whether one of both of their pairing is “Bi“.

Huh? So the Archangel Gabriel is a robot cat toaster from the future that poops bus tokens. Whatever…

“I consume human soul-energy for a living, okay? It’s my job. Just shut up and let me do my job.” – Slavoj Žižek

Why do we humans go through all the bother of making up such messy and elaborate campfire stories?

“Tell me, Mr Anderson, what good is a phone call…if you are unable to speak.”
-Slavoj Žižek

I am going to add one more neato layer to the confusion surrounding the whole puppet show of odd gendered presentation in contemporary Japanese visual culture and ask about the nuances of dialogue that we, as outlanders could spend years trying to grasp, by means of this most excellent paper I stumbled across recently:

Insight into Masculinity of the Yakuza from Linguistic Discourse Analysis [https://www.academia.edu/9828558/Insight_into_Masculinity_of_the_Yakuza_from_Linguistic_Discourse_Analysis] by Hidefusa Okabe.

So, as proper leaching outlanders who read scanlated manga and watch fansubbed anime, we all appreciate the little touches like the honorifics, the ores and bokus, chans and kuns, even the margin notes that denote a switch to respect language/ formal language and/or the lapse into a regional accent/ Osaka-ben, etc., But after reading this it becomes painfully obvious how much we are missing.

A bit later: Wow, this area seems to be flavor of the month, if not the year. I caught a reference to a new Japanese publication in Neojaponisme’s year end review [http://neojaponisme.com/2014/12/29/the-year-2014-in-japan/#comment-69204] and hunted down a link for “Role Language – A small Dictionary” [ http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://yobanashi.seesaa.net/&prev=search ] which is apparently full of current and past pop culture exaggerated uses of the same for effect. Then there is the elusive “Modern Japanese “Role Language” (Yakuwarigo): fictionalised orality in Japanese literature” by Mihoko Teshigawara and Satoshi Kinsui of the aforementioned “small dictionary” ( short bio info here, buy the damn thing (boo hiss!) here) Here is a quick example of the use of, in a paper on Samurai Champloo [http://eaglefeather.honors.unt.edu/2014/article/306#.VKGJ-M4Bg]. 

Since we were looking at visual culture artifacts, we were paying attention to the pretty drawings, neh? Well now the cat’s outta the bag and armed with handy dictionaries and lots of useful research, we shoud probably be paying more attention to “arch” manga and anime dialogue.

I wonder how much of the “drag” that takes place in the construction of yaoi bishies and yuri girls has to do with the modes of speech/ vocabulary and dialogue that are reserved to that mode of gender-ed presentation in Japan and /or how these codes are violated for effect by the characters, for the fun and longing of their authors?

Write BL fanfiction and you get speak of love like a Yakuza tough reciting Sapphic poetry fragments.

... In a Japanese high school.

Looks like fujoshi are not just getting all squee on the parade of cartoon pretty boys and hunks and not just having fun by getting them all tangled up in “the human body can’t do that !!!” throws of passion, but also having the fun of having their puppets speak high romantic melodramatic declarations of mad desire at each other in tough-guy modes of speech that are nominally out of place for their creators..

I begin to understand how medieval Europe got its myths of chivalry, even as I lament my inability to get even the most rudimentary conversational Japanese into my brain-box.

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. I tried bolt-cutters for a while, but I kept straining my arms, so I went back to the hacksaw. And why do they keep chaining themselves up like that, anyway? Is that some weird sexual thing?” – Slavoj Zizek

It all gets really, really crunchy and tasty when we start hunting for excuses or reasons for the existence of narratives that make a fetish out of innovative “imagined others”. All of our “others” (..and our “selves” for that matter) are imagined constructs in any case, so why not eschew realism and create a bestiary of space aliens, villainous furreigners, sexpot objects of desire, powerful (though endearingly flawed) heroes, gods, demons, sidekicks, schoolgirls (and/ or school boys) vampires, otomeyaku, loli-complex afflicted bad priests, miniskirted nuns, mercenary orphans who pilot giant robots to save girls who dream of weapons from the future, flying monkeys, loaves of bread that are superheroes…

Oh crap I give up – please add your own.

Why bother with the May Sue Overdrive? Are we all stuck with a taste to occasionally revisit our long forgotten imaginary friends and transitional objects? Did the wiring get shorted out and enough of us “need’ our phantasy constructs to jump-start our mundane IRL desires? Isn’t this the sign of some terrible out-of-eden “fall” that we supplant fantasy for real intimacy with a real person, or are we just hunting “lurv secrets” so that we can amaze, amuse and annoy our IRL partners (when and if we have any)?

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all killers are punished, unless of course they do it in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. By the way, it is also forbidden to have sex with farm animals.” – Voltaire in conversation with Oscar Wilde (and Slavoj Zizek)

Perhaps because the long history of human fantasy has been until recently exclusively devoted toward far bloodier ends:

When W. B. Yeats wrote:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love…”

…He was watching as his small patch of Irish soil was doing the local road show of “The Rites of Spring“. Like mass culture’s insane overload of pretty pictures, pleasant music and even pretty colors, the profusion of narrative available to the average citizen of 2014 CE earth dwarfs what was available to even the richest and most powerful of the past. We just have more. It makes us a bit odd. (so sez Dr. Tamaki, Toffler and John Brunner, so it’s gotta be right, neh?) 

Chill out and learn to hack the spew.

“You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe
that you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to
you. Obviously you are mistaken.” – Slavoj Žižek

.
A quick glance at the news feeds reveals that we are all still enthralled with our conventional, accepted, real-life fantasies and that they still make the best excuses for mayhem, torture, neglect, oppression and murder. How else can we explain Dick Cheney? Isis? The Tea Party? Shintaro Ishihara?

“What does not kill you will hurt a lot.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

So three cheers for escapist reading material, Mary Sues, robot cats from the future, Hato, Madarame and Ogiue, Shinobu Handa and Shinobu Oshino Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade and Kanbaru Suruga, even cartoon rainbow-colored ponies and all the other odd and oddly gender-ed characters invented and/or admired by Alfred Prufrock and his brothers and sisters whenever the pressure at the office gets to be a real effing drag.

Gambatte Kudesai !!!

“I advise you to go on living, solely to enrage those who are paying your salary. ” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The best of the holiday season to everyone, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Thus love betrays us

Warning: plenty of gender role issues and stereotypes are going to be tossed around herein, and some may be handled clumsily in the course of inquiry and exposition. I’m reaching here – cut me a bit of slack…

In chapter 102 of Genshiken Madarame has finally ended up at Keiko’s hostess club and is drowning his confusion in expensive drinks, courtesy of salaryman Kugayama’s (AKA Kugapii) who thinks that what Mada needs is some conventional gender-role’d interaction with women.


Should have tried it this way

While the earlier idea of visiting a soap-land and “losing it” was discarded for something a bit less frightening, there is a strong undercurrent in the previous chapter of Kugapii seeking to fix Madarame’s distress by expanding his horizons in societally approved directions (Kugapii is also looking for a wing-man in his own forays into barely know territories). Madarame’s confusion and discomfort at finding himself happy with Hato-as-chan’s attentions; receiving Hato-chan’s valentines day chocolate; his revisiting of his josou game collection and his attendant male hysteria is all but announced as being the exclusive result of him being only exposed to the feminine through his interactions with the atypical Genshiken females. After Saki, it is all just much-younger rotten girls and one closeted cross dressing boy. Time for some “real” female interaction.

Keiko does not disappoint: Starting off as a proper hostess, she quickly drops her act and becomes the Keiko we all know and lurv, fully entitled to her personal judgements (honne entitled?) about Madarame and exasperated at him. Mada gets an earful and is relegated back to her fave “watermelon-boy “Wantanabe” status. (cue the beach scene – what happens to watermelons at the beach?) But the best part of Keiko’s rant is a full-page (plus a half-page wind-down) blast at Hato:

Bad Karma, a sensual obsession

So… Keiko is a transphobe? Or is this personal?

Before that, consider Keiko the hostess: At one extreme, solicitous and friendly. At another extreme, into direct personal scolding mode – so much so that her co-worker calls her on it. And then a few minutes later, subservient in her job-role; she cannot leave since she was specifically requested, nor politely (pull the other one – this must be a point-of-work-pride thing: the mark buys the drink without being asked) ask Mada to buy a round. Figure that the night’s festivities can easily run well over $500. Dude, you OWE Kugapii big time!

Why she invites Madarame back to her place after all this is a whole ‘nuther thing to be left for Chapter 103…

Aside from the fun possibility that Keiko is being re-written in as the villainous woman trope from a yaoi grinder, why would she “Irae Babylon! Mighty is thy Judgement!”? It makes her look like a bully, or at least someone loading up the howitzer to deal with a fly. As well she tries to make it clear; she cannot condemn Mada if he wishes to go off and find some man-love, but Hato (chan or kun?) is personally suspect and nothing but trouble – he has already done inconsiderate things to Madarame and can be expected to do more and worse.

What things? Where has she gleaned her information from?

Kio Shimoku has just expanded the field strength of his reality-is-reality Vs fantasy-is-fantasy motif, and he is edging into the territory of IRL controversies. After all, Hato-as-chan manifests only in the safe space of the Genshiken social, where Hato has gradually been elevated to VIP member and object of interest by the real (gotta use the polite academic term) cis-females therein. Whenever her fugue states and over-rotten episodes have caused fallout, Hato has been supported by the rotten girls, even as they occasionally essentialise him as a perverted freak behind his back (no, it is not Hato’s buttplug, it is part of Ohno’s costume). But now Hato has cranked Hato-chan up to 11, she is courting Madarame, visiting him, cooking for him and going full metal nadeshiko in his direction. Something about all this has set Keiko off, even to the extent of considering Madarame’s behaviour with Hato as being an injury to Saki.

How could that be?

Gen ch102 p19web

A polite and nuanced explanation that gives Keiko the benefit of the doubt would be that the fallout from Hato’s frustrating can’t decide liminality dance makes him a danger to himself/herself and others, but she doesn’t really have enough knowledge of the fine details of the Hato saga to pull that off. She is going by gut impression and what she knows and has previously frowned at: (in her view) a self-serving ego gratifying indecisiveness, a glimpse of Hato-chan getting much to close to Madarame during the neck-fugue state episode and her sudden enlistment into the harem competition. The combination carries a strong whiff of jealousy and bigotry.

competitionp21web

Getting bested by Angela or even Sue would be bad enough.

Is that the only reason why Keiko considers Hato not just “fake”, but dangerously- defective- as- a- human- being fake?

This sure looks like old-school canon transphobia, springing from the same sources as the derogatory term “trap”, and still a rather heavy bone of contention even within the gender-politics community, even if internal politics has shifted the goalposts a bit over the last 40 years. We humans like our “others” in neatly defined categories and boxes, and sometimes the violation of these categories can provoke a visceral, irrational disgust and over-the-top hate-on, especially when the category violation threatens the boundaries of our own chosen categories. Check your privilege time perhaps… or something closer to the sleep of reason and the monsters that wait beyond it. Checking privilege does little to de-fuse pure post-Lacanian psychobabble horror and that horror is regrettably very real. We need better tools to deal with it.

Amazingly, IRL culture wars surrounding this effect are spilling over into the popular media and even into the manga/anime blog- verse. And there are a lot of raw, exposed nerves on all sides of the arguments. If a few select articles in Slate and other publications are to be relied on, it seems that a small subset of trans-folk, who have worked hard to become the sex that they feel that they are, despite the body dealt to them at birth are viscerally cheesed off with the vulgar, lower-class, commercial behaviour of the drag demi- monde. Bricks are flying back and forth. Meanwhile some folks take the Judith Butler “presentation” paradigm as a gospel of liberation, while others feel that it is a deep insult; “I am not presenting as, I am!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/05/30/is_tranny_a_slur_or_an_identity_who_decides.html

Bleh(!) say others, transgression as an art form is a good way to shake up fascist hegemonies (you fascist…).

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/22/5639386/why-trans-people-arent-big-fans-of-rupaul-right-now

Well, at least some of them…

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/24/is_drag_a_trans_identity_or_just_a_job_a_queen_explores_her_art.html

A few years ago I would have been scared spit-less to read about any of this stuff, and I am probably pissing off some folks by this clumsy vicarious little excursion into an area of personal politics that all sides hold very close to their core sense of being.

Why can’t everyone just get along?

Because why everyone can’t get along is the core of the problem.

Fictional representations in JVC tropes (and global pop cultures in general) only serve to further muddy the waters; the transgendered vs the trap vs the otokonoko vs the drag queen vs the might be gay – might not, might be trans, might not female impersonator vs the josou game’s better than female charas all serve as imperfect fun-house mirrors to bitterly contested spaces in the 3D ‘verse. And then they upend the problem by encouraging folks to go on little what-if excursions. They are only cartoon characters, right?

“”The culture surrounding “passing” is problematic as it classifies people who don’t or don’t want to fit into two narrow, relatively stagnant categories of male or female as problems themselves while simultaneously discrediting the “authenticity” of people who do have passing privilege. There is no way to win. A person who is not deemed masculine or feminine “enough” is ridiculed and reviled for not having correct body language; for lacking or for possessing body hair in “right” or “wrong” places; for not having hips or chests that are the “correct” shape; for being too tall or short, too broad or too slight; for not having one’s makeup or wig look “right” and so on.

Yet the corollary is that a person who does pass, who looks close enough to “socially acceptable” standards for femininity or masculinity is considered a “trap” or dishonest, which can also lead to that person being outed and attempts to harm or humiliate upon “discovery.” Some times even safe spaces are not entirely safe, as gender policing can also be a problem within the queer community.””
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Gender policing eh? Sounds nasty:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

Yikes!

Perhaps it is time to pull a Schultz…

“I know nothing, I see nothing…”

Later: Ok, It’s not that big of a deal;  the minor fights at the edges of the great project of asserting the rights of all people have been going on for ages. See:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/06/the_new_york_post_says_feminism_is_imploding_is_wrong.html

See also for this really neato pre-internet archeology article on AOL and FIDONET and early gay BBS forum activities (wow! Fidonet! that takes me back, never knew…) Looks like folks have been arguing this one for decades

” That policy prompted the Great Trans Debates and the Great Bi Debates every six months or so,” Goodloe recalls, “as everyone weighed in with their opinions of who counted as a ‘woman’ and whether bisexuals should be allowed in ‘lesbian only’ space.” –http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/08/lgbtq_nerds_and_the_evolution_of_life_online.single.html

Lookie at the new neighbourhood Kio Shimoku has written himself into.
Nawww, that is all just gaijin weirdness, they make a lot of noise, don’t they?

Come the revolution everyone will walk around wearing a biographical sandwich board stating their personal preferences and outlooks, as well as their personal histories and how they legitimately and authentically arrived at them, at least until we all wear Google Glass. Or perhaps as one really odd sci-fi writer has suggested we will all wear elaborate facial makeup markings to indicate what we feel like being TODAY.

Anything else is the salt-monster from Star Trek or its direct ancestor; CL Moore’s Shambleau 

Read it yourself and tell me it ain’t ‘nuthin more than medusa repackaged… https://archive.org/details/Shambleau19331948

A more reasonable alternative is the path of inclusivety, and a sensitive politically correct essayist should keep an eye on the best practices in the field to add letters as needed.

Extend Shields!

“LGBT: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and visibilize the Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities under our umbrella.” — http://lgbcenter.ucdavis.edu/lgbt-education/words-that-are-transphobic-and-why

Well, that sounds like a more reasonable approach, I hope it works out…

So… Hato is not indecisive or liminal or even suffering from gender-panic induced dissociative personality disorder: the Hatos are genderqueer (stuff your categories, we know what we like!) and since the Hato continuum is still a virgin in 2,5D land, despite having consumed two metric shit-tonnes of distaff pr0n, they are somewhat in the same space as Watamote’s anti-heroine Kuroki Tomoko.

Perhaps Keiko is simply pissed off at Tomoko-ish behaviour in Hato.

Living up to societal sex/ gender role ideals is hard for everyone. Hence the appeal of virtual/ fictional vacation tour packages at greatly reduced rates.. One essayist suggests another take on rotten-girl desire:

“For many girls, the pretty, but unmade-up boys of manga and anime are in fact far more like themselves than the huge busted, bombshell women that are both likely to inhabit anime [and] manga designed for men and boys, and that are a regular part of our western media viewing experience.

Blogger Kerryg (2009), writes about the mere possibility of the female gaze in her Hub entry, ―The Female Gaze. She argues that of course a female gaze exists, but is only beginning to appear in explicit ways (in the work of women filmmakers, such as Sophia Coppola). ―However, she suggests, ―it is much more common for women and girls to subvert the intended gaze of media than to create their own Gaze. For many, this is an unconscious process; for others, it is knowingly revolutionary‖ (2009). She cites the work of fangirls as evidence of this move, offering that they are “Re-cutting the world to match their eyes”.
– Bringing Smexy Back: Fangirl Production, AMVs, and Transgressive Sexuality, Elizabeth Birmingham – http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bringing-Smexy-Back-by-Elizabeth-Birmingham.pdf

(The referenced Kerryg essay can be found here:  http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Female-Gaze)

Which leads to a further weird digression:

I must take back any dismissive asides previously made in the direction of Ouran Host Club, thanks to the elegant exposition at: http://gaggingonsexism.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/what-i-love-about-haruhi-fujioka/
(the earlier cited paper on it  didn’t work for me – too much blah blah, the 3rd party Mizoguchi mis-attribution made the BZZZZZT – Wrong alarm go off and the conflation of Japanese dojinshi parody with western gay male camp is strained. The author would have gained more traction by using a compare and contrast parallel evolution approach. Finally the analysis ignores the centrality of the Haruhi character.)

What an interesting thing; even if it does go on, and on, and on…

The manga is clearly aimed at giving its (presumed) young female readership a lot of eye-candy and some rotten-girl-lite titillation, but it also solves the problem of the female gaze by inserting into the story an androgynous heroine who is unconcerned with her or anyone else’s outward gender presentation. As the series goes on, stereotypes of gender presentation and playful transgression are heaped willy-nilly one on top of another and all Haruhi can do is sigh with mild annoyance and occasionally puncture ego balloons with deadpan snark. And while the boys get weirder and weirder in search of the ultimate host club experience for their “typical” female clientage, they also begin to fixate on her – especially by trying to get her to act as a properly feminine girl during her off-hours.

Meanwhile she gets to (at first reluctantly) enjoy being part of an over-the-top band of guys – what academia charmingly refers to as a “homosocial”. The only whiff of nastiness comes during reoccurring episodes of class-war snobbery and when a central casting nasty lesbian separatist club (who watches over us again???) from a nearby girl’s school decides she could be a perfect Bifauxnen and tries to steal her away from her oddball social club. Tsk tsk! Thou shalt not use “lesbian” as a pejorative, to do so is insensitive and low-class! Sensible, polite and serious Haruhi gets 2 points on the set-up.

Not quite an obverse of Hato, but close enough for 3-chord rock and roll.

Except that even such a manga-verse comparison can be fraught with complications. The word-of-the-day is transmisogyny, and is best illustrated by the following exposition on Wandering Son: (note that pronoun usage follows presentation and Deemed X At Birth acronymage is used)

“In junior high school, Takatsuki and Nitori meet Sarashina Chizuru, a cis-identified girl who just enjoys wearing a boy’s uniform because she feels like it fits with her cool persona. She turns up to school a few times in it and also tends to wear non-regulation ties with her girls’ uniform. Sarashina’s blatant disregard for the rules gives Takatsuki courage to wear the boys’ uniform that was given to him by Yuki, a transwoman who acts as mentor and confidant to Takatsuki and Sarashina. (In the manga, the uniforms belonged to Takatsuki’s older brother and sister.)

When Takatsuki wears a boys’ uniform to school, everyone thinks that he is cool and edgy like Sarashina. Part of this fairly positive reaction stems from his peers are viewing Takatsuki as a tomboy engaging in temporary cross-dressing instead of a transgender boy trying to dress toward how he wants to be perceived. Although the administration is annoyed with Takatsuki for breaking the dress code, the other students’ misreading of Takatsuki’s actions as fun and temporary largely protect him from transphobic reactions, although their reaction causes a sense of discomfort for him, as it plays upon the disconnect between how one sees their own gender presentation and how others see them. This discomfort also occurs earlier in the manga when Takatsuki gets his first period and is teased by the other boys because it “proves” that he’s “really a girl.”

Like Takatsuki with his androgynous clothes and binder, Nitori also wears clothes that make her comfortable in her gender expression in her free time. Outside of school, she wears a long wig and skirts at home with friends in public in disguise, often with Takatsuki, and is delighted when she “passes” (more on this later). Her success in passing in public, her friends’ admiration of how good she looks in girls’ clothes, and Takatsuki’s wearing of a boy’s uniform at school leads Nitori to follow Takatsuki’s example and to come to school in her girl’s uniform. However, Nitori is immediately recognized by the teachers and then mocked mercilessly by her peers. She is sent to the school nurse and then sent home from school. In the anime version, the characters sometimes talk to the camera, and after this incident, they discuss how differently everyone reacted to Nitori’s and Takatsuki’s perceived cross-dressing, noting that girls’ fashion offers more options for gender expression in clothing, and that Takatsuki’s interest in androgynous and masculine clothes is treated as more normal than Nitori’s interest in feminine wear. Few anime are this deliberate about how the masculine is prioritized and deemed culturally cool but the feminine is reviled, and how DMAB people who embrace culturally feminine clothing and pursuits often face greater social consequences, from ridicule to violence.”
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Back to why exactly is Keiko so pissed off at Hato? Are we back in the old days of a trans-gendered individual who seeks to realize their subjective gender racking up more authenticity points than a cross-dresser, who is a “mere tourist or hobbyist”?  Is it the old cant that passing imposes a certain burden upon forthright behaviour for individuals during transition (which is even more insulting than the “trap” acusation). Or is it a Japanese don’t rock the boat thing? Is Hato’s gender-switching suspect only because it disturbed the wa and breaches honne? Can a Westerner ever even begin to understand all of the baggage contained in her outburst?

To paraphrase Master Sorceror Sean O’Lochlainn
“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

We can only guess at either. Confused yet?

It’s complicated…

Or… I am just using this Genshiken mise-en-scene as an excuse for a quick n nasty survey of the common arguments surrounding the gender politics of trans* characters.  Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.

Other stuff of note happened upon of late…

How the Philippines does rotten girl:

Appropriating Yaoi and Boys Love in the Philippines, Conflict, Resistance and Imaginations Through and Beyond Japan – Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin, Osaka University, Volume 13, Issue 3 (Article 13 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 6 October 2013.  http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol13/iss3/fermin.html

“My research largely confirms the point McLelland made in his comparison of Japanese and English-language yaoi and BL websites: we will witness many groups of women around the world sharing similar sexual fantasies, yet the rhetorical space they occupy in their transgressions could never be more different.”

Has a very big section on Genshiken, Ogiue and Hato and yup, I like the mirror conceit too:

The Great Mirror of Fandom: Reflections of (and on) Otaku and Fujoshi in Anime and Manga by Clarissa Graffeo, MA English Thesis, 2014
http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFE0005172/Graffeo_-_Thesis_-_Great_Mirror_of_Fandom.pdf

Incidentally a fine usage guide for tyro translators: 

Hey, you’re a girl?: Gendered expressions in the popular anime, Cowboy Bebop – Mie Hiramoto http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/ellmh/Hiramoto_2013_Hey%20youre%20a%20girl.pdf

The Genshiken girls (and Hato) are written as reading this stuff? Warning – NSFW images, purple prose and rape fiction apologia/ triggers:

https://www.academia.edu/3993649/Forbidden_Love_and_Forbidden_Desire_Themes_in_the_WWII_Yaoi_Manga_of_Fusanosuke_Inariya

Yaoi is destroying Japanese families. Warning – cum hoc ergo propter hoc  fallacies, errant bullshit and possible trolling:

https://www.academia.edu/2368322/Explanations_for_Japanese_Population_Decline

Get rich at Comiket?

http://fanhackers.transformativeworks.org/2012/06/how-much-money-do-doujinshi-creators-actually-make-some-statistics-from-comiket/

“”Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

the circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo.”

Stop writing to Margaret mangakas before release date, or send a pic of you holding the mag, bought in NY:

http://moromi.tumblr.com/post/87934810142/important-for-the-hnr-fandom-please-read

Heavy Fujoshi studies of the year bibliography:

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2013 Ed.
http://animemangastudies.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/342/#more-342

Another fan studies resource:

The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 1
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=269
and
The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 2
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=333

Good news on the guy front; The kids are all right. All that pre-judging is just us old baby boomers’ violent expectations.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/07/18/its-time-to-stop-defaming-our-boys/

And finally:

I was beginning to fear that the rather expensive Routledge anthology PERVERSION AND MODERN JAPAN addressed neither when at last I hit upon “Packaging desires: The unmentionables of Japanese film” by Jonathan Abel. Yup, it’s all about PANTSU in soft-core Japanese porno films, and its a rollicking great hoot of a theory-moe ride – which is to be expected of a paper that grew out of a joke presentation titled “Die Zizek, Die!

Sooner or later I must review the whole thing here. Abel is the translator of Azuma’s Database etc., while Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent (translator of Tamaki’s BFG) as editors are both very agreeable reads in their own rights. It is just that collection is a bit of a slog unless you are really, really into post-Lacanian detritus and its use in critical writings on Japanese cultural stuff.

…And you manage (as I do) to find some of it amusing.

On heroes and hero worship

Wherein I try to balance speculation about character mechanics with a slightly self-indulgent fan-out, in order to make up for dropping cryptic comments into other blogs when suddenly struck by insight…

“…Within a somewhat socially repressive environment, in which citizens are expected to conform and contribute to the social good, anime is a temporary escape from reality and crossdressing serves as an outlet for personal expression. Dressing as a girl allows Japanese boys and men (such as Haruhi Fujioka’s crossdressing father in Ouran High School Host Club and the countless “okama” in One Piece) to not just express their softer, feminine side, but to temporarily drop their burden of male responsibility. Attraction to these characters may also be tied to a sense of ease. Male viewers that like josou shounen characters may feel more comfortable relating to a boy that looks like a girl than an actual girl because jousou shonen anime characters consistently seem more compassionate, receptive, and considerate than female anime characters that expect normal boys to act like boys. Josou shounen themselves don’t look or act like boys and don’t demand that other boys live up to the stereotypical male characteristics that girls expect.

So setting aside preoccupation with gender, josou shounen anime characters are typically even more feminine and approachable than actual girl characters are. The argument may be made, in this case, that cute is cute, regardless of gender. But if that’s the case, why would heterosexual otaku supplement or even supplant attraction to female characters with josou shounen characters? Some otaku may be partially shifting their interest in cute anime girls onto cute anime boys that look like girls because the later provide the same opportunity for moé obsession without the need to respect conventional masculine and feminine gender roles. [July 23rd, 2010.]”

-http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

The above quoted explanation for the boys-in-skirts genre has a superficial ring of truthiness about it; lets take it apart and see if there is anything that can be teased out of it to illuminate Mada’s Genshiken harem and Hato-chan’s dilemma.

The burden of responsibility for the male role: here we are already into slip. It is assumed in this explanation that the attractiveness of a crossdressing male character comes in part from the vicarious admiration of the freedom that the role affords. The passage reads almost as it was noting the attraction of 3D crossdressing as hobby rather than simply noting that certain characters are attractive. This is not only the freedom to hang out with girls and do girly stuff, but to avoid the unpleasant, difficult and perhaps bankrupt male role. Note that there is no mention of “born in the wrong body”, This is gender tourism. The models for this twinned explanation are newspaper reports of “herbivore males” and the rich kid from Princess Jellyfish. The catchphrase for the effect would be “It’s my hobby!

The next suggestion – that conventional female manga, game and anime characters mirror real life females who make too many demands upon the broken male; either to be a stoic, silent male hero or to be successful, forceful, romantic and so perfect that almost all suitors are doomed to failure from the start. This is an analogue of the “she won’t date anyone who makes under X per year” news items from the first few years of the millennium. While this explanation has some plausibility a similar attraction is part of what drives lolicon desire, the full implications of it are horrific. Does this mean that a certain subset of otaku cannot even handle spunky girl characters? Passive-aggressive cultural blowback!

More could have been offered as explanation. The power relations hinted at in more dramatic versions of the otokonoko genre play with an implicit bargain between the otokonoko character and the almost- smitten boy object of desire. The otokonoko character plays an exaggerated, supportive, understanding feminine role and the boy character agrees to take her presentation as suitably feminine and desirable. flattery is exchanged for flattery. This means that for the first time, the nerd boy can be the one who gets to play coy, and both can place themselves above vanilla relationships. Riajuu winner-types of both sexes, long used to getting what they want would turn out to be too rigid, lazy or spoiled to give such a relationship a try, so the nerd and the crossdresser rise above them as harbingers of the cultural vanguard. This is the virtual Jack Kerouac Beat Generation redux effect.  Verily, there is nuthin new under the sun…

With the lights off, it’s less dangerous…

What kind of male main character is best to draw in male readership into a particular story? Is it an average guy, like Genshiken’s Sasahara? Does he have to worse than average; a clumsy horn dog or an ill-socialized nerd? Extremely shy around girls? Clueless? Perhaps the slightly melancholic normal guy with family troubles that leave him somewhat orphaned? Slightly unhinged? Bat-shit crazy?

One of the familiar tropes of high school romantic comedies and harem grinders gives us a somewhat shy, well-behaved guy with blond hair and/ or a “scary face” which means that everyone avoids him as a dangerous delinquent. Then the quirky girls flock around him. Then an otokonoko “page-boy”, a few lolis and at least one scheming over-sexed older woman.

If he is going to be socially awkward around girls, he can’t be too much of a freak; How is it that Madarame is on the outer edge of the limit while Kuchiki is beyond it? Is it that Kuchiki has too many weaknesses? Does Madarame only look acceptable because Kuchiki is worse? It looks like the limit is one interesting, forgivable life-effecting weakness per average young guy.

Perhaps we have a male analogue to one of the reasons why women populate BL tales with extreme male characters: to escape the power dynamics that are set in place before the story starts (power dynamics set up within the story are fair ball).

My limited exposure to North American female aspirational fiction- the kind where the bright young heroine comes to New York for her exciting new job, splurges on name brand crap and navigates the attention of the good guy and the dangerous guy, notes that the setting, the brand name props, the relentless consumption pattern name-dropping and the cookie cutter suitors all serve to create a theme park romance-ish experience to be binged upon by female readers who do not live in New York and cannot access bling or exciting suitors. It is almost allegorical, in the sense that the characters, setting and props have only to be named and remain barely described, fleshed out or given any “reality” within the story. Very lazy writing, but still popular. Sorry Azuma-san, your database looks like a 1950’s automat cafeteria.

I was really bored and stuck without any other reading material when I read that one centuries ago, so perhaps I over-generalize, but if this kind of thing is what women are supposed to be reading, then I can understand why some of them ruthlessly excise the annoying plucky heroine in favour of banging the guys together for some outre fun. The only alternative would be to peel the plastic wrap off the entire setting and expose what lies beneath as some murderous horror-show; which explains the appeal of the Buffy-verse. (both variants seem to posit the bad- boy- on- a- leash as an answer to the old Freudian question of female desire, which again makes the rotten girl response amusingly innovative.)

The relative newness of the otokonoko genre makes it easier to recycle all manner of hackneyed old romance chestnuts: Perfect girl falling for schlep buddy boy is too hard to believe, so Otoko! Otoko! Otoko! is just the newest way of giving the perfect girl character another hidden “flaw”/ back story to explain her odd tastes; ex-gang leader, alien, magic girl, time-traveller, angel, esper, reality shifter, teen prostitute, hidden royalty, riches, psychotic kitten-killer, etc., etc., After all, it’s all just grist for a galge and a few manga and anime spin-offs right?

Low res is best res

Behold Hato-chan V2. All the faults enumerated in the Rame is a loser session translate into some odd form of moe for Mada-and-only-Mada Hato. Moe enough to finally get Hato level up the femininity presentation and to use the cooking skills he practiced to return the meal that Mada made for him a half a year (almost five years real-time) ago. The “what the heck does she see in him?” effect works even if the perfect girl ain’t one.

Oh no I said a dirty word…

Of course since this is all part of a harem dating-sim game, it is natural and expected. Natural too is that Madarame can now interact with Hato-chan as feminine, but can feel a bit safer: Clumsy flirting with a genre situation Hato is less threatening than clumsy flirting with a riajuu cis-female. If Mada screws up, Hato will forgive or at least understand where the stupid guy tricks are coming from. If he goes too far, Hato will judo-throw him. With ironic genre quoting any goofy gesture or statement can be made as long as it is put in harem +/or josou genre quotation marks.

The excerpt’s writer suggests that the josou genre is not just a flight from/ beyond traditional gender roles in contemporary Japan but the making of new diffuse ones. This one gets a bit strained; if only because the characteristics of the “ideal” accepting otokonoko are as traditional as they come. In the riajuu world of fantasy cis-females they are represented by the geisha, the hostess and the floozie with a heart of gold who has retired from the trade and now runs a late-night izakaya. Strange how Keiko’s night job is to act something like her: it might be reading too much into her off-screen character to yell LAMPSHADE! yet.

Because they are presented in ironic quotes, they become trans(*)gressive. This is Judith Butler territory, but even she must be ready to refine her initial theories, as the nasty ole patriarchal society seems to have an almost infinite appetite for gobbling up the transgressive and excreting the co-opted useable. Chomp! Urrrrrp! Substitute you for my mum, At least I’ll get my washing done…

A far bigger question looms: why is Kio Shimoku is turning shy, crossdresses-to-be- a-fujoshi, imagines his BL male self to be a forceful seme Hato into a paragon of supportive accepting, inviting femininity and throwing her at Madarame?

To put it simply, because it won’t work!

It’s fun to lose and to pretend…

The problem is not simple gender/ sexuality prejudice. That would be low-class.

Hato-chan might be completely accepting of Madarame’s faults, and a future Madarame could be completely accepting of an intimate relationship with a trans girl-boy, but Hato’s current brand of feminine just doesn’t turn Mada’s crank. It does something else entirely.

It came to me in a flash while reading the detailed comments in a senior blogger’s notes on Chapter 98, when the reader discussion moved on to “What does Mada want?” The usual response is “he doesn’t know!”, but this is slightly disingenuous. We already know who he wanted, the question should be “when?” and “why“. To put it simply, Saki would never act like Hato is acting.

Madarame was fascinated by the riajuu Saki who invaded the Genshiken in search of her boy-next-door. Soon enough he was doing his usual Madarame fugue state creepy geek-out that he always does to keep himself safe from social mistakes (by pre-emptive strike) and the heartbreak of a crush on someone who is miles out of his league (which is pretty well how Madarame views almost all females).

Later Saki was dragged into cosplaying as the chairman from “Unbalance“- That was cute, but it was fap fodder at best. Only when she busts the upskirt camera creep and publicly “becomes” the avatar of Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad, does she become irresistible. At that moment, a small fierce flame is lit in the heart of Harunobu Madarame and his comfortable self is forever shattered.

Falling for an avatar

You poor shmuck! You have conflated a real girl as the incarnation of your favourite moe-blob heroine! Bakka! Bakka! Bakka!

He will go on to take Saki’s advice on how to dress better, tone down the creepy avoidance behaviour, get a job, and try to hold down a graduated almost- riajuu life, all in the forlorn hope…

What he thinks he wants is immaterial. We know what he will change his life for.

The boy only falls for girl heroes.

Best to frame “her” as a “heroic female”, or “the heroic feminine”. We are not talking Beautiful Fighting Girl here. Strong female lead or Heroine might be a bit too vague and/or shaded wrong. For all of my imprecision, she is a fairly conventional character in the many varieties of geek fiction. For geeky guy romantics the lure of the heroic female is almost irresistible; another face of the many ideas of the feminine constructed mostly, again by guys.

When she is created out of female desire, she looks a bit different, but similarities remain:

“Citing traditional European fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White,
and Briar Rose, Marilyn Farwell demonstrates the extent to which
Bildungsromane include “the same seemingly natural elements—problem, complication, resolution—that define all narratives and at the same time [trap] the female in a fatalistic apparatus.” Any adventure story dealing with the seemingly innocuous migration from girlhood to adulthood potentially “demands that woman be muted, silenced, and violated when she enters the time-line that forces her into the sexual story. By portraying the female’s adherence to traditional sexual and gendered conduct as proper and correct, such stories funnel women into one of two endings: heterosexual marriage, or death. Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin concludes that in western fairy tales, “There are two definitions of woman.
… The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed,
or punished. Both must be nullified.” Obedient women who succumb to
the “natural” progression from bashful virgin to sexual object to doting wife and selfless mother are rewarded, while those who disrupt the “order” of these events are met with contempt and disgust. (Women who resist 210 Catherine E. Bailey) dominant social scripts, being labelled sexual or gender “outlaws,” are thus often symbolically represented in adventure stories as monsters, vampires, and other threatening figures of the grotesque.

A more socially just narrative formula, then, would eliminate the conflict between a character’s status as a “nontraditional” woman and her status as a hero, which both Sailor Moon and Utena do.
[…]
From the very start, Utena is introduced as a character who
subverts commonly-held cultural assumptions about her sex. Utena
“should” jump at the chance of marrying the noble prince, yet instead of
falling in love with him, as we have been culturally conditioned to expect
her to do, she looks up to him as a role model. As a high school student,
she rebelliously wears a derivative of the male uniform and competes
alongside exclusively male peers in a variety of athletic activities.

She is generally regarded as a tomboy, and another character even affectionately refers to Utena as her “boyfriend.” Most importantly, in the spirit of becoming more “princely” and traditionally heroic, Utena prides herself on looking after the underdogs of the school and frequently intervening on their behalf. Yet it is important to clarify that Utena does not want to “become” a prince in the literal sense of the word. She does not want to relinquish her female body, she is not trying to “pass” as a man, and she resents it when people imply that she is somehow less of a woman simply because of her more performatively masculine behaviours. When she says she wants to become a prince, Utena is referring to her desire to exhibit the qualities her hero reflected: courage, compassion, strength. The “prince” becomes, then, a body of ideas, connoting a heroic agency that is unfixed from gender. Utena contrasts this to the idea of the “princess”—a  passive, helpless, and objectified entity.

Non-freudian approaches, Hero mythology, bildungsroman, and the problem of Euroethnic cultural traditions
http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/colloquy/download/colloquy_issue_twenty-four_/bailey.pdf

She’s overboard, she’s self-assured…

Whether pitched at males or females, she has something that both feel they need. The male-purposed heroic female character may look retrograde compared to Utena, but a few things are similar:

Consider the fantasy-world extreme version in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise: Hero might be the named hero, but he is at best a sidekick. All he does is cartoon fighting. The real hero is the voluptuous Demon Lord. Hero is doomed to fall for her, if not by her buxom charms, then by her fierce determination to bring peace to the world and if not by this project, then by blinding him with science, or 2 hour lectures on agriculture and economics. She will save the world for demons and humans, end famine, disease, serfdom and ignorance and she will get her guy, Dammit! I wonder if any of the Lord Kalvan series even made it over to Japan in translation? No matter, she is a better iteration of the character type than he could ever be. While she goes about sowing the seeds of an other-world renaissance, her Hero will knock heads as directed. He might even finally figure out that she was sweet on him. Whew! lotsa work being a heroic female.

The pont is that both Utena and the Demon Lord require and attract followers to their character and their project.

Mada could never see himself as the hero; but as a sidekick? Sure thing! He could imagine himself as able to do a slightly stumbling Rock Okajima if he could only find a Revy from Black Lagoon. Call him her “Knight” or some such other cheat, a hot girl hero needs a nebbish side-kick who can reload her spent clips while he grows a backbone.

In the end there is no such thing as leadership…

Heroes, especially the female kind attract allegiance, friendship and love: it doesn’t matter if it is unrequited. They burn so damn bright. It is pure charisma, the fires of which are usually stoked by the sheer desire to act with purposeful agency to create her reality. You see her pop up in plenty of shonen “girl with super powers/ alien powers” works, and from the start in yuri-ish works. Both shy boys and shy girls can crush on girl heroes. And even the boy hero is weak in the knees before a girl hero. She can even be a bit psychotic…

And now for my next trick..

A Genshiken girl-hero doesn’t have to be a super-powered action hero or keter-class reality shifter to be desirable, but she does need a few hero-like characteristics:

Her personality is shaped by her determination and agency in pursuit of a goal or project.

She has to suffer inner conflict about the price she has paid and remains willing to pay for pursuing it.

She displays an internal “moral” code.

Her past and present tribulations dispose her towards concern and empathy towards people, at least towards the members of her “band”.

Her flaws make her human, require struggle and personal growth to overcome and give the sidekick something to fuss over.

Ok, girl hero is heroic, so why pine for her?

When you become the secretly crushed-out sidekick to hero girl, you get motivated to become better, so as to support and be worthy of her. You become able to change yourself.

Don't worry dude, it'll work out..

So what if this sounds “beta as all fuck“; it is a primary and fundamentally social act in comparison to the solitary, sociopathic traits of the self-proclaimed objectivist alpha (one would think that if they are so alpha, they should just STFU and enjoy it). Often it provides the motivation for the sidekick to (re-) join a larger community. At the very least, heroes are interesting to hang out with.

Mada’s fantasy Saki is of course both more and less than the real Saki, but even the comfortably self-sufficient Kousaka would admit that “his” Saki compels him to be a better human being. Without Saki, Kousaka would be a mutant genius freak and would eventually fall prey to some manner of excess.

Mada wants!

Unfortunately, the current Genshiken is bereft of any spares. They seem to be all paired off already. Besides Saki, Ogiue can muster a good show of heroism, but she has made her choice. Ohno has her heroic moments, it takes single-minded courage to pursue her hobby -which when you get right down to it, is dressing up as girl heroes. I am sure that Tanaka-san considers her his hero.

I wonder how Hato looked at Kaminaga back in high school. Bad example. Hero fail. I have always suspected that more happened to Hato after he was outed than he has shared. I am sure that Shimoku sensei will provide us with a few more nasty flashbacks as needed, but Hato’s looking for a sempai habit must play no small part in his Mada fixation.

Why we have not been treated to a warming his hero’s sandals with his body gag yet is perplexing to me.

Between Keiko, Yajima, Rika, Risa and Sue we have very little hero material. Each could become “heroic”, but currently have no reason to try. They are all too busy just trying to figure their current lives and identities out . Hato, as kun or chan could become heroic: some would argue that his acceptance of the desires manifested by his Stands, and his crossdressing to become fujoshi are heroic enough, but so far he is his own greatest follower. It is getting a bit lonely now that the Stands are off on a bus tour.

His strong desire to “blend in”, to become-fujoshi (and in his mind fujoshi is an egalitarian community of exchange) keeps him from acting out and or acting out. Even his prodigious drawing abilities are hobbled by the need to fit in. The shock that Yajima feels when she hears that he must crossdress to draw properly is defused by his inability to control his talent. The steamy yaoi clench scenes that he can only produce are the perfect exchange gift to the rotten girl social, but his second biggest gift is needing their help to integrate these into a larger narrative structure. And Hato x Mada x Hato is supposed to be the third gift…

I’m worse at what I do best…

Hato has decided that along with being-fujoshi, what he-as-she wants is a steamy BL-ish otokonoko fusion cooking romance with Mada. To this end she becomes Nadeshiko no Genshiken. Mada when confronted by Hato’s hyper compliant femininity can bounce back and forth between obliviousness, creep fugue state and “ooops- I forgot you’re a guy”, and “I was only making a trope reference joke, but I’m still embarrassed”. “Noooooo… I’m more embarrassed…” replies Hato. Rinse and repeat.

Is this some new form of manzai?

Mada has already gone for a pantsu peek! It no longer matters that Hato is a crossdressing male, or whether or not Mada could accept him – Mada can upskirt, creep out, bring out the cat ears, drop harem lines ironically and live up to his part as an ill-socialised otaku over-responding to female-ish attention, but he won’t change his life for anyone less than a hero and neither Hato-chan or Hato-kun is one.

Hato is doing it wrong; pushing Mada to play “the prince” to Nadeshiko no Genshiken is too much, so the more perfectly hime s/he becomes, the more Mada will be overwhelmed by what he imagines should be the only response available to him. Mada will shy away and try to prove himself wrong for the part. No homophobia or transphobia need rear its ugly head.

And comedy of fail is maintained.

It is almost as if Genshiken is borrowing from the Yankee Girlfriend genre, at least for the parts when the atypical female tries to get feminine for her guy: even if she doesn’t screw up the hand-made valentines day chocolates, the boy is shocked at her out-of-character behaviour.

Can Hato drop the hime act become a fudanshi/fujoshi hero? How to do it? He or she needs to start doing something again, as in secondary production; drawing, creating again or he becomes a pitiable figure. If he is only defined by his sexuality/ gender performative-ness then he no more than a presenter of that sexuality/ gender. This is heroic enough during the consciousness-raising phase of the public politics of sexuality and gender, but is wearisome during subsequent phases which strive for recognition, rights, respect and equal treatment.

You have to be good at something else too otherwise you get to be a crossdressing trans* fudanshi neet. Then you hiki-out up in your dingy apartment day and night and wait until you get to star in a remake of Welcome to the NHK.

Of course this places an unfair burden on the individual member of a sexual minority group, but society is a work-in-progress, with the operative emphasis on work. The two gay guys and the one lesbian I knew back in my University days, who were drafted into “spokesperson” roles all had occasion to roll their eyes at the extra work they got stuck with, but they never gave up on their passions for their art, their journalism, their sports, their music, etc. They were fun, interesting people to work with. Perhaps I show my age here…

Best to make the best of all of your talents. Pity the Genshiken seems to require melodramatic foolhardiness and defenestrations before redemption:

Hato, standing in front of the Manken club window, exasperated and waving his wig at its members:

“You lazy cowards all of you.
You got the most in you, and you use the least.
You hear me, you?

Got a million in you and spend pennies.
Got a genius in you and think crazies.
Got a heart in you and feel empties.
All of you.
Every one of you…

Take a war to make you spend.
Take a jam to make you think.
Take a challenge to make you great.
Rest of the time you sit around lazy,
You. Pigs, You!

All right, God damn you! I challenge you,

Me!
Hato Kejiro!
Cross-dressing girly-boy fudanshi BL dojin artist!

Rot or live your dreams!
Come and find me and I make you dojinshi-creating heroes.
I make you great…

I give you a wall table at Comiket !!!

That would be overdoing it even for the Genshiken…

I feel stupid and contagious…

Perhaps if he joined Ogiue, in a public large-format drawing demonstration at the next cultural festival and drew something work-safe but rotten… That would be a start. Sue should join in too, I’m sure she can draw; she can do everything else.

Then he could stop acting like a doormat shoujo character and start acting more like a self-possessed adult: male, female, or a personal best of both. A crush on Mada is an odd first step for him to get him out of his own head, but he needs to go a lot further. He should think long and hard about that perfect imaginary sempai he wanted (definitely not Kaminaga!) and try dressing as that. Something might rub off on him.

Would a heroic Hato-chan or kun be more appealing to Madarame? At least it would make both variants a better friend. The Nidaime anime did have Hato asking Madarame to contribute to Mebaetame. Something has got to draw Mada out of his slump. And Genshiken might be one of the few manga out there that could get away with a respected serious, hero-in-daily-life otokonoko hybrid character. Usually you wouldn’t expect the two genres to mix well. The minute the otokonoko stops being seductive, s/he is usually deployed for comic relief.

Oh Heck, I wanted to drop this in somewhere..

The other possibility is that Hato is planning a double campaign, and that after a round of harem trope fun he will drop in on Mada in guy-format and act slightly sheepish for overdoing the femme stuff. “Sorry I got carried away, I wanted to do something special to make up for all the trouble I caused you with Angela and the sou-uke thing and the broken wrist. I’m an idiot, whatever… sorry ‘Bro. Did I turn gay? I don’t really know? Guess I read too much BL, but it never made me do anything like this before. If you are uncomfortable with it, I’ll stop it…” Yadda yadda yadda…

That would be sneaky… And/ or a real ass-backwards way of learning how to navigate male friendship.

Meanwhile, I swear that Sue is looking like she is looking closer and closer at Hato. (Ok, I am hobby-horsing here…) Of note is that she does not appear to distinguish between kun and chan; she interacts with the entire Hato, to the extent that her trademark stare seems to tunnel into the core of his being. What is holding her back, besides fangirling over any potential Hato x Mada x Hato is a respect and a tender concern for his silly dreams and for both his and Mada’s fragile mental stability. Or perhaps she views the unfolding Hato pursuit of Madarame like a slow-motion train wreck. She may prod and poke at Hato for over-girly-girly-ing, but she really likes the soup! If she was competing against him for Mada’s attention she would be doing more. She might make a complete fool out of herself in the process, but the fact remains that she is hanging back, waiting to see what happens. Something is off with this harem.

Or something else is going on: With all the yuri teasing that Kio Shimoku has been dropping onto Sue, could she be watching, pining away as the girly-boy of her dreams dotes on an inappropriate guy? Heartbreaking! Nawwww… Sue too cool for that… But if she likes the soup, she should demand cooking lessons.

If circumstances force Sue into doing something heroic we are more likely to get one smitten Mada and a full circular triangle; field strength %98 and holding.. We need a crisis, something that threatens the entire Genshiken. Saki was able to “save” the Genshiken from the stuco last time, Could a V.2 Sue do the same?

Hero or not, Sue will not glomp onto Mada. Sue already has a more or less platonic hero fixation with Ogiue, and what Ogiue represents to her cannot be found (yet) in anyone else. Neither Mada or Hato can claim to have gone from shameful abject yaoi fiend to successful circle leader, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka who won over the boy she once shipped, and who supports and protects her kouhais (– heh! Wait a second! Could Hato also be stuck in a loop of Ogiue worship ???) If Sue becomes heroic, she will do so in emulation of Ogiue and the needle of Hato’s heart will swing to her as to a lodestone. Madarame can’t do that. Then again if Hato becomes Ogiue-ish heroic, Sue would fixate on the new Hato. They would make one heck of a mutual admiration society.

We have too many Sancho Panzas! Someone has to be Quixote!

Once again the question arises: who and how is Sue shipping? Does she secretly draw? Is she writing fan-fiction, perhaps on english-language rotten-girl blog sites? What, beyond cosplay is her secondary fan production? If she is to emulate her hero, she must make something of her desires.

If Sue ascends to heroic mode then Kio Shimoku can bump Hato over from otokonoko to one of the more conventional variants of the crossdressing genre: desire to get close to the girl hero who is surrounded by an isolationist female social. That is going to take a bit of leveling-up as well

What of Keiko?

Keiko will never be the girl hero: within the strange fantasy-verse of the Genshiken dating sim, she is always going to be the temptress. She lives at the edges of the floating world, not the fan world. She would get Mada “dirty”, drain his funds, play with him and then slap him down. He might give it a try, but more likely he will avoid her like rat poison. He can talk to her, but only because he is in opponent mode. It all reminds me of polite Edwardian Anglican theology-talk that referred to Satan as The Adversary. Keiko would also turn up her nose at any real-life harem scene; she would get itchy after one minute of Hato’s dinner party at Mada’s apartment. She might play against the girls at the bath resort, but she won’t play harem with Madarame. She might be as riajuu as Saki, but she lacks the spark that would make Madarame crush on her and she realizes it. For this reason alone, his stupid, doomed otaku romanticism annoys her to no end. In the mirror of his eyes, she would always be less than what he desired and that is unforgivable.

This is one of the small hidden tragedies of the Genshiken, because Keiko X Mada would probably straighten her out as she cleaned up Madarame. Unfortunately both would have to get real and the Genshiken is all about finding a way to avoid getting real, abandoning your dreams, desires and odd hobbies and graduating on to grey riajuu drone-hood. Keiko represents the ultimate bad ending. Keiko x Mada would buy how-to-be-normal books and religiously follow them. Keiko x Mada would stop going to comiket.

What of the rest of the Genshiken girls?

Yajima has backbone, but needs another year before she would ever try something as dangerous as taking her own desires seriously,crushing seriously on Hato or assuming a leadership role. That Hato-kun can even draw a tiny spark from her is gift enough. With a bit of time however she will grow to be a formidable person. How long is Kio Shimoku planning to do the Genshiken?

Rika remains a cypher. She is more of a Peter Pan character than even Sue. Aside from her Reki-jo taste for historical BL fantasies and her thirst for booze she is as paper-thin as a shikigami, though her meddlesome antics mask this.

Angela could fit the heroic female role, but currently she is just a happy wandering Amazon. She is remarkably free of heroic angst. She doesn’t have any humanizing weaknesses. She is a tourist; Zeetha, the warrior princess, not Agatha Hetrodyne. Because she needs to display some weakness, her assumption that Sue is after Mada leads me to further discount Sue x Mada. After all, even Saki could flub an insight now and then. If she were ever to tone down the ZOMG and just communicate with Madarame she would own him in a day. Has Ohno not provided the fine details about Mada’s crush on Saki? Perhaps it is because she has never met Saki that she cannot figure Mada out. Cosplay a reluctantly sympathetic riajuu woman up-with-putting to win an otaku boyfriend? No problem! Or does she have to unearth and do a quick study on Unbalance to become Chairman-ish?

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

The big question remains: how much Madarame does she desire? Mada is an old-fashioned boy, he needs to be courted, or at least given the illusion of doing some courting. He would need to fall in love. She would have to demonstrate that she was willing to take responsibility.

Language need not be an impediment forever. Someone give her Mada’s email address. Google translate romance! Now that Shimoku-sensei has slipped in smartphones there’s an app for that. Even before this, cell phones in Japan could access live translation services for moderate charges, she did not have to rely on Ohno. Crossing vast distances to pursue your dreams is inherently heroic too. Sue got better at Japanese, Angela can as well. Long distance romances can strain the heart, but they can be wonderful. [1]

My bets are Sue x Hato, with Hato the rising fudanshi BL dojin star protegé of Ogiue and the next Genshiken president; Angela x Mada in a long distance relationship with Yajima and Rika as amused chorus watching the fun.

And then we would have room for some new characters.

Now I will wait a few months for Kio Shimoku to up-end this.

[1] Works for me, Ditto on the other thing too. 

I could take care of that for me

“So now that we’ve established that it’s okay as long as they look like girls, can someone recommend me some really good doujin?”
– Slavoj Žižek (on discovering an otokonoko thread on 4chan’s /a board)

As class-S girl-crush romance and fujoshi desire became the two main (and sometimes competing) enthusiasms available to young Japanese women in search of a safe venue for a bit of “getting out of hand“, the otokonoko/ josou genre appears to have found a complementary place in the hearts of male otaku, over-taking an earlier fascination with loli moe-blobs – first in Japan and then across the globe. Correspondents have noted that I have missed more than a few milestone manga, anime and games in the genre and even in its related manifestations in 3D hobbies. Well, I’m sure they will pop up when and if I am ready for them. Ain’t modern Japanese culture wonderful?

Careful lad, ya might be getting in over your head

Oh brave new world that hath such creatures in it! 

One thing that makes trap-genre josou genre (per previous, best to eschew the use of the insulting vernacular term) more attractive to the average otaku (Japanese or diaspora) is that the otokonoko avoids, or at least displaces the problems of the loli genre (though there appears to be significant bleed between the two). By “bringing home” their edgy, transgressive fantasies to a male-exclusive realm that is also further removed from 3D real-world correspondence, the otaku can at least push back the lurking shadows of “a certain bear“. According to the essay at Girl Comics (http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=96) (now wiped -try The Archive) the genre is fairly new: the example discussed developing out of a failed yaoi effort in 2006.

Real-life 3D members of the trans community find the genre obnoxious and insulting as all heck, but most pornography insults and offends some one. No offensiveness, no thrill. Some western fans play the bonus rounds in the shock and offend game like a pro sport, as can be seen in a sampling of the comments from recent otokonoko threads on 4chan’s notorious /a/ board:

>It’s not gay if they look like girls.

>It’s a girl penis. Plain and simple. Nothin’ gay about that.

>We haven’t derailed into discussing thermodynamics or convincing another Anon to have a threeway with a bunch of senior citizens. We’re getting there.

>How can you tell she loves you if she doesn’t have a raging foot long erection?

>So now that we’ve established that it’s okay as long as they look like girls, can someone recommend me some really good doujin?

>I never got the point of having this argument. Can’t you just fap to what you want? This is /a/, no one is going to give a shit if you’re gay or not.

>You still feel bad afterwards though. Also, it’s not gay if you wouldn’t do it in real life.

>Apparently your fetishes and what you wank it off to has to be labeled straight or gay.

>It’s because it disinters the repressed sexual urges you have for your mother.

>Oh fuck, no wonder. Thanks, Sigmund!

>Look it’s not gay to fap to girls with dicks, alright. You’re just fantasising about something feminine that has a little bit extra, nothing wrong there. It’s massively homo to think about sucking and getting fucked by said dicks though, and I’m way past that point already.

>But you’re still attracted to girls in real life, right? Right?

>Hey, anons. When it’s wearing a dress, it’s a girl.

>I want to fuck Rui’s boypussy!

>You want to fuck a tranny? gross!

>I think he’s cuter like that. No homo.

>It’s still gross but boypussies and dicks are way more pure than pussypussies.

>Where the fuck do you think you are? How do you accidentally stumble into /a/?

>It’s too late for me Anon, save yourself now.

>I can’t choose between yuri and girly boys, it’s too difficult.

>I bet you fags look at the tags before you fap.

>lol that’s such a profound statement I’m tempted to screencap your post for future re-posting.

>Girls can have penises, idiot. That’s how the manga makers draw them. It would be gay otherwise but it’s not. Female body + dick = female!

>Besides, feminine dicks are the best kinds of dicks.

>Get out of here you twink!

>Traps=/y/

>Traps have never been /y/, and /a/ has been gay for traps since before it was /a/.

>Degenerate you can’t even make your sexuality public without being hated.

>I like being hated.

>Do you read trap material because you want to fuck traps, or because you want to be the trap?

>This really is the best birthday ever. It’s not actually my birthday.

Vox populi, vox dei.  /a/ is of course the general anime forum, /y/ is the yaoi forum.

There is an art to the anonymous postings of 4chan and when a good run of shocking, provocative trolling and witty repartee gets going, folks are going to favor style over substance. Still the point is made, without dropping in a whole lot of critical theory speak about gender fluidity. Once again, the boys are busy making up new ideas about the feminine: they wouldn’t be hanging out on 4chan on a Saturday night if they had other things to do, n’est ce pas?

One has to stay focused when trying to tease some understanding from otokonoko genre’s popularity. Like the yaoi bishie, %100 pure genre otokonoko are a fantasy toy made up of the desires of their creators and -more importantly- devoid of the problematic aspects of the genders that were blendered to make them up. It would be a mistake, or at least distracting to let them slide into more realistic or even dramatic depictions of trans-like folk. Kio Shimoku might be dropping the tropes into Genshiken, but Hato-chan is not one. He is crossdressing, he may be edging towards some position within a trans* continuum, but he is not a fan-service ZOMG, panchu-with-bulge, all the boys want him no matter because he is so cute character – yet! I will stick with otomeyaku. Like Dr Tamaki’s Beautiful Fighting Girl, otokonoko spring into existence with little back story or reason to exist beyond their stated purpose. I would be surprised if there wasn’t already a few cross-overs from last decade’s fave otaku fixation to give us the Beautiful Fighting Otokonoko. If this sounds too Azuma-database-ish, remember that while the sentence grows more elaborate with a new vocabulary, the desires expressed remain within the same neighborhood.

Too cute to be a girl

After 400 high-school eroge dating sims, with obligatory harem bonus arcs after clearing all the characters, the thrill of a fantasy of dragging a bunch of lovestruck, wide-eyed moe-blob lolis off to the yurt must pale.

In the Genshiken-verse, Kio Shimoku has been sneaking in otokonoko genre tropes as a counterpoint to the fujoshi girls’ level up of pervy fantasy material. Simple loli dojins just aren’t going to cut it anymore. Quaint loli smut is for funny smelling old men. He has even dropped in Risa with her nasty tastes. Both Madarame and Kuchiki seem to be conversant with this new, even more obscene otaku fixation, and thanks to Kousaka’s company’s josou game, it is now lose in the story line.

Plot mojo, as always comes from the extreme liminality of the Hato character.  Once determined to ship himself as a BL seme with Madarame as uke, he now seems to be trying to interest Madarame in Hato-chan as a real-life otokonoko. No “trapping” or even josou-game outfits are needed: everything is above-board, fair and in the open, but Hato has a secret weapon!

The “I could take care of that for him” fugue moment has now been replaced with Hato-as-chan trying to out-feminine the girls (set your goals at an attainable level) of the Genshiken.

I don't trust those Bulgarian scanlators

In the yet to be translated Chapter 98, Hato-chan, chaperoned by Sue, cooks up a meal for the ailing Madarame at his flat. Behold the Genshiken Nadeshiko in full flower.  Even Keiko the hostess couldn’t be as accommodating, and she definitely wouldn’t make house calls! Waughh! Too domestic! I wish I could make out exactly how Sue is over- reacting.

What is Kio Shimoku doing?

Perhaps he is finally getting bored with the Genshiken opus: Hato will go full trans- fujoshi- I’m- only- gay- for- you and glomp onto Mada, and after lots of mutual blushing, the happy couple will stroll off into the sunset and the series will end.  Much fan rage to ensue.

I don’t buy it. For one thing, throwing away the comedic possibilities of even such a simple ending is like throwing away a bag of money.

Drawing is easy, comedy is hard.

Oh Fuck it! Engage play-set field !!!

Hato comes out as -chan on campus and the stuco boys make life difficult for the Genshiken. He seeks the help of the campus LGBTQ association, only to find that they do not share his view that otokonoko-fujoshi has a place in the queer spectrum. Hijinx ensue.

Hato comes is caught changing on campus by the stuco boys who threaten to make life difficult for the Genshiken unless Hato-as-chan joins the student government. Hijinx ensue.

As a new member of the stuco, Hato-chan has to go around to all the clubs and ensure their activities are in line with regulations. She begins to take notes on the various dramas and unrequited romances taking place, while Mada tags along. She uses her notes as materials for steamy BL dojins, all while being completely unaware that Madarame has developed strong feelings for her. Hijinx ensue

In an attempt to cut down on make-up time, Hato adopts a short-haired butch look while on-campus. Most of the student body, including the stuco boys think he is a girl crossdressing as a boy. Some find out the truth and are still smitten. With Risa and the rest of the fujoshi crew they run a Host Club as part of the school festival. Hijinx ensue.

Utso Lily's hero is getting more and more into girly-dom

Hato-chan decides that she needs official gender reassignment status and goes to Dr. Saito Tamaki’s clinic (or thinly veiled manga-verse analogue thereof) to try to persuade him that Fujoshi is a gender. Hijinx ensue.

Ogiue suddenly lands two separate manga contracts for monthly serialization and is overwhelmed. She hires all the current Genshiken members as part-time assistants and with coaching Hato gets better at drawing stories, rather than sex scenes; but they are still shorthanded. One afternoon whle taking a break in a nearby park, Ogiue, Hato, Yajima and Rika come across a drunk woman asleep on a park bench. By amazing coincidence it turns out to be Narumi- sensei, the only teacher at Ogiues high school who supported her (also a closetted fujoshi). Waking her up they hear her tale of woe; jilted, unemployed, about to be kicked out of her apartment. Ogiue decides to hire her as an assistant. Of course she is useless at production, though she cooks well. There is no room at Ogiue’s, so Hato is pressed into letting her freeload in his cramped apartment. Hijinx ensue.

A homicidal terrorist shows up on campus piloting a 40ft high mecha. Sue is revealed to be part of a world-wide mercenary force and de-cloaks her nearby parked mecha but is too distracted by Hato and Mada to be able to raise her psi-linked shields. Meanwhile the villain keeps insisting that Hato-chan is his “honey!”, and refers to Hato as “Kashim” between singing Schubert’s Ave Maria and smashing buildings. Mayhem ensues.

It turns out that Madarame made a pact with Satan-chan so that a cute girl would take his virginity, only… Hijinx ensue. In fact the entire moteki field effect is a demonic spell, but Madarame’s soul will never be collected. More hijinx…

Hato-chan convinces Madarame that she truly loves him and only him, but Mada can’t handle the idea of 3D intimacy, so they only exchange drool. Hijinx ensue.

Hato convinces Mada to go off with him on a three-week vacation to rural Japan, where they spend the time walking through the countryside, eating good wholesome food and making friends with interesting happy locals. Nothing much else happens. Fans cry Iyashikei and go into rage mode.

Hato will drop out of University and get a job teaching at an exclusive girl’s school, but has to crossdress in order to keep the job. Hijinx ensue.

Madarame rejects Hato-chan, who then decides that she will move to Spain and learn bullfighting, so as to die in the ring. Small dead bulls ensue.

Hato eventually confesses to Mada and in a moment of alcohol fueled passion
they attempt intimacy. What follows is the clumsiest, most inept attempt at
man-love ever. Both are too embarassed to try anything further or even talk
much to each other after. Years pass, Japan’s economy gets worse. Mada messed up his career and a marriage, Hato decided he really was gay and liked crossdressing, but has had a hard life of it. They meet again, both homeless they hang out together, sometimes with a snotty self distructive street kid girl who reminds them a bit of Ogiue, back in better days. On Christmas eve, Hato- chan finds a baby in a dumpster. Redemption ensues.

Hato inherits a crumbling old-style rooming house near the University from a long-lost uncle and decides to run it as miss landlady. The fujoshi crew moves in and then Madarame shows up with a 6 year-old daughter, apparently the result of a long-suppressed/ forgotten sexual assault by a beautiful, strong, high-school yankee girl. Heartwarming Ikumen story ensues.

Madarame almost gets killed when he unexpectedly runs into Saki fighting with scary cosplayers. Near death, he is revived by drinking some of Saki’s blood: it turns out that Saki is so worldly because she is a 400 year old loli vampire. Despite newly gained super powers, Madarame remains incredibly uncoordinated and Hato must tag along on Mada’s patrols to give him martial arts lessons. Hato cannot decide whether he should be Mada’s male friend or a cute girl. Hijinx ensue.

And then Hegel famously wrote..., HOLY SHIT THE WALL !!!!

Hato-chan goes to a Slavoj Zizek conference at a neighboring university and a terrorist bomb goes off. She falls, hits her head and revives a few moments later to see a wall about to collapse on the famous philosopher. Suddenly aware that she can remember her past lives and that she knows magic, she invokes a teleportation spell. Zizek disappears.

She then remembers more of her past lives and realizes that Zizek was sent to a parallel world where he ended up restored to his youth, apprenticed to a wizard, succeeding the wizard, dying of old age, being reincarnated- with- full- past- lives- memories as a powerful witch, dying again after mucking about with a powerful magic artifact and being reborn back in Japan as Hato. Hato-chan now gets to be a magical girl and the reincarnation of the world’s most grumpy, media-savvy Hegelian philosopher. Hijinx and bad philosophy jokes ensue.

girl archers make the best boy archers, except when...

Hato is invited by Madarame to spend a few weeks in a hill town near Kyoto with distant relatives – who turn out to be very conservative and suspicious horse breeders. They are also devotees of the traditional Shinto ritual of mounted archery – Yabusame. Due to a lack of young men interested in the sport, the nearby girl’s college has been re-training their equestrian team as cross-dressing archers for an upcoming festival, but one of the girls has taken a bad fall, injuring herself. Hato insists that he know how to ride, and can learn enough archery in time for the festival, and can cross-cross-dress to blend in, but the club captain and Mada’s uncle and aunt prohibit him from doing anything more than acting as a groom for the horses. Uncle and aunt remain very suspicious and are sure that he will try to sneak in some riding practice instead of just minding the horses- especially the most high-spirited and unpredictable horse on the ranch, the horse that threw the team captain’s friend, nicknamed “Dirty”.

One afternoon Hato is out in the field, cross- cross- dressed as a girl, dressing as a medieval horse groom boy, horse minding with Mada – who just sits under a tree reading manga. Hato gets bored and notices a big old tractor tire in the field. Dirty is just eating grass and waving its tail at flies. Hato up-ends the tire and climbs inside. The tire starts moving – the field isn’t flat. Can’t stop. Madarame starts shouting and chasing after Hato in the tire. Auntie and Uncle run outside to check on what the commotion is. They see him rollin’…. They hatin’….  Patrolling… Trying to catch Hato riding Dirty.

Must stop now… Hope someone posts a ch98 synopsis real soon…
Whew! Thanks! I was about to add something that involved Hato, Madarame and the 
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.