Usotsuki Winnegan

…and now for something useful.

The polls results from the previous post are in. As of this time of writing, I have received the expected 3 votes and will therefore do a blog post on whatever I want.

What I want to blog about right now is nothing to do with the discourse or my clumsy attempts at kitchen sink gender studies on obscure anime and manga. Instead, please enjoy this:

PANDEMIC LOCKDOWN TRAILER PARK WINE MAKING POST,

…complete with considered tips, shortcuts and pointers on where to find equipment online and in back alleys.

I won’t even try to monetise the equipment links (much). This project is a lazy n cheap challenge. Since it has worked(!) blogging about it will be a good change of pace, even if it has none of the Japan-resonance of the “farm sake” post from a few years back.

The process of producing 5 US gallons/ 19L of cheap, potable red-ish wine should take about 1 month from start to drinking too much and realising how little joy you derive from shitposting on Twitter. There are scores of Youtube videos that more or less follow/ inform this recipe/ process, I only strive to confirm their suggestions, add pointers and warnings and cut to the bucket scenes.

The most important part of the project is securing rudimentary equipment and supplies, well in advance and as inexpensively as possible – for free and/or from what dollar stores and grocery stores are still open, during these times of lockdown restrictions and retail closures.

The other reason for this post is that I tried my hand at lockdown sourdough bread-making and ended up with a fence-post.

In the past, I have had scant luck with homebrewing; a good batch of beer now and again, a batch of farm sake (I’m out of koji), etc., interspaced with unpleasant, sometimes unhealthy failures. Yes, 19L of Chinese rice wine is half the cost in materials of the cheapest red wine hack, but if it messes up, you will end up with 5 (US) gallons of weapons-grade vomitoxin. The sediment is like cement — don’t try to flush it down the toilet.

Meanwhile the red wine recipe keeps turning out well!

Bucket Kaidashi Kikō

Here’s the supply list. The ‘why’ and alternatives/ upgrades will follow as I wend through the process.

Buckets! You need a few 5 or 6 (US) gallon plastic food grade buckets. For ONE 19L/ 5 (US) gallon batch, you will need 3, preferably 4 clean buckets. A lid that fits at least one is handy but not mandatory. I look for food-grade pails behind restaurants and delis. Read the label, avoid buckets that contained cleaners, etc. You can also buy these new for $5-10 at home centers or even your fave wine/ beer-making supply store — if it is not closed for the lockdown. Free is better, neh?

One of the buckets may be replaced by a 5 gallon/ 19L etc., plastic water cooler jug, or 2 disposable 4 gallon/ 15L PET plastic bottled water jugs.

Later, if you get hardcore, you can hunt down glass carboys (big clumsy bottles) but for now, these will do fine. Resist the urge to pick up any “large wine making bottles” on craigslist/ Kijiji. A 14 gallon “demijohn” weighs over 100 lbs when full.

Similarly, if you are going to go through the hassle of making wine, invest a month or more of waiting, making batches smaller than 4 or 5 (US) gallons feels like… I donno; baking two cupcakes.

Cleaning & sanitizing: Liquid bleach and a small tub of dollar-store oxyclean(er) powder.


Later you can hunt down metabisulfite powder/ tablets and even the legendary and costly Star-san… Later.

First Disclaimer: beer/ wine brewing hobbyists who have chanced upon this have already gone into rage mode. I’ve seen videos where homebrewers measure things out in lab beakers and sanitize everything with over-proof grain alcohol.
Yo! If I had over-proof grain alcohol… Yes, plastic buckets and jugs/ carboys can absorb stuff, Bleach can get into plastic pores, Star-san is best, better to boil everything, wear PPE, buy glass containers, stainless steel fittings and turn that corner of your basement or kitchen into a clean room.

Or not…

This is why am I geeked on cheap red plonk. It seems to be a lot more forgiving than other fermentables. It could be the acidity of the grape stock, it could just have been dumb luck on my part but so far so good. Don’t let me stop you from watching scores of Youtube videos and obsessively over-cleaning/ sanitizing everything; all I am happy to report is that the process has been far more forgiving, for me, so far. It has also worked for a friend who has followed my process, so I have seen replicable results. Hooray!

A long handled bottle brush – dollar store
A plastic sink tub – dollar store

A siphon hose: I’ve had good luck with a $2 fuel pump/ siphon. Try dollar and discount auto-parts stores. Its cousin, the aquarium drain hose-siphon-pump looks promising. Something with a 3/8″/ 9.5mm hose diameter is about right. As long as you can more or less see through it when you use it and clean it.

 

Make a stirring/ degassing wand: buy a package of long stainless steel BBQ skewer(s) from the dollar store and affix 4 nylon zip ties to the loop end of one of them, to use with an electric drill. Also required, one electric drill.

Cling wrap/ film/ “Saran” wrap: One roll, dollar store brand sufficient.

A turkey baster. – dollar store.

Twine, heavy rubber bands, tape, marker, rags, sponge, misc kitchen utensils.

A fermentation “airlock”. You can try to scare up a few proper fermentation airlocks, as well as the corks that go with them and fit the wide mouth of your “carboy”/ water cooler bottle. You fill these with just enough water so that carbon dioxide produced during fermentation can bubble out but air cannot be sucked back in. The airlocks themselves are usually cheap. The big silicone stoppers — yikes!

Or you can cut a few inches off a pool noodle and/or monkey something up with long party balloons. More on this below. The old old-school substitute airlock; a condom has been depreciated.

Wine yeast. You absolutely must get your hands on proper, if inexpensive alcohol-tolerant wine yeast. It should not cost you more than $1-2 a pack. You only need one pack per batch (yeast multiplies). Check for any active online presence of local wine/ beer making shops and if they are all closed, with none offering web/phone orders and curbside pickup, consider ordering a 10 pack from Amazon.

For your first few batches, the default North American choice should either be the Lalvin EC-1118 or the slightly more interesting K1-V1116. The latter will also give you a bit more complexity. Both have enough alcohol, sugar and temperature tolerance to survive less than perfect conditions and even rescue/ restart a botched/ stuck fermentation. If you use bread yeast, you wine will smell like bread and will stall, still full of sugar at %6-7 ABV (alcohol by volume). The two yeasts mentioned above can theoretically tolerate up to %18 ABV, though we will be aiming for wine in the %11- %13 range.

Yeast nutrient: If making an Amazon, etc. order or if you found a supply store that is still doing business during the lockdown you could spring for some yeast nutrient powder. You need a spoonful per batch, so it goes a long way. There are cheap alternatives, so this is optional.

Bentonite: A form of food-grade clay powder. Helps clump the yeast at the bottom of the container. Not absolutely necessary but helpful. Supply store or mail order. Optional.

Shellfish gel clearing agent. Not really needed, $3-4 for a pouch at a supply store or on Amazon, your call, optional, details below.

Metabisulphite powder/ Campden tablets. You will need a spoonful/ crushed couple of tablets per batch, near the end. Supply store or mail order. Optional.

Glass wine bottles, corker, washer and corks. Do you really want to do this? I would suggest bottling your first batch in whatever plastic pop, sports drink, water and /or juice bottles you have lying around. Corked wine bottles and corking machines can wait.

Grapeness:

Raw, picked grapes. NO. You do not want to do this. NO.

Budget “makes 25 bottles” red wine kit. These are reassuring, if you can get one at a good price. $40 is good, over $60 is beginning to defeat the purpose of the exercise. Go buy your wine retail or sign up at a still-operating we-brew operation for their “wedding special”, let them do all the work and get 25 bottles of merlot for appx $120 — which is still cheaper than the local retail alternative (due to the taxes) around here. Your mileage will vary. Also a good time to Google the local regulations on homebrewing in your neck of the woods.

Home brewing is illegal in Japan. Also no-name wine is insanely cheap. Don’t bother with any of this if you are in Japan.

The advantage of the kits, even the economy ones is that they come with tiny packs of yeast, nutrient, bentonite, metabisulphite, and clearing agent, as well as a big bladder of grape juice concentrate. Also an instruction sheet checklist. The advantage of the we-brew service is that they do all the grunt work and filter the heck out of your wine before they bottle it, so that it is pretty.

If buying a kit on Amazon read the fine print, enlarge the box pictures and read the comments. There are 1 gallon kits being misrepresented in the descriptions as 5 gallon kits. “Ooops we somehow left the old description in. Please send it back…”

Or… Try a better way:

8-10 x 1.87L / 64oz/ 1/2 US gal jugs of grocery store “%100” Grape Juice. I shit you not. Get whatever store brand is cheapest; under $3/ per. You will need to add one 2.2kg (In the US, a 4lb) bag of white sugar but that’s another $1-$2. You can be daring and do one and a half bags (6+lbs) So figure, with careful shopping appx CA$26 -$28 for the juice, sugar and yeast. You can also sub out the last few gallons of the mix with a cheaper apple-grape blend, just stick to “%100” juice. If you can find “white” grape juice on sale for less than regular, use it. I have not found frozen concentrate to be anywhere near as inexpensive as the big plastic bottles of store brand grape juice.

Will it work? In a side-by side comparison, a batch made with grocery grape was stronger and had more complexity that the wine from an economy Merlot kit. The kit option at $60, including initial equipment and supplies yields wine at appx $2.50 per 750ml bottle. The grocery store juice version is a further one-third to one-half cheaper with further economies available from serial batch production.

While at the grocery store, also buy a box of raisins.

You are now ready to commit winery.

Warning/ Disclaimers:

1) The FIRST time you drink your plonk, your digestive system might have to acclimate itself to whatever yeast residue is left in the bottle, unless you really, really went to town with the pre-bottling metabisulphite treatment. You may experience a mild laxative effect (to put it diplomatically) This only happens once, thenceforth you are acclimatised and immune.

2) If this works out and especially if you follow my tips on serial batch production, you will in a few months end up with 10, 15, 20 gallons of serviceable plonk nouveau. You will have more than enough wine to go with dinner but also, an unreasonably large supply of wine to sip after a long day of going out kayaking, doing chores around the house and baking your head (and body) under the hot sun.

At this point I STRONGLY ADVISE laying in multiple cases of budget sports drinks. Do not use your plonk reserves to quench your summer thirst — even if you dilute it with fizzy stuff to make “coolers”. Alcohol is highly addictive and even in low doses can cause emotional displays, mood swings, melancholy, heartburn and social fail – especially when one is starved for human engagement during these long months of lockdown.

The lockdown, what one friend calls social distortion (he probably meant to say social distancing but the sobriquet stuck) might be a perfect opportunity to take up the wine-making hobby but it is also a terrifyingly powerful force multiplier for all manner of emotional and behavioral afflictions.

TLDR: Careful with that cask, Mr. Amontillado. The eventuality of moderation is a best drinking experience. Please wish compete a short survey when our representatives have done to you?

You think I am overdoing this warning? Another friend who has been following my pandemic wine-making project just inherited a complete assortment of equipment and supplies from someone who gave it all up after getting out of rehab. The combo of readily available booze and pandemic lockdown anxiety and isolation are an entirely new and dangerous mix. This is not “can’t hold yar liquor” These are dangerous times. Maybe I should stop this post here, lest I grease someone’s rails to hell…

Neh… One can always make the next batch weaker. It’s summer, cash is tight…

Let’s do this!

Clean your best and biggest bucket; the one with the lid, plus one other. Scrub it down well in the laundry tub or bathtub or shower stall with very dilute dish detergent, rinse, rinse again, then again. Fill to 1/4 full, add a tablespoon or two of oxy-clean powder and a dash of bleach. Sponge the entire inside and outside of the bucket repeatedly with this mix, then rinse and rinse again. Pour off the cleaner mix into bucket #2, clean it next. This also is a good time to fill the buckets to 19 L or 20L or 5 gallons or whatever from a measured pitcher and make level marks on the outside of your fave buckets.

“Oxy-clean” powder is a “percarbonate”. Way kewl and incidentally one of the few safe at-home ways to get mildew spots out of antique fabrics, like kimonos. Dab, blot, repeat. It releases free oxygen from a peroxide when mixed with water and the sodium carbonate is an old-school laundry soap/ soap booster. Their ready availability and low cost have made things a lot easier for home-brewers:

“Percarbonates are a relatively new group of cleaning chemicals. Percarbonates are a combination of sodium carbonate and hydrogen peroxide, (and other secret ingredients, which is basically what separates them from each other) and they effectively remove dirt and deposits from all types of beer and wine making equipment. Percarbonates work with active oxygen and a mild alkali to help lift the grime. The hydrogen peroxide does provide some degree of sanitization, but it is better to rely on them only as cleaners. One of the best properties of the percarbonate family is that they are environmentally and septic system friendly.”
— Simplifying Cleaning and Sanitizing for Home Winemakers
https://www.baderbrewing.com/content/simplifying-cleaning-and-sanitizing-home-winemakers

Welcome to the Tao of homebrewing; %90 of it is “doing dishes” on a bulky and inconvenient scale. Fortunately, for simple plonk you do not have to go to extremes. Wash your “dishes” then wipe repeatedly with the Oxy-bleach mix. Rinse well. Later, consider dropping $25- $35 for a bottle of Star-san; it sterilizes everything and food-safely self-degrades so you don’t even have to rinse. A few millimeters makes gallons of working solution. Everyone loves Star-san. Maybe one day I’ll splurge for some.

Into a glass of warm, not hot water, empty the yeast pack. let it sit while you are prepping. You can give it a stir in 10 minutes. Not hot; hot will kill the yeast.

Water considerations: I use tap water. Around here the tap water is fairly benign; heavily filtered and treated water from the Great Lakes, lightly chlorinated and ozonated to 11 at the filtration plant. If your municipal water is hard, weird, full of iron or otherwise troublesome you need to either get out the Brita filter pitcher or spend a few bucks more for 2 gallons of bottled water. If the last case, get one of those big single-use 15L/ 4 US gallon jugs — it will come in handy later. Also, if you spot any of these out during recycling day, grab ’em. Don’t mess with the tops for now, we’ll deal with those soon enough.

Grape Juice time! Into the big clean bucket goes your eight, nine (tight for a 5 gallon batch) or ten (for a 6 gallon batch) big bottles of grape juice. As previously mentioned, you can bulk out the last 2-3 gallons with discount apple-grape mix, if you cleaned out the grocery store shelves and only scored 5 or 6 big juice bottles.It is not hard to find 1L of “%100” apple-grape juice mix for under a dollar.

If you managed to get any, add 1-2 tablespoons of bentonite. Stir while adding and pouring; a kitchen spatula works for me.

Add 1 tablespoon of yeast nutrient powder. If you could not find any, you can use the old-school substitute; boiled mashed raisins. Boil 1/4 cup of dried raisins in a cup of water. Mush them up well or puree with a stick blender then toss the mix into the pail.

If you bought a budget wine-making kit, the process is similar, but you have dumped in a huge bladder-bag of concentrated grape juice along with the packets of bentonite and nutrient. Depending on the wine “type” they may have also provided a small bag of toasted wood chips, for an “oak” taste. I have yet to try this, but winemaking supply stores sell small bags of oak-ish chips for a few bucks. One of these days I will either try a bag or swipe a handful of Starbucks stir-sticks and lightly oven-toast them, before I chuck them into my bucket. Or not.

Continue adding the grape juice. Collect the empty bottles. Fill each with a few ounces of hot tap-water, shake well to get the residue, drain into the second bucket. Now eyeball how much room is left in the first bucket, from the juice level to your fill line.

Add less than your guesstimate of this amount of HOT water (I have used either boiled or hot tap water) to the second bucket. Pour in the entire 2.2kg/ 4 lb bag (or more if ambitious) of white sugar. Stir well with the spatula — avoid scalding yourself if you used boiling water. The sugar will dissolve very easily. Tip the sugar mix into the juice bucket.

Stir lightly.

Pour in the glass of water with the dissolved yeast.

Add more water to bring the mix to your fill line. We were going for 19L/ 5 US gallons but you can try for a few litres more if you have a 6 gallon bucket. Just don’t fill your bucket right to the rim. Leave an inch of headspace for foam.

Cover the bucket with plastic cling wrap, overlapping it and securing the edges over the rim with thick rubber bands strung together or some combination of twine and rubber bands. Loosely put on the bucket lid if you have it.

Depending on the yeast and the temperature of where you are going to hide your bucket for the next few weeks, the mix should start to ferment and bubble vigorously within a day or less. Cool basements/ garages in winter and spring take longer.

Here’s where the choice of yeast is important:

Note the recommendations and limits for the Lalvin k1-v1116 and ec-1118 strains. Nice wide temperature range, high tolerance for weirdness. Lalvin yeasts are very common in North America. The Red Star varieties are second most common and have corresponding analogues:

Per Wine Yeast Selection Charts at
http://www.techniquesinhomewinemaking.com/home%20winemaking%20yeast%20strains.html

Here are the official write-ups on both strains:

Lalvin K1-V1116
https://www.dannyswineandbeer.com/collections/wine-yeasts/products/lalvin-k1-1116-yeast

Lalvin EC-1118
https://www.dannyswineandbeer.com/collections/wine-yeasts/products/lalvin-ec-1118-yeast

If you cannot find any locally, Amazon is your best bet. eBay might be an option but you should pretty much rule out any very long-distance orders unless you are way off the beaten track. Too long a delivery wait, too high a cost.

Within a few days the bucket should be bubbling away vigorously. Fermentation gives off carbon dioxide, which is heavier than air and therefore forms a protective gas blanket over the surface of the brew. Purists would insist on a tight-fitting lid, silicone cork and brewer’s airlock but this is a bucket of sugary grape juice, not a pressurised light water nuclear reactor. You merely need to keep most of the CO2 in, letting the excess safely bleed out while keeping molds, vinegar yeasts and tiny, hungry insects out.

After 4 to 7 days, get out the long, stainless steel BBQ skewer and tighten 4 nylon zip ties to the loop end. Lookie at the long ends of the ties hanging free. You just saved a bundle on a “wine whip”. Bend the loop end as needed to prevent them slipping off. Rinse clean. The primary use will be the later “degassing” but since the batch could use a good stir, we can take the opportunity to put it together and test it out. Tighten it into the electric drill chuck, loosen the rubber bands on the bucket rim, peel back the cling wrap and give the brew a good mixing. Or you can give it a stir by hand with your favorite spatula, broomstick or tire iron.

Seal everything back up.

A week more or when the bubbling appears to have calmed down, clean and sanitise (per previous) a second bucket or the water cooler jug(s)”. Today’s task will be to siphon off the brew into a second container without disturbing too much of whatever yeast gunk has sunk to the bottom of the bucket. Carefully hoist the bucket up on a chair, crate or counter, position the new bucket or jug below it and siphon away. Having someone to help is a plus or you can try some nifty aquarium tools, clamps, coathangers or whatever else you can gimmick up to keep the siphon hose from flying loose and squirting wine all over the floor. Siphon hoses are known to be possessed by minor demons — you have been warned.

Start the siphon, holding the supply end a few inches below the surface of the mix. This will take a while, don’t cramp out. Siphon down to 1″/ 12mm from the bottom of the pail. Leave the rest.

We now pause for monetisation:

The only way I can get ANY kickback from steering you towards online commerce is if you are a new sign-up on Aliexpress. We both get some cash-value coupons. Aliexpress item affiliate links expire too soon and any items that would offer me the chance to shill for them are overpriced compared to other sellers selling the same goods. I will post pictures and typical descriptions. It is recommended you run deep searches to find price and shipping cost options that work for you on each item.

Aliexpress newbies, please sign up using my referral codes: https://a.aliexpress.com/_d7FtAkU  or INSNGUZM from the app in the “redeem invite code” section.

If you make your purchase via their smartphone app, even if you use the browser version to search, the cost will be a a percentage point or two cheaper. The app also features annoying promotions, seller discounts, games, daily time wasters and more coupons. There are two types of Aliexpress coupon: the “select” version is all but useless. There are also Aliexpress app “coins” that are useless, except for when the site is running one of their periodic site-wide events — then there might be a chance to exchange “coins” for general coupons. All this may sound ridiculous but one can knock %20- %30 off the cost of an order by going overboard on discounts and coupons.

You can inexpensively build up a good stock of equipment if willing to plan ahead and deal with shipping delays that can stretch out for a month or two. If you start to run serial batches, getting extra equipment cheap really helps the budget. Price estimates are listed in Canadian dollars and include shipping.

However:

Aliexpress can still be a tiny bit shadier than other ecommerce sites. Watch out for listings that suggest multiples/ lots but the buried text description states: “Included: one thing”.

Sellers will occasionally attempt to wiggle out of sales, ask for extra shipping fees and they will want YOU to do the cancelling because if they do so, they earn strikes against their stores. You reply, you lose. Most of the time when you ignore their messages, they ship per your purchase. 

Saving an item to your watch list must alert a seller because the number of times a saved item has jumped from “free shipping” to an extra shipping charge has become tedious. Use the “wish list” function instead.

The dispute process is far less customer-weighted than eBay’s and photo/ video proof is indispensable when the product arrives broken or completely different from the description. Shady sellers will try side-settlements and beg for you to cancel disputes and let them re-ship a lost or damaged item. Once you are out of the protection plan you are SOL. Fortunately, we are buying simple items, not clothing (size and material hell), so things are slightly more straightforward. It is extremely rare that the dispute process demand that you ship an item back — never try: it will vanish into the ether and you will never receive your refund. Aliexpress handles the payments and any refunds — they have never messed up my credit card.

Even Amazon has been known to harbor shady sellers. Once I ordered a laptop battery and was sent a woman’s blouse. Much time had to be spent on support chat but in the end I got my refund, without having to ship a baggy polyester Hawaii style print back to China. Guess what a relative got on their next birthday.

Here are some bits of equipment you can find on Aliexpress:

Fuel pump siphon. If you cannot find one locally, they run around CA$2.00

Aquarium drain hose: These run a buck more but look far better for winemaking. Still waiting for mine to show up.

Aquarium hose clamp: OMG! Something to keep that siphon hose in place! Plenty available for around $1.00 each.

Bottle washer nozzle: These are fun if you have a basement laundry tub or a kitchen sink that you can unscrew the aerator from — and whose internals will not leak all over the place when under back-pressure. You push on the bottle, which opens a valve to spray the insides of the bottle. CA$6- $10

Fermentation airlocks: You local wine/ beer -making supply store probably has a bin of these for under $2 ea but since you are up too late ordering gear, you can pick up a few more for appx CA$1 ea.

Water cooler bottle stoppers: Note how these have the pop-in centers. These can be drilled out to fit the shaft of a fermentation airlock. Easy to clean too, you should be able to order in a lot of 10 for under $5.00, while a proper silicone stopper, with a hole to fit your airlock shaft can run $8-$10 each at your local supply store.

Hydrometer: Fun but optional and somewhat difficult to order. The kits that come with 2 or 3 units and a thermometer come in a case and have a slightly higher chance of surviving shipment. They are calibrated to give estimates of alcohol strength and are useless when you are trying to follow a precise recipe on a hobby winemaking site.

Here’s the deal. Water by itself has a “specific gravity” of 1.00. Under this you have alcohol and very little sugar left in the mix. Over, your mix is still full of unfermented sugar. Unfortunately, most of the sellers who sell the “specific gravity” or “3-scale version” for under $5, can’t pack their goods to save their lives. They think the flimsy plastic case that it comes with, plus bubble-wrap and scrap cardboard will be sufficient.

Nope. So this one is an optional purchase. I’m waiting on one of the kits, which might survive the great passage.

Bottling cane/ filler wand: These things are REALLY handy. Note the spring-loaded valve tip. You jam the open end into your 3/8″ ID siphon hose. Once you get your siphon primed, insert the wand into an empty bottle, press down and the valve opens to fill. Release and move to the next bottle. Under CA$4. or try this homemade version: https://www.instructables.com/id/Bottle-Filler-Wand/

Siphon rod: The most elegant pro-hobbyist siphon trick. Note the piston inside the tube which you slide up and down to pump-start the siphon. $12-$20

Hand-type corker: This will probably be the first corker you purchase. Under $20. A real pain to use but can do the job — after you have destroyed many corks and a few bottles to learn its quirks. I hate these things with a passion.

Bulk corks: The local supply store sells clean, new corks for appx 20 cents ea. You can sometimes find cheaper on Aliexpress but usually the shipping cost kills the deal. Good hunting.

Aquarium heater. This is for cold-weather wine-making, cold basements and garages. The official solution is a wrap-around heating pad but if these things can sit submerged with the fishies for years, they can handle some grape juice. Built-in adjustable thermostat, 25W or 50W units can be found for under $10.

 

The second raid:

You have transferred your wine and left behind an inch or more of sediment/ wine sludge in the first bucket. If using a second bucket, seal it as before. If using a carboy (or two) things will get interesting. Theoretically, this is where a well-fitting 50mm silicone stopper with a hole in the center for the brewer’s fermentation lock is supposed to come into play. The airlocks themselves are $1-$2 at brew supply stores or online. The big stoppers cost considerably more and are harder to find.

The cheapest substitute is a long party balloon. Stretch over the carboy mouth and make a small hole in the other end. The balloon should remain mostly flat but allow gas to escape while preventing air and bugs from getting in.

Stopper substitutes:
Cut off a 2-3″ section of foam pool noodle and jam it into the carboy mouth. Bulk up the shaft of the brewer’s airlock with cling wrap to fit the compressed hole in the middle.

On water jug caps:

The caps on big and small “water-cooler” jugs are meant to be single-use. You tip the bottle over into the water cooler cradle, a sharp pipe-end pierces the center cut-out and water is supplied without fuss or mess. When you find a disposable 15L PET water cooler bottle it will usually still have its cap. This cap is gold, or at least worth a buck or more at someplace that has a purified water refill station.

If you look closely though, you can see that these caps (often) have peel-away sides. Once removed, the cap can still make a sufficient press-seal on the water bottle spout. Trim away some of the center cut-out and start playing with a drill and a wine-cork to make an insert stopper that will fit your airlock.

Now you have a reusable, easy to clean stopper and airlock solution. You can also order in 10 packs of better designed reusable caps form Aliexpress for under $5. These have their own center-plugs that can be modified to fit the airlock shaft.

For secondary or second-round fermentation, most hardcore wine hobbyists seem set on jugs/ carboys. Unlike the first round, minimizing air surface contact at the top of the mix is given as the reason, but what of the CO2 layer? Huh? Wine in big jugs looks like wine-making.

Now what?

If you had a hygrometer – a floaty calibrated glass thingy that costs too much and is guaranteed to get smashed in the mail if ordered from afar, you could gage the amount of sugar left in the brew and devine some notion of the alcohol strength, now that you are some 2 weeks into the project.

Or you could pull some wine with the turkey baster and taste it. Too sweet? It needs more time. Remember, this is very nouveau wine, so it will be yeasty and will have weird taste notes. These will resolve in the next few weeks. For now your only concerns are: how sweet, how strong?

Too sweet, no more bubbling at all the next few days? Your fermentation is “stuck”. Add 1/2 a pack more of yeast (dissolved per instructions) and cross your fingers. This has never happened for me but that is the recommended fix. Of course you use one of the above tolerant yeasts for this.

Meanwhile… you have an inch or two of wine and sludge sitting in the bottom of bucket #1. While you were busy, I hope you re-covered it to keep the fruit flies out.

Rinse well and flush down the toilet. Clean the bucket.

OR

Start a second batch by pouring in another round of ingredients, minus the yeast — you have plenty , yeast multiplies. Stir well, contemplate your EMPIRE OF WINE. Go wild and do half grape, half apple (apple is the cheaper juice) For now, avoid trying to do a %100 apple juice cider; ale yeasts are better for cider and I have found that second-batching for cider can lead to odd aftertastes. Half-n-half makes a nice light summer wine. You can also ease off on the sugar for a summer wine. With all that dormant yeast on the bottom of the pail, fermentation should take off fast. Wow, lookie at it froth!

If you are doing this in winter or in a cold climate, schedule half as much again for the times. Double if your fermentation pails/ jugs are in a chilly winter basement/ garage. Consider a blanket heater or even a submersible stainless steel aquarium heater to keep the mix at 20- 24C. Fermentation will probably stop dead under 50F/ 10C, so finding some heating solution in a cold situation is mandatory.

A week or two more passes:

Bubbling has almost stopped, though you can bang the sides of the container and see carbonation released. The turkey baster taste-test gives a dry-ish taste and a noticeable alcoholic warmth. Time once again to “rack” your mix, transferring it to a new bucket to leave behind another inch or so of sediment. This time you will siphon to a pail because you will also be…

De-gassing your wine

Degassing is one of those odd little tricks that newbie wine-makers often skip or skimp on. You do not want to do it in a jug/ carboy — it will foam over big time. You have been warned. I laugh at you when you remember my warning as you mop up your mess.
To degass in a bucket, you could sit for 20 minutes, stirring with a long wooden spoon, but the electric drill BBQ skewer “wine whip” is far more effective. Get the drill and zip-tied skewer ready, give the mix a good motorised stir, let the foam settle and repeat a few more times every 3 minutes. You want to release as much CO2 as you can, this will significantly improve the finished taste. When you are satisfied that you have a flat brew, you can leave it in the bucket to settle or transfer it again into a newly cleaned jug/ carboy.

What of the sludge from racking #2? Why not pitch it into the second batch? Live dangerously, start yet another batch? Or flush it; your choice.

You are into the home stretch. Let it settle a day before bottling. You can also choose to kill the fermentation by adding a spoonful of metabisulphite/ a couple of crushed Campden tablets. Note that some folks are sensitive to/ avoid on principle sulphite additives in their diets. The sulphite step is optional. I have used it and skipped it. A kit will also give you a small pack of sorbate preservative to use at this time. I never saw the point of this but if you are doing the kit, you might as well use it.

ALSO; a few hours after adding the metabisulphite you can, if you splurged for the shellfish goo clearing agent, gently pour it in. The goo forms a film that slowly sinks through the wine, clumping residue along with it, until it hits bottom and stays there. Extra rackings at 24 hour intervals are a passable substitute for clearing agents but the wine risks exposure to stray yeasts/ molds if you kill the ferment, though this is less likely if you can taste a strong alcohol ‘warmth’ in your brew.

It might be good idea to also put the jug/pail up on a chair, ready for bottling before leaving the wine to settle for the last 24-48 hours. Less chance of disturbing the container after it has settled.

Time sensitivity:

One nice thing about red wine is that, unless your brewing area is miserably hot, you can drag the process out somewhat, if you have other things to do. It took three weeks of secondary ferment to get around to racking and degassing? No biggie. Settling for a week because you didn’t want to bottle today either? Fine… Acidity and growing alcohol content gives you leeway to fit the process to your whims. The only thing that can screw you up is a long stretch of miserable hot summer weather and even then, during the first 2-3 weeks it helps. Just guard against insects. Keep the exteriors of the fermentation pails/ jugs clean, airlocks, stoppers and lids tight, resist the urge to sample too often.

Bottling:

Get out your last 2 buckets. Fill one halfway with water, add a splash of bleach. Ready your bottles; 64oz/ 1.87L juice bottles, plastic sports drink and pop bottles, even wine bottles (if you have a corker).

Lightly rinse each bottle from a tap, submerge and fill the bottle in the bleach water pail, cap and shake, drain back into the pail, rinse from the tap with warm water, place empty, inverted, caps removed, in second pail. Repeat until you have 19L/ 5 gallons of bottle capacity. Large bottles are handy in the fridge. PET plastic pop bottles can take pressure, which is helpful if you skipped the metabisulphite, some residual sugar remains in the wine and a tiny bit of fermentation continues after bottling.

Siphon the wine into the bottles. Use the dollar store sink tub to catch spills. A filling wand is handy here but you can always pinch the hose and/ or raise the receiving bottle to limit the flow while you change out bottles. It is essential to keep the supply end of the siphon away from the bottom where the sediment has collected. As the bottom of the bucket/ jug contains the shellfish goo and yeast sludge, you will sacrifice the last inch of it. The bottle right before the lee-end is yours to refrigerate, and then “baptise” your digestive system with. The effect should be noticeable but brief. As well, the yeast is rich in B complex vitamins. Some folks pay money for pills that unclog their pipes, imagine that! Enjoy some extra cheesy pizza with a glass of your new plonk. Warn friends about the sediment if you gift them with a bottle.

Congratulations! You have committed winemaking.

If you skipped killing your ferment with metabisulphite, cooling your wine in the fridge before drinking, especially in the case of lee-end bottles will “cold-crash” it, helping to settle out the remaining sediment and further clearing the wine. Pour gently, consider transferring to a second bottle after a day in the fridge, once again sacrificing the lees on the bottom of the first bottle. As with many work-a-day red wines, letting the wine “breathe” before drinking helps gas off residual esters that taste/ smell a bit weird. Even a month of aging removes these and improves the taste of considerably.

Store the other bottles in a cool dark place. A week later, release pressure on any screw top bottles just in case. You may wish to store them all, stacked in one of the 5 gallon pails if you fear continued fermentation and the dreaded “bottle bomb”. Sports drink bottles will bulge at the bottom, pop bottles can handle a fair bit of pressure.

If this has worked for you, you may aspire to glass wine bottles sealed with a corker for future batches. Finding a used corker is a good bet – lots of folks fall out of winemaking – however, once word gets around to the few friends your are still in contact with, you might find that someone knows someone, whose grandpa used to… and equipment can be borrowed. The big floor standing “portuguese” corkers are wonderful — I found one very cheap at a thrift store and it sat in my basement for years before this lockdown project finally vindicated the purchase, but there are still active local online sales sites, craigslist, kijiji, etc during lockdown, even if thrift stores are closed. The smaller two-handled corkers work, but are a real bear. Re-used corks get boiled first. A wetted cork goes in easier.

Salvaged wine bottles need to be thoroughly cleaned, scrubbed out and cleaned again. Betcha missed a ciggie butt in one of them. A pressure valve bottle washer that screws to a laundry tub tap is fun, but I wouldn’t pay more that $10 for one.

It is far easier to consider aging your wine if it is properly corked in a glass bottle, but bottling in glass with corks doubles the work. Store newly corked bottles on their side for at least the first two weeks.

Finally, you might aspire to filter your wine before bottling it. Unfortunately, using a gravity setup will take forever and expose your wine to contamination. Filter systems for wine invariably are pump-based and cost a few hundred dollars. There are interesting kludges about in blogs and forums but are beyond the scope of a noob project.

A year from now, when a Covid-19 vaccine is finally widely available, you might look back on your brief foray into winemaking fondly as you pick up a couple of interesting vintages at your local wine store. Or you might up your game, slowly upgrade your equipment, technique and recipes and shake your head remembering the noob red you started with. This has worked for me. Many roads, many journeys. I only hope that any I have counselled are pleasant, moderately enjoyed and have provided a few hours of fun diversion during trying times.

Also; don’t drink and shitpost on Twitter.

I raise my glass to you.

Mudakun, June 2020

The Fear

Lately “the fear” (cf. Thompson, Campaign Trail 72) has been creeping up on me; my version is that feeling you get when you go to a party, a coffee shop, a conference or even a convention and suddenly you are one billion miles from even faking fitting in. You wonder if you are pestering the celebrity guests or the booth folks, and even the staff… You wonder:

WHY AM I HERE?

I really should stop doing this, I should stop pestering folks in the comment sections of their blogs, I should stop getting too wrapped up in fannish stuff. Why am I even doing this blog? Oh yeah: writing exercises to stave off early onset senile dementia. Cling to that thought. Feel the anomie. The weird little narcissistic variant thereof, complete with overworked self-consciousness. I am feeling brotherly sympathy with Genshiken’s Kuchiki. My teeth explode with pleasure.

Gang of Four – “At Home He’s a Tourist” (Live on Rockpalast, 1983)

This kind of shit happens, no biggie. It happens to everyone. You can even do things with it if you push through it.

Here’s a more extreme version of the condition. Skip about halfway through the piece for “the fear“. His version is about awkwardness and gaming fandom but the effect holds for all kinds of “communities of interest”. Read it.

http://www.salon.com/2014/10/30/that_creepy_guy_from_the_internet_how_gamergate_shattered_faith_in_the_geek_community/

Honestly, lots of folks have been supportive on this blog, I just need to clear my head.Steadman F+Lweb

The urge to run off to Japan, rent an insanely over-horsepowered El Dorado convertible with special tires from Sandoz laboratories inflated to 70psi and set out toward Fukushima in search of the Japanese Dream has become impossible to resist. Even if the logistics of the enterprise are dubious.

At very least, if those clowns for that cable TV show ambush me on the street in Akiba again, I’ll be ready with some high-octane bullshit for them.

So that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I have scrapped three versions of a tightly argued and well-structured theory post due to toxic contamination and now I find myself 6,000 miles from home. It turns out that the rental market for vintage El Dorado convertibles in the Kamakura/ Yokohama area is a little tighter than I first imagined. She who up with me puts is also a bit annoyed at my antic manner.

I can’t complain. It’s coming on Christmas, They’re cutting down trees. They’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace. Comiket in one week! I understand no Japanese, so making the pilgrimage will undoubtedly be a gigantic alienation crowd-fest at the end of a 2 hour train ride.

I have almost figured out the online guide map and have found a total of one Genshiken-related porno dojin with Hato-kun as an Adult Video star. The name of the circle is something to the effect of “busty little girls pedo bear ice cream circus”, if you can believe web translation service. Tuesday is rotten girl day, Wednesday looks like game day and Thursday, New Years Eve is a sausage fest.

Do not want know what FC pounding is web

If anyone out there has any other ideas, I will entertain amusing suggestions; Slavoj Zizek dressing up as Santa Claus and screaming post-Marxian bullshit at the main offices of the NHK on Boxing Day, or even the Murakami show at the Mori, I can be persuaded give them a try… I might even, possibly…. report back here on them.

There must be a beach somewhere around here. It’s not too cold yet. Maybe I can get some swimming in. They have these things called natsu-mikan here; they are like grapefruit only more bitter. Good grapefruit are hard to find. You have to be rich to afford them.

Best of the season and a happy New Year to all.

Outlander must save the Japans! pt2

Repent Alien Jones!

they-live-we-sleep3
.. But do you know WHY we sleep? (0)

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Comiket is this weekend, I haven’t done up my review of the Spring 2015 mini-international-comiket that I managed to attend back in March. I was looking at my pictures and they are all kind of meh! I wanted to follow the rules and was too flustered at being completely unable to function in Japanese to sign-language-annoy table folk and volunteers for permission to photograph more than a couple of them up close. Almost all the pix are sweeping wide crowd shots of folk’s backs. Boring! I barely got to talk with anyone, because I suck speaking Japanese, didn’t push my luck and demand a minder/ interpreter (I wangled a press pass) and ended up completely overwhelmed. I also overloaded myself with gear and managed to get a mild scolding for plopping myself down on the grass out in back next to the garbage bins and sneaking a smoke. Gomen! How embarrassing. (there were plenty of Japanese style pariah pits in the front of the convention halls, but I was too bagged to trudge back to them, gehh! Outlanders, can’t trust us with anything… )

The critical anthology Fandom Unbound has an interesting chapter on Comiket and it could be integrated into a post…

There are also chapters on cosplay and rotten girls, and something that is hanging un-mentioned in the Genshiken-verse that needs some poking with a stick. Nidaime OVA #4; there I said it. No yuri here, no way, nope, not in the Genshiken. Lets change the subject fast. Quick, nudge Hato into a fugue-out, whew! 

But these will have to wait because…

I HAVE TO SAVE THE JAPANS !!!
(again)

Ah, is that so Commander? I really have to run...
…Ah, is that so Commander? I really have to run!

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Normally I would try to drop the idea onto some of the more well-known English-language blogs about life in Japan, something like the bitingly funny Japanese Rule of Seven, and hope they pick up on it but this is far too serious a matter. Comiket is upon us again, tourism to Japan is picking up, the Olympics are only a few years away and yet…

A specter is haunting Japan

www.youtube.com/watch?v=39MILG4txBk&index=1&list=PL4F3C1016A2216AB3

The specter of disappointing, weak canned vending machine coffee!

I’m serious! You can’t fool me, Alien Jones. Your coffee sucks! All Japanese vending machine canned coffee is piss-ant weak, tragically, disgustingly unsatisfying, homeopathic, cheap-ass, zero strength useless brown-ish dishwater water. (perhaps there are a few perc-into-a-cup style machines left somewhere in Japan, but mostly its canned coffee if you want coffee) Sometimes it smells coffee-like, but don’t let that fool you, your disappointment will only be greater. And I sooooo wanted to believe! Sure it comes in nifty heated metal cans. Sure it has coffee-looking pictures on the cans. Sure you can get a can for Y100-Y140 almost anywhere. Sure they have the world’s kewlest commercials for it: none of it matters if the coffee is weak swill.

Where I come from, we call it KITTEN COFFEE

…Where I come from, we call it Kitten Coffee

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This coffee is not acceptable and must be denounced! 
(4)

The crying shame of it is that Japan rally really knows coffee – almost in a biblical sense. They are very, very, very good at coffee – except when they put it in a can in a vending machine. They make coffee to die for; to die, have some dribbled on your cold corpse lips and resurrect for. Coffee at their Starbucks is better than coffee at your Starbucks and Japanese Starbucks coffee is middling good on the scale of what you can get in Japan. Sure you might end up paying Y500-Y800 a cuppa, but it will be a wonderful experience. I recommend the little chocolate cakee thing too, even if it runs you another Y1000.

13-FOB-FOOD-SPAN-articleLarge

More on this at: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/13/magazine/13Food-t-000.html (also from whence the alluring pic above came from)

On the low-end of the scale 7-Eleven is pushing out brewed coffee in a big take-out cup for Y100, and all their stores have nice clean restrooms as well. No reports yet as to whether that Y100 cuppa has any guts though!

And we need to talk guts here.

Too_Much_Coffee_Man web600

Weak coffee is the world’s number one cause of salaryman burnout, falling productivity, depression and even suicide. The reason all those Japanese companies make their employees work 12-14 hour shifts is because everyone is so burned out and zombie-fied that they are getting nothing done. And when they need a lift? Hah! Nothing but a cruel disappointment! The entire breakdown of the Japanese family, the hellish hours, the absent breadwinner, the alienation and despair can all be attributed to weak canned coffee!

pain doesnt go away w600

Oh sure, weak coffee has its place; some folks have delicate innards or get the shakes after 10 or 12 real cups and might need to take it easy for the rest of the night. A few tormented souls may even find that coffee is not their cup of tea, but since this is Japan, we pretty well have the tea thing covered, neh? I will mention one more thing: every single co-worker or boss that I have worked with that made a fuss and insisted on weak-ass coffee in the workplace coffee-maker has turned around and stabbed me in the back. I shit you not. So it is not as if I am equating a preference for thin insipid pseudo-coffee with personal moral bankruptcy or psychopathic behavior but the coincidence leaves me cautious. Fool me once…

guess why you have a headache tag web600

I blame Coke!

Per, http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/06/13/business/economy-business/suntory-gains-ground-battle-machines/#.Vcq8yOyrTdV

“”Back in the ’70s, one of Coca-Cola Japan’s regional distributors came out with one of the first canned coffees, Max, and when it tried to expand the brand, Coca-Cola in America wouldn’t subsidize it because it couldn’t understand the concept of coffee in a can. But when Max took off, the parent gave in and Georgia was born, as well as the whole canned coffee culture in Japan.

Boss, which Suntory launched in 1992, is now the second-biggest-selling line, and the company has invested a lot in trying to overtake Coca-Cola. In 2000, Boss sales were about a third of Georgia’s. Now they’re about two-thirds.”

Anyone old enough to remember American restaurant coffee from the 1970’s? It was just as miserable and weak as the Japanese canned stuff is now. Back then, unless you got lucky and found a pot of joe that had been slowly turning to tar on the truck-stop Bunn-o-matic all night (Ah! Heaven! 100-mile coffee!), a cuppa at the lunch counter would probably be a weak and foolish insult to the coffee gods, even if it came with free refills. This grievous bit of culinary malpractice must have traveled across the seas and settled in as a tradition in the Japanese market when Coke Japan started putting the joe in a can. While the Japanese are world-class at mastering whatever strikes their fancy, they are also sticklers for authenticity and tradition. Japanese vending-machine coffee perfectly recreates weak 1970’s mid-America lunch counter coffee. The very horror that brought about the 1980’s retail revolution in North American coffee consumption, launched a thousand Starbucks and infested entire inner cities with hipsters in its blowback still lives in every Japanese vending machine that dispenses canned coffee.

You can see how desperate a situation this is.

theylive2

Not that I have not been warned about the futility of using an English language outlander blog to gripe about Japanese practices, and not that I don’t take Rachel Matt Thorn’s heartfelt admonitions seriously (1) but what else can I do? The country I love to visit, the country of manga, anime, yummy food and she-who-up-with-me-puts is in peril! Dare I stand quietly by?

I am not suggesting that they destroy what some might now consider a Japanese tradition. The Japanese rebuild their temples every 40 years or so and they have been drinking weak-assed canned coffee for that long, so by now weak-assed canned coffee is probably as traditional as mikos piloting giant robots. But innovation lives side by side with tradition in Japan! Red Bull and native Japanese taurine energy drinks (that 3000 stuff is freaking amazing, but it ain’t coffee) are all over the shelves of their every-8th-storefront drug stores. (Drug stores in Japan; there are probably more of them than combinis) You just need to present decent coffee in a can as something new, possibly with a nifty manga or anime tie-in to give the market a long-withheld and well-deserved caffeinated boost. Our hero Too Much Coffee Man probably won’t work for Japan.  The traditional tough-guy manly man who prefers deeds rather than words is already maxed out. Boy-band members are wimpy. Wimpy we got too much of already.

A pro wrestler might be a good choice, or Murcielago, or both! Otherwise Japan is going to get desperate and start drinking the great lukewarm sticky evil: US-style Mountain Dew (2)

The Horror! The Horror!

Immediate stopgaps are possible: Alcohol free coffee liqueur in a can; Kaluha Free Zero (or would it be Zero Free?). Something built on the idea of espresso (although real espresso is strong on flavor and aroma, but curiously easy on the caffeine). Where is Starbucks when you need them? Given the “pedigree” of their name in Japan they would probably avoid rocking the boat and would make any canned coffee just as pathetically weak as everybody else’s. That’s the way things are done in Japan. You show respect for tradition.

Well screw that. Japan makes awesome coffee, in a cup. The best minds of the planet must be mobilized into cajoling the big Japanese beverage companies into sticking it into a thin little cans and putting it into their vending machines, hopefully by yesterday.

bebop coffee gif

There! I’ve done my duty. Hopefully the call will spread and the forces of righteous coffee enjoyment will prevail. We can all look forward to the dawning of a new age in Japan, and then slowly, inexorably across the planet as strong, tasty canned coffee becomes as well-know a Japanese innovation as cup-o-noodles.

For Great Justice!

Holy Shit! it’s almost 6am. How the &^%$& did I manage to stay up all night on this stupid post?

(0) Grrrr! Just noticed the ad-blocker and privacy plugins are suppressing WordPress photo captions and some of the embedded videos. So now I have to put the captions in the text and hope the formatting makes sense. Oh Lord give me strength!

(1) Rachel Matt Thorn’s blog is curiously down/ and/ or looks like it has been grabbed by a troll trying to sell foreign exchange trading tips. See this Japan Times post for a precis of their argument: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/01/11/voices/need-talk-japan-english/   So I might be outlander-complaining. No way, I am trying to SAVE Japan from the scourge of fake weak coffee that is at best a misapprehension of an American mistake, at worse a furreign corporate plot!

(2) Mountain Dew is made by a special process that absorbs ambient room heat so that it is always tepid. The Canadian version is not jacked with extra caffeine.

(3) redacted

(4) The tagline from a legendary story from around these parts. An old woman of apparent Eastern European extraction and somewhat military airs enters a hippy-ish coffee shop, sits down at a table, pulls out a thick commie book and notebook and pencil and then asks the server in a loud voice: “Is the coffee here acceptable, or must it be denounced?”

Much Later: Well, that will learn me!
Replying with a link to this post to a tweet by a famous Japan blogger and… got one of my worknyms banned from his twitter feed. I feel like… WhatdidIdo? WhatdidIdo? Jeesh, I really respect his work too. All I can figure is that it looks like he is having troll trouble and he may have mistaken me for??? Or, he really likes “mild” canned coffee of the Japanese vending machine variety and took umbrage. Or he has one that is strong andI inadvertently slandered it? Poor reporting on my part? What? I should develop a thicker skin, but i still feel weird the way it happened.
It cannot be helped.

 

A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

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

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

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

I will not be forever denied!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lust und figurines

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

the louche couple

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

Ogiue bliss

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

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

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

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

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

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

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

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

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

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

…Until…

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

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

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

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

Read powerful manga web

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

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

tainted web

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

On the other hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or did he? 

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

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

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

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

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

BoooWaaah!

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

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

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

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

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t go there…

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

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

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

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

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

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

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

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

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

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

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 Mary 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!

Return the gift

Too much in the way of non-Genshiken fun this last month in the few still moments between the shit-storm of IRL work pressures. I even managed to make it to an honest-to-goodness academic conference (ostensibly discussing theoretical approaches to fan studies) full of very enthusiastic slash-fen! Aimed for Kousaka-level “Wow! Great work!” interactions but probably only managed lurking Kuchiki status. Just like Genshiken; except the clubroom was full of Kaminaga-level rotten girls who also happened to be graduate and post-graduate researchers. It was fun in an odd way: They all were happily glowing in the lights of their enthusiasms. They were wonderful! I wonder how the other 3-4 (one via Skype) guys present felt?

Much about the conference and the useable insights generated therein will have to wait, but by way of an appetizer, here is an odd bit of compare and contrast social anthropology: Japanese rotten girls KNOW that the larger public knows of their tastes, and that franchise owners will bait and pander to them. They enjoy the attention, all while seeking to subvert it and make it (once again) their own private party.

The Western, anglo-euroethnic fan-girl/ slash enthusiast still for the most part thinks that she is still in deep cover and that her enthusiasms are protected by elaborate secret handshakes, passworded forums (forii?) and segmented arrays of divergent fandoms that make it hard for the man to gauge, market, monetize and pander to her tastes.

I hate to break it to the wimmens, but your secret is out.

Oh, and us guys had better get used to a whole lot more goggle-bait; pseudo-m/m homosexual looking wink wink nudge nudge moments tossed into every damn tv show, movie and performance from now on until the end of time. It is not a gay plot; but It is after your girlfriend, your sister and your mom. Get used to it!

Capitalism knows no country, and it cares even less about gender norms than it does about citizenship. TM

Last month I had decided to catch up on the Dr.Who franchise, and ploughed through season 3 of Sherlock. The wedding episode was good, the other two felt clunky. As well I decided to see what the spin-off lads (and lassies) at Torchwood were up to with the Children of Earth season/arc. Just a bit of light video to decompress from work, along with a re-watching of The Fifth Element (Whooohah!), the CGI Harlock, Tim’s Vermeer (you must see it!), Beyond the Boundary (good), a quirky electric girl anime (almost an ikumen story) and massive amounts of odd you-tube clips (pulse-jet bicycle exploits, Japanese media arts installations, etc.) Interactive maps of geo-tagged cat pictures from around the world and everything by Charles Stross I could lay my hands on.

Imagine my surprise when some of the fen at the conference started going on about the near sadomasochistic interaction between the producers of certain BBC franchises and their female fandoms. Pander in a way that appears to be listening to the fen-base but then lie and deny any influence. Feelings within the fen-dom are a bit hurt. Some of the more LGBTQIA activist fen even went so far as to characterize this behaviour and the trolling within the series as Gay-baiting.

Gay-baiting?

Oh yes, ‘dem nasty BBC producers are sneaking all that stuff into Torchwood, Dr. Who and Sherlock to attract a gay male audience, yup, right! The could not possibly know of the super-secret covens of squeee-ing fangirls… No way; still a deep dark secret, nobody here but spinsters with cats and Harlequin romances; pay no attention, these are not the fans you are looking for…

Ship and ship again!

Please pull the other one, it has bells on it.

If the producers wanted a gay male viewership they would invite them directly, Same for a lesbian demographic. They for example, would not have Torchwood‘s Ianto Jones mouthing the classic “It’s only him” (“I’m not gay”) line a few episodes before he is dramatically killed off.

“It must always be: “I’m not gay, it’s only him” for maximum fujoshi squeeee!”
-Slavoj Žižek, Introduction to Transmedia Marketing Strategies,
Tessier-Ashpool Marketing Associates, 2011, Chapter 2; The Fangirl.

Nor would the producers of Sherlock dare to do the Holmes casual “I’m a pederast, Watson is my lover” throwaway line to shock some annoying idiot at a dinner party, as one of the earlier Holmes side-story movie (c.f.Seven-percent Solution?) did. Even if you can play with a furious Watson for a few minutes… Nope, It’s all left to Mrs. Hudson.

You cannot keep the fangirls interested unless you tease and tease and tease again but never resolve. This leaves them acres of space in which to fan out, ship and fanfic. Close the gaps and you lose the magic. Admit to baiting them and again you lose the magic. Add the potential of copyright lawsuits to the mix and stir, Mmmmm: secret secrecy recipe!

So the term you want, but avoid using, Oh dear sisterhood is Slash-baiting, and it is aimed dead cold at you, with low orbital ion cannon.

They know very well that you exist.

I admit it is a bit of a hurdle for the 30+ cis-gendered straight male mind to digest at first, but once assimilated it is very easy to understand and process… (Unless the lacanian wound opened by the realization causes you to go all obsessive study-study-study about it…) And turn into marketing. No more hiding. No point.

I would also venture that these BBC producer guys probably draw their understanding of the phenom from casual literature about Japanese fujoshi (and their diaspora sisters) as the fujoshi is a more unified concept than the diffuse tribes of western slash-fen. These marketing types are a scary analogue to Hato; spam-bots trying to masquerade as fujoshi. Corporate cross-dressing as a Turing test.

Once again; instrumental profit-accumulating enterprises don’t really care about meat-ware concerns like citizenship, sexual politics or even ideology beyond base levels that favour self-preservation. Fox News would go hard Maoist if it could make more money that way, or at least spin-off a clone division to capture that market.

“Transgression, sex and networks; these were all on his mind when Glashwiecz phones again.” -Stross, Accelerando

Whew! That Charles Stross stuff came in handy. He wasn’t the first to notice any of this but his restatements sure are elegant.

A similar effect is underway in what I like to call immersive marketing spaces or marketing V3.0 which has been enabled by the web 2.1 clutter of feedback/response channels.

So the producers, writers, stars and even virtualised characters will blog, twitter, tumbler, meet, greet, con, self-fic, self-dojin, sign autographs, reply in the letter columns and publish fan-art on the back pages of the monthly magazine. In fact they MUST do all of these to %110 and the minute a new tactic of pseudo-intimacy with their consuming public is developed it must be massively and parallel-ly implemented across the franchise. Welcome to the permanent corporate cross-platform, multi-channel selfie from now until the sun grows cold.

Present state of the art in Japan runs from %60 in manga to %95+ in Visual-Kei.

Western fen/fans: prepare for the onslaught, it approaches like a thief in the night.

Don’t let this bullshit kill what you love.

In the meantime, watch the marketing droids occasionally screw up and have a good laugh.

I betcha they try to sell you Sherlock’s boxer shorts.

Adjust your effervescent lifestyle freshness!

This all may have been said before but there is a serious problem with Cool Japan, and it is threatening my daily fix of neato contemporary Japanese culture.

http://globalitemagazine.com/2012/12/10/cool-japan-why-japan-losing-its-cool-might-be-a-cool-thing/

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2012/1208/Is-Japan-losing-its-cool

Looks like a bad case of DENTSU-itis.
Tessier-Ashpool-bs To put it simply; any Japanese government cultural promotion initiative will be used as an excuse for one group of rich, well-connected old dinosaur pols to give billions of yen to another group of rich, well-connected old dinosaur ex-pols and fixers.

I may be mistaken here…

I am sure that the wizards at DENTSU (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dentsu) know their stuff when it comes to pitching the newest bright and shiny thing at the Japanese consumer. They have been doing it for decades, and they are held in almost god-like reverence for their abilities. So much so that having them as your ad agency of record conveys a mark of respectability and prestige upon whoever and whatever they get involved with. You can’t build a cathedral in medieval Europe without the Church, and you cannot run a succesful product launch in modern Japan without their imprimatur. Just look for them in the credits of your newest fave anime. If it has ambitions, they are there.

It may even have been made by one of their affiliates. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/encyclopedia/company.php?id=249

Also: http://www.economist.com/node/21559369

and http://japanvisitor.blogspot.ca/2012/11/dentsu-and-goddesses-of-peace.html

Behold an award winning Densu campaign:

 …And folks won’t see that you are a fanged yankee girl vampire from Osaka

Dentsu doesn’t have to “go all in on Woo-woo“. Woo-woo goes all out for them.

Or to put it a different way:

“”Dentsu’s monopoly is based on access to celebrity, not media. This works because in Japan it is aesthetic novelty, rather than hit-you-on-head ideas, that will always win out when building brands, and celebrity is the easiest way to auction novelty to the highest bidder.”” http://jameshollow.com/blog/japanese-advertising-industry-nutshell/

Except when the product is a bit odd: You cannot wreck your J-pop idol’s rep by having her pitch weird otaku crap. Besides only the hard-corest of western geeks would recognise her in any case.

I am a bad person.

I read manga on grey-zone aggregator sites. Sometimes I go to scanlator sites, but mostly I read from scummy make-cash-off-the-backs-of-scanlating-volunteers sites because they have a lot of content, and I can also shut off cookies, java-script, go to “mobile” mode and get low-res versions of my fave fix that load really really fast on my third-world internet connection. And the annoying gehhhh(!) -taste scam ads magically vanish.

My karma feels a bit dirty. Sometimes I go to Amazon.jp.co and guiltily buy something I cannot understand to ensure that the mangaka gets a few yen. Not often, sometimes.

In a perfect world, I would be reading the stuff on a “Cool Japan” site set up as a non-profit collaboration between Jp publishers that would not lock up my pathetic old pc with 19 layers of flash, and would also be serving me Jp tourism, culture, fashion and otaku crap ads; perhaps even Rakutan/ Amazon.jp sales links – with suppliers who ship to the gaijin out-lands. My hideous furreigner credit cards and Paypal account would work! Content on the site could be set up so as to allow quasi-wiki style translation corrections (niconico comment style?)

And it would make my breath smell minty fresh.

Such a site would not worry about content getting filched, because all content will always get filched anyway – so it wouldn’t take 2 hours to load each page. Instead it would just be happy to have the most, best , newest and richest content. With some savvy ad curation, no one would turn off the ads because the ads would be way kewl.

Oh, and the mangaka would get some coin from this.

Even if the content was back-stock and/or web-toon B-grade fodder, it would still be interesting.

OH SNAP! I have re-invented NAVER: pity that manwha barely clicks for me…

This kind of blue-sky rant is symptomatic of a greater paradox in Japanese (and to a growing extent global) culture: the really interesting stuff gets made in spite of, not with the help of any type of “official” encouragement.

“”Better yet, a debate is needed within Japan to improve Japanese culture on the whole, meaning: more power to women, youth, minorities and artists; less groveling to loan sharks, Keidanren, and mandarins. But any attempt to question the tenets of Japanese culture is likely to draw accusations of racism or Japan bashing. Issues about how to heal the sickness in the heart of the culture — stress, alcoholism, suicide — aren’t likely to come up during the two-week election campaign about the TPP and NPPs.”” Christopher Johnson

The problem is not unique to Japan. The usual naive answer to this kind of complaint is the admonition to give money directly to the artists. That might work, but I suspect it would be impossible in Japan, and the “artists” would never see a yen of it.

So here is my stupid suggestion:

Give tiny tax deductions to the Genshiken(s)…

…and to the organizing committees of local merchant association festivals, ecology enthusiasts, anti-nuke advocates, “recycle” promoters, maker-geeks, Pride parades, Yabusame and re-enactor maniacs, Neet/ freeter/ homeless rights groups, multicultural committees, fringe music festivals, amateur theatre groups, car rallies and the entire oddball circus of cultural detritus that we euroethnic types take for granted on our weekends.

Or to put it in polite politico-socio-economic policy terms: support local and regional grass-roots organizations with limited tax benefits targeted towards projects and bare-bones operating expenses.

Spend your government money as diffuse tax expenditures rather than lump-sum payola.

…Now, the utter inanity of venturing free advice on Japanese tax policy, in English, on a blog about manga, from Canada is obvious. In fact it is standing behind me in the form of a 600kg troll with a severe case of body odor and really bad breath. He is laughing quietly at me, right at this moment…  “Bakka gaijin! Fu! ufu! ufu!”  he whispers in breathy basso tones… I blame Rachel Matt Thorn for whistling him into existence and setting him on all of fools who have “ideas” and want to complain and give free advice to Japanese folks and institutions, in English, from blogs on anime and manga, written in…  And I know Rachel Matt Thorn is right about this. I could stop now and he would vanish..  Nevertheless…

Becoming a non-profit agency in Japan is not too difficult. Getting charitable status, which allows one to receive tax-deductible donations is well-nigh impossible. http://blog.japantimes.co.jp/yen-for-living/tax-deductions-and-the-myth-of-the-no-donation-culture/

Despite this, local grass-roots Japanese culture flourishes because small voluntary groups, with the support of local businesses and individuals come together year after year and put on events. For the gaijin manga/ game/ anime fan, the most famous of these is the Comic Market, or comike/comiket.

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket.

Its organizational structure is a bit byzantine. Even though it is supported/ sustained by a non-profit organization that keeps it from disintegrating between conventions, supporters keep them going without any expectation of a tax write-off. Comiket gets by with oodles of volunteers and a few fundraising side-ventures – finding a home for overstock dojins and printing the massive convention catalogues.

All those fun local matsuri and festivals? Arranged and supported through local business groups, ad-hoc do- gooder  committees, shrines and temples. Zero tax expenditure for the central government. Perhaps some free office space from local governments, but don’t hold your breath.

Contemporary Japanese social realities work against changing this. Those that already do anything of note do so without help; so why should the taxpayer fund loser dogs? Any change would also risk giving tax money to yakuza, cults, right-wing crazies, pyramid scammers, wacky fringe political parties and North Korean sympathizers.

In the end, it is easier to give a train-load of cash to the conservative old-boy network of ad agencies and golden parachute study groups and let them run a telephone poll and a few expensive celebrity commercials. Stability is guaranteed; effectiveness occurs only as a happy accident.

That the Japanese consumer will make polite, outward noises of approval – for at least the first two days – out of a sense of cultural solidarity and good manners is part of the symptom and not evidence of any economic recovery. The captain on the B-Ark doesn’t have to do much.

“Unless of course,” he said softly, “they were eaten by the goat …”

I know this sounds like Euroethnic old-boy making easy blanket prescriptions for things he doesn’t understand, but can it be that hard to try it? Give a few yen to stuff that already works, so that it doesn’t die.

You could probably get a bunch of grad students together and design a new class of micro-charitable organizations in one semester. Something that could issue capped charitable donations for several limited classes of “cultural events”. Restrictions could be placed on office rent, salaries, administrative expenses, contracted services, etc. to make sure the cash goes to the festival and not into some scumbag’s pocket.

The size and number of donations that could be issued per year could be limited. Audits, boards, general elections, transparency, peer review, yadda yadda yadda could keep the system clean. Plenty of fine bureaucrat jobs there too. Someone from head office has to go to the matsuri to make sure it hasn’t turned into a fiasco. Japan has accountants. Time to use them for goodness instead of boringness – or at least use the boringness for goodness.

Ill become an accountant_v026 The trick would be to design the program so that you get a slew of new teeny tiny local events and relatively few scams. It could be messy, at least at first. One could be unfair and require a one or two year unfunded track record prior to approval, affiliation with a “responsible” organization, and all manner of other nudge nudge wink wink to keep the boat from rocking during too much during the shakeout phase.

The aim of the program would be to give a tiny leg up to all the grass-roots enthusiast events that already take place all over Japan, and that are under strain from a lousy economy, ageing population and a mounting general feeling of irrelevance and despair.

If the “Deep State” really wants to co-opt the freak fringe, nothing co-ops better than a 47 page annual charitable status/ grant report requiring audited financial statements and power-point presentations of last year’s activities, along with a three year membership-derived statement of goals and projected future deliverables. Great practice for the real world – even for University manga club members.

All across Japan, hundreds of thousands of young (and young at heart) enthusiasts struggle every year to put on shoestring events with popcorn budgets that do not even allow them to rent a storage locker to stash tables and tents from previous year’s events.

Similar simple problems with basic enabling infrastructure; a place to meet, funds for local licenses and event permits/ insurance, hall rentals and the like make each and every one of their events an epic labor of love. Their burdens could be eased a bit.

 Near Kamakura, a yearly event with movies, Dj’s and skateboards – completely grass roots and local!

This would go a long way to ensure that a future Cool Japan initiatives have something to pitch, besides a few token high fashion reinterpretations of Harajuku street fashion from 4 years ago and Hello Kitty.

It all might break down if your matsuri is full of risqué cosplay, dojins featuring tentacle pron, loli smut, hard yaoi and lewd josou games. Then again, Flash Art grade international high church art can sometimes feature imagery that would make a hentai mangaka vomit. Gummint and big business attention might be the last thing the organizers want. Would the copyright holders step in and shut down %85 of a cosplay event? Would the massive and much feared Oricon cabal usurp all the live music festivals and fill them with processed cheese bands?

And what the heck am I thinking, making sweeping pronouncements about what the Japanese people and their government should do with their tax code? In a manga und oddball theory blog, no less? Who in the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is going to read this and care a whit? Silly Rabbit! Do you actually think that anyone from Japan reads this thing? And yet…

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket. (!!!)

A lousy tax deduction for Japanese people to support what they love and what already does so much for them: I know they already support it and will continue to do so without such official encouragement; still the absence of even the modest incentive and acknowledgement of the importance of a wider civil society saddens me.

It is not like I am sitting on my isolated little furreigner mountaintop and yelling that the entire Japanese gummint should scrap their tax code and budgeting process in favour of a Jack Halderman experiement. It’s just that…

You cannot make a tax-deductible donation to Comiket. (I stop noaw…)

I doubt that Comiket would directly take Deep State coin, but you still could do a few neat things with such a system. While the main benefits would be an encouragement of local grass-roots Japanese culture for the japanese consumer/ fan, there would eventually be marketable foreign-interest spinoffs.

I am reading my latest fun find on manga.jp.org. I have the language selection toggled to English, but I note that French, Spanish and German scripts are also available. Or I can toggle back to Japanese, which changes the “flag translation” window entry section below the screen. As I am neither practicing my Japanese or my English I generally don’t visit here often, I can flag a real clunky bit of dialogue from the English page.

I have signed up for a basic membership so I can vote some of my monthly membership credits to a mangaka whose product I really really like. One of the publishers or advertisers on the site will then contribute a few yen to a non-profit charity affiliated with Comiket that will make a grant towards the dojin publishing expenses or/or table fee for that mangaka, so that they can show up with their circle and commune with their fans. The supporting Japanese company gets a tax credit, up to certain limits. Or the contribution can go towards a travel fund so that the mangaka can do a book/ convention tour at a regional Japanese convention or even in far-off lands. My leecher-guilt is soothed, even as I worry that perhaps the sponsors are gaming the voting system. At least the mangakas all get a ridiculously low basic residual rate for having their works up on the site.

I can buy more credits through a premium membership or earn them through fannish participation and site grunt work. I wish I could translate, but reviews earn me a few credits as well, as long as they are judged useful and I don’t rile the moderators by trying to snooker the system.

While reading, I am occasionally tempted by ad links for related products on Rakutan, and notice that since I am reading a manga that supposedly takes place near Kamakura, that there is a link to tourism site promoting upcoming Kamakura events: a Rockabilly festival and two traditional matsuri taking place in the area in the next few months. Perhaps I should click-through to see what the January schedule holds? At least I am not reading Shoujo manga. If I did that I would be deluged with sugary fashion ads. If I want ultra girly kawaii hyno-swirl contact lenses (Halloween approacheth) I at least know that the supplier will probably take my Paypal or credit card and ship to me as long as I am not in a “difficult” location.

Wow, there’s a hot-spring tour package that can accommodate my strange alien nekkidness and possibly one or two discrete tats (Tattooed barbarian days are Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the summer). And lookie: the mystery grab-bag of used yukata; fabric re-use grade, two kilos shipped sea-mail (slow, no tracking) for $30! I always get that ad when I am reading Gintama, along with the cheesy wooden sword ads…

A silly fantasy: Japanese retailers find foreign buyers incomprehensible and would never waste time marketing to them. Until they find that they can make a decent profit from the exercise.

Or until the Koreans and or the Chinese show them how it can be done.

For Science! Genshiken II Bechdel Test

New Years Day: it is cold and snowing outside. A ton of stuff to do to get my life in order and lots of stuff from work piled up. I have also temporarily run out of any use-able insights about the Genshiken to grind away at. Haven’t found any interesting new theory bits lately either – it’s all pretty much same old same old. There was some interesting stuff that I ran into six months ago and never worked on, but lately I have no attention span whatsoever. Fortunately, my long and varied academic career provides a solution for a total lack of inspiration or insight: quantitative research!

Let’s count things and get surprised at what we find!

Counting things feels very scientific; it is chock-full of truthiness, even if you can fudge the criteria of your count clear through to next Tuesday. The myth of objectivity and all that: see – we burn some ritual incense in front of our biases and then wade in! That feels scientific too! But counting things is boring unless you find something interesting to count…

This actually turned out pretty well.

Quant Suff !!!

In earlier posts, I have nattered on about the seemingly contradictory nature of the current Genshiken: A libidinised female-majority space, created by a male mangaka who is striving to avoid overt harem and yuri tropes, while not losing the male audience he built up during the initial run of the series. To that was added too much “why Hato”, and the uses of his character in camoflaging the weird female social that had been created. But a problem persists:

Without Hato (and to a lesser extent, cosplay and the seniors), the Genshiken would be a bunch of rotten girls fanning out over BL. Not very interesting to the original mostly male readership and full of danger that any new female fujoshi readership would dismiss the effort as clumsy and inauthentic. I have hunted the opinions of real-life trans-folk and fudanshis about Genshiken, even going as far as to solicit guest columns. (Hellllooooo! Guess real life intervenes.. Presumptuous of me, neh?) What I am missing is the testimony of real-life in-japan fujoshis as to whether the Genshiken has any ring of truthiness to it, and if it makes glaring errors: where?

Fortunately Erica-sensei’s Okazu blog comes to the rescue again:  I am a fan, and not just for the review content, but for the method. The method is awe-inspiring, passionate and relentless. Erica Friedman has been nudging the yuri canon as received in the west for a decade now, and some of the hard work of this nudging appears to have paid off. Perhaps the changes would have come about in any case, and some grumblers are jealous that she occasionally sticks her brand on a few bits and pieces of the project. Hah! Let them pick up a shovel and shift coal for a few years…

All of which is slowly circling around her occasional mention(s) of the Bechdel Test [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test] and her own Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test [http://okazu.yuricon.com/glossary/ ]

Never underestimate heuristics.

The Bechdel Test is simply:

(that a narrative fiction, film, etc)
has to have at least two women in it,
who talk to each other,
about something besides a man.

See also http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/UsefulNotes/TheBechdelTest?from=Main.TheBechdelTest

Also:

The Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test:

Does the female character have agency?
Does she have society?
Does she have personality?
Is she merely a female-shaped male hero doing male hero things while being female?

Well, that sounds pretty simple doesn’t it. Hah! Once you start looking at your fave manga, comics, movies and novels through these corrective lenses, you get a big surprise – especially if you are a guy. Could it be that I am being pandered to? It’s always about me guys! This is either reassuring or very creepy. After all we guys aren’t being fed a %99.99 guy oriented point-of-view because the patriarchy “leiks” us. It wants our money and much, much more, thank you. None dare call it conspiracy(!) mind control(!) the Military-Industrial Complex (!)  the MIB(!)  Just that nasty ole debbil society again – but it can change!

In Sweden, some folks have taken to adding the Bechdel test to riajuu movie rating systems.

For women, the test immediately quantifies a long-standing really, really, really annoying bit of society. Us guys should pay better attention. We might learn something.

Even She-Who-Up-With-Me-Puts will occasionally lay it on the table for me, as when I insisted on screening Ice Station Zebra for her, as ironic cultural artifact:

A MANLY adventure!

“This is BORING! There are no women in this movie at all!
Oh wait, there was the bar-girl at the club.
Hmmph!!!”

Until she mentioned it, someone dense hadn’t really noticed… Duh!

Ok.. who reading this just remembered a bit of the overdone musical theme?
Are you male? Female? Just wunnering…

So when Erica-sensei mentioned these tests when recommending Bodacious Space Pirates, small wooden gears again started trying to turn. (see also: http://www.tanianavarroswain.com.br/labrys/labrys23/culturepop/erica.htm ) Then in her year-end open form Q/A post, where a few folks tried to steer the discussion into yaoi territory (compare/ contrast with yuri) – a place that Erica Friedman takes great pains neither to dismiss or to visit – the gears finally started moving.

Ker-Thunk!

I’d do the “Audry Lemon” quote here again, about a genre of women’s erotic narrative that contains no women, but it is getting stale. Okazu’s proprietor knows the question well: her reply is in many ways the most ambitious of all.

Make no small plans for they will not stir…

Back to Genshiken II as women’s space, How’s that working out?

n=41 chapters, (54 through 94).

ch54 almost; but then shifts to attracting guy members. Perhaps Yabu/ Ogiue on the phone?

ch55 fail
ch56 fail: all Hato, changing etc..
ch57 fail: That’s a crime Hato meeting
ch58 almost: The leaflet discussion.. Hato-as-male not an issue, but then Hato’s smooth legs…  Phht!

ch59 almost:  Keiko, then Ogiue and Ohno on Ogiue’s debut (but then she gets a call from her editor and calls Sas)

ch60 fail
ch61 almost: Yabu is not yet in on Hato-ness, but nope for the rest of the chapter..

ch62 almost: Angela and Ohno, the rest fails due to Hato stubble, then perhaps when they all cosplay and Yabu shows up.

ch63 PASS, Multiple groups
ch64 almost: Nakajima’s boy trouble “and tried to kill herself like last time…”
ch65 fail
ch66 fail: Nuthin but sou-uke!
ch67 almost: Hato is in chan mode, but shipping Mada takes over
ch68 fail
ch69 fail: Could have during the first bits, but then her Coach and then its all Hato and smooth!

ch70 PASS: for the Ronin discussing comiket. Yajima + Rika have a panel. Ogiue discussing comiket in the club room always refers to Hato as kun, but he is not the subject of the discussion.

ch71 almost:  Hato-chan’s drawing skills for the pamphlet.
ch72 fail
ch73 fail: past romance not
ch74 almost: if you pass Hato present, but not the subject, but then the stuco romeo boys intrude.

ch75 fail
ch76 fail
ch77 fail: all about Hato crossdressing
ch78 fail
ch79 fail
ch80 fail
ch81 fail
ch82 fail: Kind of sad as Hato-chan desperately wanted an “us girl’s” moment.
ch83 almost: A few moments when Ohno is not discussing Tanaka as her future.

ch84 fail
ch85 fail
ch86 fail: Even if we take Hato-chan as female persona the subject is Mada.
ch87 almost; Hato is there as -kun, but the female majority discuss drawing, but then whether he can…

sirens 88 15
ch88 PASS! Ogiue and crew busy at the comiket booth..
ch89 fail
ch90 fail
ch91 fail
ch92 fail: Lots of girl talk, but it is mock competition over Madarame
ch93 fail
ch94 fail

PASS chapters= 3/41 (%7.3)

Almost” chapters  = 11/41 (%26.8). Almost not because of Hato being present as -chan or -kun, or BL being the subject, but because the conversation drags out long enough for male-as-subject to sneak in. If one weighs the “almost” chapters at 1/3 pass, add another %8.9 to the total, for a grand total of %16.2

Well that was a fun excuse to re-read the last 41 chapters!

If the scoring sounds a bit persnicketty, remember that the Bechdel test sets the bar insanely low, even if many mainstream pop narratives still fail it. Genshiken as a manga about a fujoshi social still only has female-centric dialog approximately 1/6th of the time, if one passes “pure” BL subject matter as female-centric conversation; Tiger x Bunny is a pass, Hato x Madarame is a fail.

Hold the presses! Per correspondence with the proprietor of the Ogiue Maniax site (see comments) the conversation between Rika and Risa that mentions Risa’s coach at the beginning of chapter 69 is a PASS, as the original Japanese does not specify the gender of her coach. That makes it a full Bechdel conversation, so the revised stats are: PASS 4/41 = %9.76, “almost chapters remain at 11/41 (%26.8), weighted at 1/3 = %8.93 for a combined score of %18.69 or almost 1/5th solid female-centric dialogue.

Notable too is that in clear PASS chapters, the females of the Genshiken are busy doing productive fan-work within their interests. The most clear-cut times being when they are selling dojins at Comiket. One would think the level would be higher. From the point of simple plot mechanics, it is hard for a male mangaka to screw up the authenticity of female conversation at a busy comiket sales table.

Bechdel_test_origin

A character in Dykes to Watch Out For explains the rules that later came to be known as the Bechdel test (1985, per wikipedia)

When you think really, really hard about it, lots of V1/ exploitative hawt secks style yuri – which should avoid dropping males into any discussion lest the PWP spell be broken – has the females dropping “boyfriend/ guy” stuff into the conversation as a tease and a sop to the male reader. We won’t even go into the strongly implied male gaze of the overdone tangled secks scenes. From the point of view of getting a different point of view, does one have to go to v2 story A- or- beyond yuri, to “listen in” on a purported female-centric conversation in a manga narrative? Or is it time for a re-appraisal of K-on or Josiraku?  (…even as these and their like are heavily contrived artifacts, and pure loli-bait).

There is a shortage of girl talk in the girl talk.

The Bechdel test and variants serve as effective, albeit blunt instruments to highlight this. I really should check out Bodacious Space Pirates. I need a faster internet connection for Crunchyroll!

The Russo test

Lest someone complain that Hato as trans- and fudanshi character skews the sample (which is my main argument – he is there to serve as a way to avoid female in-group conversation that can be written wrong), there is also the Russo test:

“In 2013, the American lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media organization GLAAD introduced the “Vito Russo Test”, intended to analyze the representation of LGBT characters in films. Inspired by the Bechdel test and named after film historian Vito Russo, it encompasses three criteria:

The film contains a character that is identifiably lesbian, gay, bisexual, and/or transgender.
The character must [not] be solely or predominantly defined by their sexual orientation or gender identity.
The character must be tied into the plot in such a way that their removal would have a significant effect.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bechdel_test‎

The Genshiken pretty well fails that one too. More work on Hato’s passion for drawing would fix that, but for now his otome-yaku schtick and his wandering desires are serving as the numero uno source of plot fuel. He is in effect two liminal (or poorly constructed – you chose) LGBTQ characters in one, both uncomfortable with their leanings. He needs to be more something. Contrast to Sue’s “hidden powers”. If Hato wasn’t so “liminal” the Bechdel test scores would be higher as well – he keeps dropping in and out of male subject-hood.

At least Genshiken II has a pass rate. It is not Ice Station Zebra, or even Fujimura-kun Meitsu or Boku Wa Tomodachi (et al.)

The Friedman Addendum to the Bechdel Test and The Lucy Test:

“What’s the point of passing the Bechdel Test if you fail the Lucy Test?* (*Your female characters have the acumen of Lucy Ricardo.)
-anon

The Friedman Addendum is less of a blunt instrument than the Lucy test:

Does the female character have agency?

No guy is telling them what to do, and they are making a better go of club activities than the boys did. When Mada starts hanging out again, he gets warned that the fujoshi talk will not stop. Kuchiki is kept in line. Spying sessions from the window across the courtyard are initiated in continuation of a longstanding tradition. They are a bit weak-kneed before the stuco boys – but that’s more of a Hato issue and they are doing their part to protect his privacy. I would be hard-pressed to find a current Genshiken female character, even a peripheral one, that does not have agency. The whole plot of the new Genshiken insists that they must.

Does she have society?

This is a manga about a University club: but now that the women have taken it over their social is far more productive and at least as supportive as the previous male version and is written so as to make a point of being far superior to a number of non-supportive and non-productive socials that various members had previously experienced. (Ogiue and Hato’s high school social circles, the University Manken) It is worth noting that some of these earlier non-supportive and non-producing socials were female-centered as well, so an essentialized generalization is not being advanced. The Genshiken members hang out, fan out, do social things and get things done. The alumni -both male and female also drop by and occasionally participate, which gives the club substance and a strong sense of continuity.

Does she have personality?

The Genshiken women are not cookie-cutter rotten girls; each has their own approach to their enthusiasms, as well as their own personalities and these have been given a chance to unfold in the course of the narrative.

circle of weird v10_032web

…But no weirder than anyone in the previous male version.

If anything they are almost all obsessively level-headed about the concerns surrounding their enthusiasms. Ohno occasionally comes off a tad ditzy, but her heart- of- gold- people- skills more than make up for her moments of self-doubt and cosplay fangirling. When it comes to cosplay, she is an undisputed enthusiast, logistics expert and organizer par excellence, as well as the past president of the club. Ogiue gets downright grim when one mentions “responsibilities” and will work herself close to karoshi to fulfill them, but she went through all manner of personal turmoil before she came to terms with herself, her talent and her enthusiasms. This is the most likely reason why Sue has such a severe case of hero-worship for her – Ogiue as written as an exemplary fujoshi and aspiring mangaka character. Yajima tries to maintain a dour level-headedness – she has known too much disappointment and her fan interests are her safe space. Her apparent initial trans-phobia is a setup for her awakening feelings towards Hato-kun; her shock comes from the uncomfortable realization that she is experiencing something she long thought out of her league – 3D desire. She also went all red-faced over Risa as-kun for a few moments as well. The levels go deeper than just “want boy”. Rika sometimes appears irresponsible; she is not uncomfortable around males, but prefers the fujoshi social, and enjoys prodding it for entertainment and to move things along.

Sue started off as a comic relief secondary character and has undergone significant “promotion” as her language skills have improved. The mangaka has also given her hidden martial arts interests, friendship with the other characters and people outside the Genshiken social, concern for them, a recent bout of shyness and the aformentioned hero worship. The habit of the mangaka of playing out that hero worship as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge unrequited girl-crush on Ogiue is a bit cheesy, but Ogiue has called her on it. No one seems to be catching her running trope reversal gag of the rather flat-chested gaijin girl squeezing well-endowed Japanese women’s breasts at hot springs, etc. That’s about as much fanservice as one can find in the Genshiken.

Sleepless... Awaiting daybreak...

The only “thin” semi-regular character is Angela, the carnivorous, athletic, busty gaijin girl set on an adventure with Madarame. At first glance she is the sexually active blond foreign woman – an annoying manga/ anime trope (especially to real-life blond western women in Japan!) But Kio Shimoko has given her character a bit of depth in that she thinks through her “campaign”, and that it appears to be part of a larger habit of her treating he pilgrimages to Japan as extended convention forays in toto. I suspect she is a lift from Dramacon, which saw a translated release as a cell-phone manga in Japan. And she really seemed to enjoy the friendly women’s competition after the shenanigans at comiket wrapped up. It wold be hard to characterize that as a “cat-fight”, even if its main purpose was to give Keiko some character development time and let Sue showcase her hidden super powers (and repeatedly disavow any interest in Mada). I don’t think for an instant that Angela was going to follow through on her threat that Madarame should surrender to a polymorphous-ly perverse tangle with Sue, Hato and herself. She has a nasty sense of humour, and knows how to play to (and scare) her audience.

In terms of simple character design alone, other bloggers have noted that the female characters have a range of body types that go beyond stock fanservice-y manga cliches. One was quite impressed by Rika’s younger sister Risa’s athletic appearance. Yajima is a sympathetically drawn heavyset young woman. Only some of the most peripheral characters are generically drawn. The fujoshi females are not drawn as repulsive stereotypes. Kio Shimoku’s chara design is well folded in with the personalities of the characters, while avoiding too many obvious tropes. At minimum the effort makes the large cast easy to tell apart, Note also that the most classic manga beauty of the bunch is a cross-dressing male (and an analogue to the fearsome Kaminaga).

Is she merely a female-shaped male hero doing male hero things while being female?

Finally, as fujoshi they are not direct transpositions from male otaku-dom. The Genshiken females  come to their rotten girl enthusiasms by way of a variety of sub-genre interests. Ok, that’s a kuragehime trick as well, but it still works. The bonus occasionally alluded to by Kio Shimoku is how these directly reference the larger influence that Japanese female fandom, especially fujoshi and proto-fujoshi fendom have had upon the whole of Japanese visual culture, its fandoms, and its numerous sub-groupings.

A small digression: 

A deep study of Japanese otaku practice since the mid-1970’s would leave any honest researcher with the strong impression that many of the “pillars” of current male otaku practice derive from, or at least have developed with the substantial help of female fan practice. Start with early dojin production and those cranky mimeograph screens (must finish that long-promised essay) add Comiket, the development of elaborate chara typologies, and finally consider the practice of “goggled/ parodic/ ironic reading” which leads to genre slip, active re-reading, secondary production and a widening of the absolute range of available genres. And while we are at it, but peripheral to the Genshiken and its characters, there is no way that the cell-phone novel can be considered a male otaku innovation.

The acumen of Lucy Ricardo

“Lucy in the chocolate factory, her cheeks stuffed wide… Shaka when the walls fell…”  -Oscar Wilde

It seems that most of the slapstick in the Genshiken is left for the males. (note the Lucy rule should not be taken as a disparagement of the woman who created her, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucille_Ball)  Kuchiki is stuck in this role, Madarame, as goat gets buffeted about a bit, and even Hato,  -chan or otherwise lacks agency beyond his desire to be part of the fujoshi circle at any cost.  Madarame eschews agency; though he can deploy a high level of understanding and acceptance and even some degree of sempai-authority when the situation calls for it. However both Hato and Madarame will go into self-sabotaging fugue states when flustered in social situations. Only Tanaka and Kousaka are at ease with themselves and their lives and of course they are both in stable relationships with able and independent women.

To the extent that any of the Genshiken characters, male or female are inept, such faults manifest mostly in the field of real-life relationships – which is another main point of the Genshiken. All characters who are not paired up suffer from some degree of virgin-angst (there must be a good german term for this condition!). The try- to- figure- out- the- relationship-y stuff is ritually balanced with slice-of-life activities that celebrate the strength of the Genshiken social. Lately it has been getting a bit unbalanced. If the characters were all drawn prettier and with bigger eyes the Genshiken would  become an oddball form of shoujo manga. (Must drop a query over at Rachel Matt Thorn’s blog!). It hasn’t quite, yet…

Would it bust Kio Shimoku’s nuts to give us just one full-on chara page with a floral background? In full tongue-in-cheek mode? I mean, star-bursty eyes are all fine and good, but some fans are craving more!

Later: Ok, there was 1/4 page wayyyyyyy back when… The incomparable Katou in ch49… -squeeeee!!!-

Back to Erica Friedman: While she goes out of her way to avoid any fujoshi/ slash fen vs. yuri fen/ fans conflicts in her blog, she occasionally offers insights on the relative popularity of the two genres. Some of her observations are fascinating:

“Josh wants to know: Do you find Yaoi being more popular than Yuri a hindrance to creating a stable Yuri market in the states?

E: What an interesting question! On the face of it, it seems like there ought to be a correlation between these two genres, but really…there isn’t.

When manga was first brought over to the west, one of the reasons it became so almost instantly successful was that it tapped into a previously under-served market – female comic readers. And of those readers, while some of them might like romance and/or sex between women, more prefer romance/sex between straight couples or between guys. (If this seems confusing to you, ask a few of your straight male friends which they like best – straight porn, lesbian porn or gay male porn. Chances are a lot of straight guys are going to feel uncomfortable with the idea of watch[ing] gay guy porn – especially if those guys you’re asking are sexually immature. It’s the same for some women.)

Because of the double standards around porn – and the double standards around women’s interests in general – it was easier for women to talk about an interest in BL than it is for men to discuss an interest in Yuri…”  – http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/08/25/now-this-is-only-my-opinion-2013-edition/

There is more in the rest of the thread. I am trying to avoid massive block-quoting (after I went overboard a few posts back, over-analyzing one of her reviews), so please visit and enjoy the source. Of note in later questions would be the hint of a perceived difference between (some) Western slash-fen and Japanese fujoshi assurance and agency. More field research is indicated…

The crew at the Genshiken are sexually immature, but the maturity scripts for Japanese girls (and guys) are a bit strained of late. The thing about escapism is that sometimes you really need to escape. I still think there is a vast and telling difference between the Japanese women’s BL/ yaoi communities and western slash practices but perhaps I have read too much shoddy social research (and my residual, socially learned discomfort keeps me from primary reasearch). At least current trends toward genre expansion, fusion and “slip” are positive. A bit of social responsibility is reportedly creeping in as well. After all, there is no intrinsic reason why cheesy story A yuri narratives, contemporary lesbian narratives, gay narratives, trans narratives, straight- women- imagined BL creature narratives,  even furry or alien populated narratives and narratives with cartoon magical ponies (do I venture too far?) cannot speak to all of humanity about friendship, desire, romance and the varieties of warm fuzzies available to the human condition. Any limitations lie in the past history of the conventions of these narratives, and in our societal structures, and between our ears. I am nowhere near this enlightened state, but the ideal is worth the declaration.

And now I fear I am getting all R.A. Heinlein -ish

Hmmmm… How much of the R.A.Heinlein catalog can pass a Bechdel test? There must be something in Podkayne…

Further query: Are there any longstanding Japanese canon-nudging review blogs for the yuri genre and/or the yaoi/BL genre in Japan? Can any shift in either genre track with their avowed direction? We have academic writing on both genres, but its effect pales before sustained fan interaction. Or do the traditional patterns of in-the-pocket-of-the-producers review coverage and strict copyright rules in Japan mitigate against such an approach? See http://www.hellodamage.com/top/2010/03/01/interview-with-an-ex-visual-kei-record-executive/ for how a fan-verse that incorporates female “slash” desire is stoked by an efficient, exploitative and corrupt system. Some of Nele Noppe‘s recent work touches on this – but that was six months ago and I got distracted…

This all sounds very social-science-y, so normally I could go for a wrap here, but I will drag it out a bit more, because teasing useful bits out of this stuff is why I even bother with this blog.

Genshiken II, for all its limitations tries to present an empowered female social, and one where the male(s) must confront and accommodate female-centric enthusiasms. Even if it is written by a guy, with plenty of plot tricks to reduce the shock for guys (and riajuu girls), sneak past authenticity traps and maintain interest from its earlier, mostly male readers, it does not hide or dismiss the social fact of real 3D fujoshi enthusiasms within contemporary Japanese culture. It treats them no better or worse than male otaku interests. Fujoshi stuff exists! Don’t freak out, its a hobby…

The popularity of the Genshiken for western fans (the Nidaime anime may have squandered a bit of this capital) also rests on a light Cook’s Tour of these slash-like enthusiasms, continuing from the previous tour of otaku enthusiasms. No male fan who has read the Genshiken will be surprised at the odd Kirk/ Spock/ Uhura moments in Star Trek – Into Darkness. We might roll their eyes, but we now know why it is there, and who is getting their fanservice. As women have been putting up with guys’ fanservice for an eternity this new thing is more than “turnabout is fair play”. The rotten girls (and all the other previously muted or silenced voices who can now write their desires and their lives) do it slightly differently and as such expand the range and sophistication of expression for all of us.

…And so advance the project of civilization.

Happy 2014 and many thanks for dropping by and reading!

This blog will soon be on hiatus until March, as Kamakura still has a few more kiridoshi that I have yet to hike with the one I love. And then there is the little coffee shop a few blocks over from the main Enoden station in Enoshima, beaches that aren’t really too cold for January walks, plenty of healthy, yummy food!, Uniqlo / Muji raids, and temple fairs/ recycle shops. I must not buy 90lbs of used kimonos, obsolete cell phones, maneki-neko figurines and antique ceramic sake jugs this time! No Genshiken plastic action figures either! (that one almost won me free accommodation in a cardboard box under an overpass – can you say “enemy of all woman-kind”?) Time to ease off on the otaku stuff: reality is reality, and with a bit of dumb luck, it is wonderful!

Playing Hookey!

…I know where Makoto Shinkai spent one golden week vacation…

 

Unbiased God: Genshiken ch 93 + 94

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

The tone of the Genshiken has shifted a bit since the Nidiame anime ended. Once again, it has gone into full Hato-focused-mode, with the fallout from his (less occasionally now her) yaoi-inspired man-crush on Madarame dragging the plot along. Those who were getting annoyed at all the “gay stuff” slowly wrecking their beloved Genshiken are going to be even more annoyed. Oh ye of little faith!

If Genshiken was that easy Mada would already be hitched up with Keiko, Yajima would be jumping Hato to try to stop him to stop hanging out in Ni-chōme and Sue would be trying to jump Ogiue every chance she got.

Something else is going on.

but first, a small aside about scripts and scanlations…

Even though the wait for Chapters 93 and 94 had me sweating, I swear I will wait through 4 months of drought should the successor to the bringer of light ever vanish into the ether before I start google-xlating and posting scripts from Bulgarian scanlations. We poor mortals just don’t know. We have no idea if the big K dropped more napalm, or someone got real-life busy, or just bored with the whole thing. I do not regret the scripts – at least I now know that a backup can be cobbled together. I found two other independent attempts, so I know that I wasn’t the only one who got withdrawal symptoms. But the current stuff is damn finely-crafted and well-done; it would take a year or more to ramp up a group effort to replace it.

We love and respect your work, please don’t leave us without our fix, waughhh!

One thing that I came away with from the script exercise: a foreign language reader dropped a comment thanking me for providing a summary in an easy-to-google-xlate text format. I think it should be best practice for all scanlation groups to release text format scripts along with their scans, so as to share the goodness across the gulfs of language, across the entire globe, a federation of leeching fans, going forward, into a brighter future…

Ok, back to some serious mulling-over the last two chapters. Spoiler lamp is ON

At first glimpse, the two chapters are simple and flow in a straightforward manner: only closer examination shows the staging genius of Kio Shimoku. It all comes together so naturally! In chapter 93, Madarame is stuck over the holidays in his messy apartment, alone and bereft of any harem. The absence of any follow-up by any of the four is disheartening. And his broken wrist hurts. When he finally gets a visit, it is from Rika and Yajima, or Rika with Yajima present to ensure that Rika doesn’t go off the rails. He soon learns that a truce agreement is in place and that there will be no visits from any of the interested parties. 3D lurv: Don’t buy the hype! The flashback to the old boys hanging out with him immediately after comiket also had a great feeling of authenticity to it, loaded with sympathetic guy-ish grumbling and rude allusions.

pig disgusting c93 p004Rika makes a few rude allusions too; both the boys and girls of Genshiken expect that their pr0n habit will be messy, but she quickly gets down to delivering her report and her ideas about the situation. In doing so, she assumes the voice of a great number of Genshiken fans (I posit that Japanese fans somewhat mirror diaspora opinions) and advances the suggestion that Keiko is the best choice for Madarame. Keiko is somewhat Saki-ish, riajuu, and available. She also is not Sue (our idol) or Hato-chan (our friend). Madarame can take that however he cares to – he is being gently put in his place, and that place is on the periphery of the current Genshiken.

No mention or thought of how uncomfortable it would be for Madarame to date Sas’s kid sister.

Madarame then wonders why she wasn’t pushing for Hato and gets a flood of goggle-inspired too-much-information before being told that it is really not the gang’s decision to make. Whatever Hato (as chan or kun) decides, they will support. Serves you right Mada for playing the “I’m passive I can’t decide” card.

Meanwhile in the snowy regions of Western Japan, Hato gets to face Kaminaga as his soon to be sister-in-law, in full sister-in-law-to-be mode. She is really getting into her new role. She has dyed her hair back to black, makes polite noises to the household, and gets the sudden urge to be all sisterly-supportive toward Hato even while scouting out his BL stash. Yup, here is an arch-fujoshi asshole completely reformed… Now pull the other one, it has bells on it.

think with what c94 p012Hato does manage to voice a bit of resentment towards her past behaviour, but for the most part is too troubled over what to do with his developing feelings for Madarame to really care about what Kaminaga is up to in her new oddly concerned guise. Kaminaga tries a gambit; get Kono and the other friend, Fuji(?) to meet up with Hato at a local restaurant. The results are uncomfortable. Kono doesn’t know what to do with her old feelings, and gets a bit creeped out when Hato starts going on about skin moisturization. Nor can she make the jump and discuss BL with a guy, which is the god/author setup moment Hato was waiting for: “See! I had to crossdress to be accepted!”

stop itoldyasoing c94 p018He also calls them his friends who he can talk with – which is so odd that I wonder if heavy irony was intended. These are the small-town fujoshi who turned his high school years into a lonely hell. And the meet-up is obviously some kind of poorly lashed together “How far gone is he? Is he still interested in girls?” exploration session. Friends like these, yup…

For all of it though, He does get some salvageable advice. Part of the Genshiken slice of life charm is the sheer amount of well-meaning, but not too useful “help” offered from all and sundry, from their own vested interest positions. Occasionally even a blind pig gets to find a truffle. Kono blurts out that if his hobby is causing him so much distress, then ditch it – it’s just a hobby. Of course her advice is tainted by self-interest, the Hato she still harbours a crush for is riajuu – but it gets him thinking.

Of course he will go back to Tokyo. Small town life is small and there isn’t a lot left for him there, though it felt good to clear the snow from the roof.

If Kono has any sense of occasion she had best run her ass over to the train station before he leaves and at least plead a copy of his next dojin from him. She can even say that the culture festival work was BETTER than Kaminaga’s stuff. C’mon, Kono, lets see some wiles!

As to why what he is returning to in Tokyo, that too deserves a bit more consideration.

A few choice bits:

All you fault c94 p010Oh yes, he does blame Kaminaga for his current dilemma, but is it the original one or the original, plus the stands that have been tormenting him? Or both, plus the Kaminaga he fixated on back in high school? Was it a crush or just severely overblown admiration? When Hato calls someone sempai, what demons lurk within his private meaning of the term? Really she’s not that responsible, unless a younger evil-genius Kaminaga had ran around their junior high school leaving yaoi dojins in the boys locker rooms in the hope of livening up her small town life.

To a certain segment of Genshiken fans, and a larger number of casual readers, Hato was always latent, and now has gone gay. But what an odd and tentative homosexuality it is. Were he a real-life individual, he would be free to explore his desire as he saw fit, and would end up somewhere within the fine gradations of however wherever’s gay culture so gradates. He would have a bit of a hard time at first, but any group eventually socialises newbies. Perhaps real Japanese gay communities have their own internal arguments about what to do with “another kid from the sticks who thinks he wants to do yaoi, as a seme”. There is way too much BL and Yaoi floating around Japan.

Hato however is a character, so what exactly is he being constructed as – what is the odd version of “gay” desire being created, and why?

Hato was never a “simple” male fudanshi leaning towards 3D man-love; he always compartmentalized his yaoi fantasies within the persona of a heterosexual, celibate, fujoshi. Hato-chan was supposed to be safely “in charge” of that stuff, viacariously shipping Hato-kun as a forceful seme, but that reality never threatened the “real” male Hato, because fujoshis just do fantasies. But now “someone” wants to set 3D fujoshi Hato-chan up with a 3D Madarame as a nice, deferring, lovestruck, passive shoujo heroine, or at least as otomeyaku. Who is processing that fantasy? Which Hato is it coming from?

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

– Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki (Translated by Christopher Bolton, Introduction by Kotani Mari) In “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. pps 222-249.

Kio Shimoku’s supportive cast of Genshiken characters bypass any simple questions of persecution (that’s left to small town high schools out in the snowy boonies) but if this was an attempt at a gay male coming of age story, then where are the beta couples, supportive (or predatory) older experienced gay guy(s), and a host of other tropes that I will transpose from non-exploitative “feels” yuri, having no idea how the bara genre handles this stuff when it is not getting down to raw nasty smut. Then there is his crossdressing…

Hato’s emergent pseudo-gayness is a thought experiment as to what might happen if an isolated small-town male used yaoi and BL tropes as a guide to “becoming” gay and/or trans, taken to extremes to be-labor a point and spin a fine tale. I have gone on previously that Shimoku might be pulling fast one on Saito Tamaki’s idea of hysterical trauma, with yaoi instead of the Beautiful Fighting Girl. And of course there is Dr. Mizoguchi… The results are going to odd. This stuff was generated by mostly straight women for their own amusement, and the studies surrounding it and it’s western counterparts are full of warnings from real guys who like guys that the wimmins are off on their own tangent. Plus the chief puppet-master of this tale is a guy, riffing on these contradictions.

As slash-kami MJJ reported a decade ago, her gay male correspondants would tell her: “real guys don’t fuck like that!”

Sorry Chip, you think we didn’t anyway?

“I know where I came from – but where did all you zombies come from? “I felt a headache coming on, but a headache powder is one thing I do not take. I did once–and you all went away. So I crawled into bed and whistled out the light. You aren’t really there at all. There isn’t anybody but me –Jane– here alone in the dark. I miss you dreadfully!”
-Oscar Wilde

“…to posit a gender, a God is necessary: guaranteeing the infinite.”
– Luce Irigaray

Who “owns” the popular construction of the ideas behind romance, love, sexuality and desire in modern societies? How is the territory staked out? What are the effects of the ways in which these are advanced? What happens when consensus is replaced by contested spaces? Is it all too complex for mere mortals to handle? Will society fall apart as a result?

No wonder the gender theory brigade are thick as thieves all over modern Japanese fujoshi cultural practices. I know something of the allure of this kind of raw sociology. I am lucky I have no vested interest in it or I would soon go all mad-boy about the whole thing and start Mwwwahhahhaahaa-ing all over this blog. Sociology taken too far has much of the same mirage-like appeal found in conspiracy theories. Hermetic knowledge! Power! Influence! The possibility of messing around with entire cultures! Wheeeeeee! Instead I watch from the sidelines, bemused…

Back to the Genshiken…

Note how Mada is left in a typically Madarame-esque situation due to his profession of passivity. He doesn’t even get to state any preference. His little harem fantasies are written to indicate that Hato-chan would be an acceptable member of a group attention-lavishing scene – whether he wants to bundle the whole gang off to the yurt is another matter. It is not that he can’t process all the attention, it is just that the processing has stopped at “Good to be King“. Sue as exotic temple dancer is a master-stroke.

Dare he try ANY kind of 3D and risk the destruction of this fantasy? But whose fantasy is it?

Something about butterflies… Who is dreaming and who is the dream?

Historically, Japan was at least two up on the prehistoric Western world’s guy-lock on romance tales thanks to Murasaki and Shonagon, but their works were not exactly in wide circulation until the twentieth century. And the narratives they advanced were hardly society-shaking. In the rest of the world, narratives of romantic love appear to be mostly male creations until late in the game. Sapho exists only in fragments, and they were enough to scare the bejesus out of the guys. I missed any University level courses on 17th to 19th century english lit, and so the exact timeline for earlier efforts but I vaguely recall that some “virtue tales” of female submission to rich suitors (Pamela, etc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pamela,_or_Virtue_Rewarded) were written by guys in the 1700’s. Even then controversy ensued, with a few satires and perhaps even Sade’s infamous Justine written in response.

England in the 1800’s got Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights and Frankenstein (surely, a love story), so at least there was some women’s input, though Brontë first published under a male-sounding non de-plume. Skip forward into the twentieth century, and we see that popular romances, though penned by women were being converted into movies by large, very patriarchal movie studios. Who was more the author for Gone with the Wind; Margaret Mitchell or David O. Selznick & Co.?

Now everyone gets to toss their ideas into the ring. Straight girls and guys as well as gays and lesbians and the whole LGBTQ spectrum get to write their stories and argue about their individual ideas about the proper ways of finding happiness, true D’awwwwww and snuggles (or whatever else turns individual cranks). And, as always, one can write the odd bits that don’t fit well onto the mysterious, imagined “other”. Nothing new there either, but no more witch burning allowed.

humanityIt is one thing to attempt to imposes one’s whims onto mainstream notions of male: female love, desire and courtship. It is another thing entirely to “colonize” a minority sexuality of a different gender and/or society for your own amusement and pleasure, even if you get side benefits from allegorically addressing certain issues of roles and power within your society. And the rotten girls are not going to stop, no matter how many yaoi ronso episodes pop up. You might as well argue with the hardcore fans of other paraphilias that their fantasies are hurtful, mean and dangerous to real humans. The responses will be the same, and familiar to even Genshiken readers.

And now I feel a bit guilty for all the exploitative v1 yuri smut I have consumed over the years. Just a bit, It’s complicated…

Perhaps Madarame and Hato should hole up in Mada’s apartment and devour a stack of contemporary non-exploitative, woman-authored, lesbian approved “feels” yuri to get some insight into handling confusing feelings. Hato should bring his chan persona just in case. Since the quality of the advice currently offered to them is so ill-suited to their predicament in any case, a little from the other side of the trenches couldn’t do much more damage. Shimoku Sensei could have a field day dragging another empire of delusions into the fray.

Personally I would recommend, as I am currently enjoying, the works of Takemiya Jin.

Stop! It is dangerous to base one’s ideas of romance on popular fictional narratives. No good can come of it!

From my misppent youth, I remember the teenage sister of a friend who fell heavily for the high school freak, who was prone to acting out the worst excesses of “hippie” behaviour a decade and a half too late. She had her own problems; a taste for massive amounts of recreational hallucigens and other self-destructive behaviour. Their search for a model of a “normal” romance led them to lock themselves in the basement TV viewing room at her parents house and snuggle while watching soap operas in order to learn how to construct a conventional romance. I shit yee not! The resulting relationship was odd, full of imagined infidelities and one case of amnesia. 3D far weirder than 2D!

But reality is reality and…

On second thought, Mada and Hato better also grab a stack of Gintama tankubons. Ten years of it! Shout Out Time! Wow!

As for the works of Takemiya Jin, I had run into them before and a few glowing recs from Erica-sensei caused me to seek them out again. I now see that the collected volume she recommends was spread out across a slew of one-shots and various titles (as available to us cheapskate leeches), but take place around the same group of young women. There are hardly any herp derp hawt secks scenes, which used to be the whole point of yuri – but their absence is not missed.

What Takemiya-sensei’s stories do have plenty of is brooding, emotional relationshippy stuff, but measured out in believable doses. I find myself making D’awwwwww noises. And I really, really, really like the character artwork. Takemiya-sensei uses a fine strong line and is one of the few artists who can do the pointy-chin face and get away with it (for moi, your mileage, etc…). Most of the time I find the pointy face shojo heroine a a warning signal for a vapid helpless thing (or the occasional sword weilding heroine – who I have no problems in principle with – its just that they are far too patient with nasty fools to appeal to me [1]). These women are far from either extreme. They are practical romantics and that sets them up for no end of relationship troubles – somewhat like real life. Their expressive manga eyes brood over their predicaments while their mouths are set with a grim determination to figure the whole messy thing out somehow; to keep going, to take their desires seriously, even as these desires threaten to shatter them or turn them into lovestruck idiots.

Perhaps it is because I grew up aquainted with a few women friends who liked other women, lusted after one or another of them and once the adolescent hormone surge receeded, found them good occasional company. What stuck was an admiration for how their heartfelt longing for idealized romantic love was perpetually at odds with their cold, hard, pregmatic outlook on relationships and life. I always suspected that they secretly looked at themselves in the mirror and hoped to see a hero staring back. What the heck, who hasn’t?  There are worse things in the world than making a fool of oneself for love. I got lucky I guess: assholes come in all models but I pretty well missed the wimmen’s versions, so I can foolishly generalise in a sympathetic manner. Takemiya-sensei’s stories remind me of them somehow.

We get more than “story A” in Takemiya Jin’s works. Characters only pair up after a lot of consideration and worry that they will mess up existing friendships, or feel like crap if they are rejected and/or break up. There is also a small degree of powder ritually burnt about whether the intended one will think that yuri v2 romance (aka real gosh honest to goodness lesbian romance, as written by an “out” Japanese lesbian!) is weird. Some of the characters are deeply into the idea of romantic love, while others abjure it as too fraught with emotional danger – even though they secretly wish it could one day be theirs. Confessions don’t always bring instant happiness, though reconsideration pops up as a reoccurring motif. There is even a token gay guy friend of one of the more active lesbian characters; she gets stuck with him shadowing her at school, gets used as a beard by him, gets a lot of unanswerable “what should I do?” questions and then has to counsel his younger sister to stop manisfesting her misplaced jealousy as childish homophobia. The scene when sis is sure that older brother is doing gay as yaoi and needs to be calmed down is a hoot!

Pubic service yuri fragments_of_love_v001_ch004_029My only minor complaint is that Takemiya-sensei has the dark-haired brooding type and the active blonde type, and the blond older woman type and as the characters overlap between stories it is sometimes dfficult to remember who is who (and pining for who, while pined for by who) – especially when a story has two nearly identical dark-haired characters in a love triangle (one wears glasses). It gets a bit confusing.

So two reticent male Genshiken characters, one with a head full of loli crap and josou games, and another with a head full of yaoi dojins, wondering what to make of their feelings could do worse than take a few tips from the cautious life lessons offered by Takemiya Jin. Both Madarame and Hato are tentative about 3D anything, including friendship. Some of the wimmins in Takemiya Jin’s ‘verse do just end up as friends. Perhaps Shimoku sensei has been holding the (v2, non exploitative) yuri in reserve all this time?

If Kio Shimoku decides to push the Hato-crush plot even further he is going to get to have a whole lot of fun with the other big weak spot in yaoi-land; the idiotic, formulaic insistance on the seme/uke typology. And we have been getting some previous plot telegraphing about this: Hato always imagined his “objectivised male self” as a seme. Except that when he is in Hato-chan mode and trancing over Madarame – then he begins to think uke-Hato-chan-otome-yaku-whatever. Pity that Madarame is so damn passive, that he couldn’t even be a sou-uke, let alone any kind of seme. Sou-uke requires something beyond catatonic withdrawal.

Then toss in the “Am I turning gay, or can I get away with the [only for you] excuse?” from yaoi lore. While Hato can put off a few worries with this, Madarame would have to do a whole lot of sweating, even if he occomodates the experiment as a josou game fantasy that has come to life. Madarame is now too far gone to consider any 3D attention, from anyone. Expect vicious “How to cure a lolicon” and “josou sanmyaku” (Crossdressing Mountain Range – game) jokes ‘o plenty as he tries to find an emotionally safe place to curl up into and weather the storm.(2)

Meanwhile to Hato: Even if originally written as nominally straight in 3D matters, he must have found the idea of manly as-warped-by-pervy-women romance strangely appealing. So he somehow got stuck on the idea that yaoish romance was a good model for romance in general. Questions of bodies and genders could even have been put aside for a bit if the first BL-ish magazines he stumbled across featured androgynous bishies – he was, after all not developing secondary sexual characteristics as much or as fast as his junior high classmates. Hence the latest little ret-shade offered up to us by Shimoku-sensei. This offers a convenient plot excuse for leaving the judo club as well. Androgynous lovers who did rough, rapey man(ly) secks in tandem with over -the-top you-and-only-you-forever-even-if-the-earth-takes-my-dead-body romanticism did something for him. The female self he constructed was a way of denying the logical implications of his fantasies, as well as being the vehicle with which he could finally find a social wherein he could fan over them.

gasp c94p027The Genshiken finally empowers him to constuct his own fantasies; to engage in secondary, fannish production, to take charge of the mechanisms of his own desires and draw his story. But of course he can’t. He can only draw clench scenes. His imagination is primarily visual. From his stand(s), we can see that he has been written as having extensive trope genre knowledge, but canot turn it into a full “na-me” storyboard. In this matter having Ogiue help him is only a half-measure, because she is as visually based as he is. Rika is the only text-narrative-biased fujoshi in the Genshiken, and she has no off switch. No help there.

Could it be a suppressed narrator-Hato that is pulling all the strings?

“If I can’t get you to write it, I’ll make you live it! Dance my little puppet! Dance!”

What a fine detective story! Better than a murder mystery in a society of telepaths!

Hato should have imprinted on the v.1 yuri of Ken Kurogane. The polygamous “lets fuck like crazy right now” of gay and straight male pr0n, the over the top romanticism of yaoi but with girl bodies and no damn seme /uke stuff to get in the way of a good sweaty tangle. Male mangaka, hmmmmmmm… Is Shojo Sect full of reworked yaoi and bara puppets presented as “girls”? The mirrors of desire in the manga-land funhouse are distorted as all heck! But at least then Hato-chan could have gone looking for a nice spunky girl who could best him (her) in a judo match…

Duh!

How far does Kio Shimoku care to push the Hato-crush motif? It looks like it can get cruel really fast, even if it is well in keeping with his habit of using the Genshiken to skewer otaku (and now fujoshi) foibles.

Personaly I still don’t buy any bit of Hato x Mada x Hato. Perhaps I am in denial, but I cannot believe either of them in any kind of physical relationship with anyone, given their current states. Both are now emotional wrecks. Of course Kio Shimoko can write Hato and Mada into a well-lubed orgy along with the rest of the crew, the brave little toaster, chibi-godzilla and a tentacled monster from the planet transexual in any upcoming chapter he cares to, but that would be the last chapter of the Genshiken. Done, Forever.

Also, while I used to be an enthusiastic Sue x Mada shipper, I now believe that Shimoku-sensei has dropped in too many scenes where it looks like Sue is embarrassed in Mada’s direction, but Hato is always there too in clear line of sight. If we need Sue yuri-ish hijinx in the Genshiken, then there is even a use for Hato-chan in the 3D secton of the Genshiken ‘verse. Sue might be able to salvage the wreck that is Hato, even if it might take months of chaste dating to calm him down,

Also, I am still waiting for the moteki field effect to hit Hato. Madarame had his four “suitors”, By my intuited rule of parallel haplessness, Hato should get some attention soon, from other girls besides Yajima and Kono. Phhhttttt! Kono doesn’t even count if she doesn’t get her game on soon.

Similarly, I can’t see Keiko doing anything but looking at Madarame and deciding that he is just too much work even for a love-struck young hostess. Let the big boobed gaijin girl have some fun next comiket; the moteki field has collapsed and unemployed, relationship-clueless, creepy manga consuming, sulking, passive Mada is once again hopeless. And all that 2D FOREVER stuff tastes like ashes in his mouth. Time for Mada to change his life.

Gambatte! Madarame-san! I know you can become #1 host!

If this keeps up, Ogiue will have to impose a NO DATING IN THE GENSHIKEN, DAMMIT! rule, just to calm things down a bit.

Snap out of it and go make some dojins!

Random Endnotes:

[1] You can’t fool me! I know that a proper lesbian vanquisher of evil looks like Hothead Paisan [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothead_Paisan]. I rue the day I picked that thing up – a joke gift given to a straight woman friend who was being teased +/or supported by her frends after one more disappointing relationship had just ended. Yikes! Cannot un-see, but it made a lot of sense within its context. You think Hothead Paisan would do any stupid rose duelling? She’d shoot the fucking goomba in the face, twice, cut off his junk, lay into anyone, male or female who stood in her way and burn the evil twit rose-dueling school to the ground. Problem solved! Run off into the sunset with the rose-maiden, and shoot a few rednecks on the way! …As long as the coffee didn’t run out. One wouldn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity, but I understand where her creator was coming from.

I understand rage.

Recall:

“Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

Closer to current manga practice, consider Gaku of Murasaki-iro no Qualia. She’ll off one of herselves, if herself gets in the way of saving her friend. That’s how to do hero!

[2] I have a suspicion that the josou one-off tale and the game noted by the Girl Cartoons josou genre essay series (pt3)

” Maintaining this line of reasoning—foremost, the assumption that many Josou works can be read as allegorical of the development of the fandom as a whole—we turn to the erotic visual novel 女装山脈 (josou sanmyaku) or “Crossdressing Mountain Range”, by Nounai Kanojo. Josou Sanmyaku draws a number of parallels to “How to Cure a Lolicon”, and while it is less explicitly allegorical, it nonetheless represents a typical conception of the development of Josou fandom, and development of attraction to the “otokonoko”—which, compared to “Lolicon”, is made very explicit here—and makes a few interestingly novel claims about the fandom which might almost be considered moral prescriptions.

To begin with, Josou Sanmyaku is aggressive in its invocation of the “otokonoko”. The three heroines², all crossdressing males, insist on referring to themselves not as 男の子 (with the kanji for “child”), but as 男の娘 (with the kanji for “young girl”). The “otokonoko” is established in the game’s mythos as something of a third gender, revealed eventually to even be able to bear children via supernatural means. Particularly in the first act of the game, which includes one erotic scene featuring each heroine, there is a strong undercurrent in the dialogue of the otokonoko being capable of providing pleasure far beyond that which a normal woman possibly could, and of the heroines’ goal being to “ruin” the protagonist such that he could not be satisfied by normal women again”.  – –  http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=72

were notorious enough, to serve as the model for Kousaka’s company’s crossdressing game in Genshiken.

For those who would yet sing

Wherein I engage in another long digressive trip down memory lane while attempting to answer a question.

“In every age, God sends a millennial angel to deliver his message to mankind. But the space between heaven and earth is a terrible void; in passing through it the angel is buffeted about by such forces that it loses its message, its memory, its purpose and finally its shape, until it is vomited forth across the night sky without form or substance knowing only a terrible hunger.” – Slavoj Zizek

Forget Baudrillard

,
WARNING! Incredibly meandering mess continues beyond the cutline!

You have been warned! Personal digressions, hobby horses and too many vocaloid videos ensue!. Hic sunt dracones!

UPDATE: Oh Snap! The full “live concert” video has been pulled. Below is a partial “live” version that was part of the “evolution” of the exploit.


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