Till human voices wake us

“Another damned thick post! Always scribble, scribble, scribble! Eh, Mr. Muda?”

“Hello yes every single manic pixie dream girl is queer, but they’re viewed entirely through a straight male lens, so their personality is reframed as the quirky saviours of sad straight boys, thanks for coming to my Ted Talk”
— Mia Steinberg [@MiaSteinberg] https://twitter.com/MiaSteinberg/status/992188834661089282

That just took care of an entire essay on Genshiken/ Genshiken Nidaime‘s Sue Hopkins

Taken in concert with ASandyRabbit‘s essays on Spotted Flower over at Genshiken Dropout:
https://genshikendropout.wordpress.com/2017/10/12/the-all-gender-gaze-also-chapter-22-of-spotted-flower/
and
https://genshikendropout.wordpress.com/2018/04/16/spotted-flower-26-or-is-it/

… And we have a firm basis for an expanded understanding of Hato and Sue.

Plenty more remains to be said about Harunobu Madarame aka The (once and future) Husband in Spotted Flower. I am fascinated by the puzzle. Mada is the cisgendered heterosexual avatar of geekyness main character. Straight boy POV works for me. Whereas a slashy, or queer POV will bring alternative readings. The trouble is that Kenjiro Hato/ The Mangaka, as well as Sue Hopkins the future boobie grabbing terror of Comiket are both queer-ish creations whomped up by a straight cartoonist for a mostly straight-gaze audience. They are Dreaming in Queer™ artifacts. That Kio Shimoku manages to imbue them with something more than one-dimensionality is a tribute to his storytelling skills, even as it is apparent that Spotted Flower is a Harunobu Madarame (thinly veiled of not) adventure tour.

“left brain: it isn’t healthy to obsess over fictional characters constantly because you lose touch with reality
right brain: bold of you to assume i’ve ever been in touch with reality.”
Twitter, tits mcgee @afairyhoe, May 24 2018

As such, Spotted Flower, more than Genshiken Nidaime is a Mada meet shadow of queer, shadow of queer meet Mada story (coming on the heels of a Mada meet responsibility, responsibility meet Mada, Mada run screaming into the night story); one built for primarily for the entertainment (and/ or consternation) of straight boys and girls. A tojisha reader will notice things that I don’t. They may even find a measure of satisfaction from seeing the flame that burned for years in the heart of Kenjiro Hato given the chance to blaze forth in a night of passion. Damn fine and more power to all. Hato has clearly been (written as) besotten all this time; their motivation is “pure” even as the execution is designed to be jarring to some fanboy (including my) sensibilities.

It is Madarame/ The Husband’s motives and motivations that remain opaque, diffuse and layered. Beyond the surface alibi of feeling belittled by his peers, his excuses branch forth like intricate, crystalline growths. On top of this, his character can also be viewed through the reductivist lens of allegory. Madarame variously “secretly wanted” to try sou-ukery and/or is testing the limits of his salaryman privilege and/or seeking maturity by getting “dirtied” along with a raft of other tenuous just-so stories all while standing on stage as the very model… – if increasingly out of reach — of salaried adult Japanese male conformity.

Were I more into queer theory, I could say cis-heteronomative conformity[1]. Were I more doctrinaire in my wishy-washy leftishness, I would be qualifying the conformity with capitalism. If I worked at it, I betcha I could sneak in some post-colonialist conformity as well. As it is, I am more interested in the conformity part of the conformity. Here again, the Hato character is useful, constructed and deployed to serve as high contrast to Madarame and his position.

Is Kenjiro Hato ( as one long-time correspondent suggested) Kio Shimoku’s unconscious fujoshi slipping out? Possibly; Kio-sensei has been mooching around the rotten sandlot for a decade and a half. Hato however, as his creation is first and foremost a mangaka and one who (along with their lover-manager) ekes out a living on convention doujin sales. Kio-sensei’s creation therefore stands in opposition to all rule-following, securely salaried figures as avatar of creativity, resistance and precarity. Ronin, Freeter, Artist. All who draw a salary, including the new editor character Endou are natural enemies, even if they may appear to be allies of the moment. Japan has centuries of experience in enforcing conformity, most often through social exclusion and starvation. Creative types act out their individuality and their token rebellions but the leash is always near and very, very short. Kenjiro Hato is a queer creation but the reason for their queer must mention how they stand as a symbol of nonconforming individuality and freedom; purchased not only by their skill and enthusiasms but at the price of economic and social insecurity.

Years ago, I ventured in a post that Madarame only falls for the feminine aspect of the heroic. Kasukabe Saki was interesting but Saki as Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad busting an upskirt filming creep made his knees go weak. Pity that carrying a child to term, even if it is his child is somehow too real to be heroic and out of consideration. Hato’s project in Nidaime was ambitious but Madarame would have found it difficult to view it as heroic; whereas their current life drips exotic and dangerous individuality, at least from the viewpoint of a very safely employed yet vexed salaryman.

Other essays touched on the Japanese concept of “Ikki“, the impermanence of doomed beautiful creatures of the floating world. Tyrel’s final pronouncement in Blade Runner: “the flame that burns twice as bright burns only half as long”, wishful, poetic license notwithstanding is a close approximation of the point of view. The usual outcome is more likely to be something along the lines of “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din”. Gunga seldom survives to hear the grudging praise.

Hato has been constructed queer or as a shadow of queer but like so many such straight creations, with details that are improbable, wonky and off-spec. There are reasons for this; if anything there too many reasons. Almost every odd thing about Hato fits like a puzzle piece into the larger story, which incidentally once more hammers home the case for Spotted Flower being a veiled continuation of the Genshiken-verse. If one is not up on the lore of Genshiken and Nidaime, The Mangaka character comes off as predatory at worst; at best unable to exercise self-control and good bedroom manners. One does not demand the indulgence of your fave fetish on the first date! Only those of us familiar with the long history of the pas-de-deux between Madarame and Hato would understand that Hato as trans-fujoshi — a conceit wherein the character used BL and the female fan homosocials surrounding the genre as a way to negotiate their gender and sexuality issues — was custom-built to really really want to top Mada as proof of their love the first (or second) chance they got.

A younger Hato could have said Ski-da or D’ai-ski while walking with Mada back on the Nikko temple grounds and both would have long ago satisfied their curiosities, if not their hearts. Instead Hato fugued out and started blubbering about BL seme x uke lore because that is all they knew of love between men and the only way they could (and can) process the concept (perhaps of any manner) of love. Future Merei Yajima suffers from this as well, stuck in the role of virtual lesbian fujoshi sex-friend, manager and confidant [2]

It isn’t a case of a deceitful (grown up) girly-boy out to bone a foolish salaryman — even if it might look so to the uninitiated.

Past essays have explored a number of reasons why supposedly gay, trans, queer characters get written into stories made by and for nominally straight audiences. Young guy charas with the hots for each other can “stand in” for a young women’s readership and explore romantic carnality in ways that might be jarring or at least too close to home if one or more of the bodies were female. (hi Ten, Taiyou…) A gay and/or gender-queer outsider perspective gives a chara, especially a male/ DMAB chara licence to show interest and even a sophisticated understanding of interpersonal dynamics in settings where such skill would be harder to sell if done by a straight male character. Male agency, physical strength and emotional inarticulateness; male hysteria is a good excuse for adding entertaining noisy melodrama to what would be otherwise mundane romance stories. At least we are slowly moving beyond adding “the gay” to a scary scary villain chara to make them that much scarier as well as the related urge to turn them into an antagonist by circumstance, ultimately defeatable and redeemable whether they like it or not (who again in the Franxx?).

I have found a new one; a “secondary use” for a genderqueer character as a “lite” alternative to a fully gay male character. Portions of Anime Twitter have recently been going on about a crossdressing boy figure skating character introduced in the latest (Hugtto) Pretty Cure/ Precure. (Of all things!) While the character does get to serve as an argument for less rigid gender role considerations (“Girls can be Heroes and Boys can be Princesses [that need saving] too.“) one must acknowledge that the half Russian, half French figure skater transfer student might like “beautiful clothes” (and I have no beef with the sermon or its placement, Yay Precure…) but is also there to serve as a kid’s “lite” version of a Yuri on Ice character. Difficult questions about that sexuality thing, out-of-place in a kid’s anime are thereby brushed aside. I think I will christen this the “kid’s doujin” effect.

As well as keeping track of the conventional in-story uses of shadow-queer characters, it is also useful to keep an eye on their just-so backstories. The oldest of these I shorthand as the “Gatsby effect“. The rich are different from us, they have fuckloads more money and so they are afforded a greater measure of societal freedom. This one shows up a lot. The next most popular I borrow from Nagaike; [http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue20/nagaike.htm] the “Exotic Outlander(s)” As in the above figure skater, outlanders are prone to odd habits and might even occasionally break into quaint ethnic dances. Mustn’t gawk.

To these we can add “Guide to a weekend taste of freedom and non-conformity“. For an extreme example, ask yourself if Brad and Janet were fundamentally changed in any way by their encounter with the denizens of Doc Frank N Furter‘s mansion.

Dirty….
Really?

Harunobu Madarame/ The Husband (even with the earlier Genshiken-verse backstory) has been painted in thin strokes – as one would expect from a few pages four times a year manga – but the direction of these strokes is unmistakable. Indeed it would be nothing but a jumble of lines without the over-powering archetype of his salaryman role. This archetype is so strong that even a woman chara, with a few tweaks, can don it and comfortably ride the commuter trains back and forth to work every day. Perhaps Miss Kobayashi’s fear of making an honest dragon out of Tohru stems from a subconscious fear, not of para-lesbianism but of succumbing to the larger (including the domestic) role of the salaryman. Then again, as a woman and a programmer Miss Kobayashi can never truly approach the core of Japanese salaryman-ness. As a programmer, she is expected to actually accomplish work that is objectively measurable as accomplished, if not productive. This places her within an elite subset of salaryman-dom as a “specialist” but also outside of its mainstream social practices.

Add to this her role as asexual leader of a lesbian dragon collective (NOT a harem!) and one can see the Kobayashi household and its allied domains as a rose-colored stealth queer subversion, if not a surpassing of the salaryman archetype.[3] Then it turns out her workplace is owned by an alchemist whose underaged son is being sexually harassed by a dypsomaniac Aztec love goddess dragon and…

Ohh.. fugget it…

In contrast, Madarame as The Husband, from what we can infer from his past behavior is cast firmly in place of all conforming, modestly successful team-playing, check everything with your coworkers and report the consensus as progress while asking for further direction from your boss “hourensou” practicing worker-drones. That is why he is allowed to earn enough to support a wife and child.

“To be a good employee, you need to understand hourensou. If not, you´ll be constantly told off by your boss. I think I´d be one of the bad one[s]. You must report your progress of the work and the result (houkoku), you must pass the actual information without your opinion (renraku) and you must ask for an advice when you can´t decide (soudan). But of course, you cannot just do it. There are some techniques to do hourensou, otherwise your boss thinks you are not sensible enough and again, you will get told off. ”
http://www.iromegane.com/japan/culture/what-is-hourensou/

Yadda yadda yadda. We are endlessly told that Japanese workplaces prize cooperation and consensus. The actual mechanisms are seldom explained. Along with strict hierarchy, we get “go along to get along” raised to a fever pitch. You and all your similarly ranked colleagues must report that you all have the same understanding and belief in yesterday’s stated goals, that there is incremental progress in that direction and that you await critique and further elaboration of how the consensus is to proceed. Any actual output of product or service might well be incidental. Under such conditions Mada’s “spinelessness” is not just a survival strategy; it is his winning attribute, the source of his success and social position.

Is Kio Shimoku suggesting that all good Japanese salarymen are primed and conditioned to pantomime sou-uke behavior? (or seek it as release?) Or even that the seme x uke trope might have been invented as a woman’s burlesque of annoying and all too prevalent patterns of male deference and demands for authority; suck up, kick down recast as fetish? More likely he is spinning a parable that affirms that as long as the employed male respects the order of forms they will be economically rewarded, given agency over underlings and allowed a measure of “play time”, even misbehavior outside of the all-important work social. Those who screw this up will have a harder time of it.

Everything remains all about Madarame the salaryman. Even the manga title is a play on hs name. Where it not for the novelty of queer desire (used as shorthand for minority sexuality and /or gender expression [4]) and queer sex, Mada’s entitlement and the “luck” that his “spinelessness” purchases would bend the story out of shape. The first Rabbit book by Updike [5] works more or less. The second is a nightmare because ‘ya just know that jerk boy will eventually emerge relatively intact out the ass end of the exercise, hippie love cult commune notwithstanding.

Obviously secondary, precarious characters are going to get bent about to fit this hellish distortion in the plot-gravity field. Is there any other character in Spotted Flower who approaches Mada for economic security? Temp agency editor, mangaka and assistant, boutique entrepreneur catering to a niche fashion market… Future Kousaka might come close as an ero-game developer; even if his job once compelled him to wiggle into the costume of a chara from Crossdressing Valley and perform as a Comiket booth babe otokonoko.

Likewise, any problematic depictions of trans characters (as well as of besotten heavyset fujoshi girls and somewhat same-sex attracted manic pixy outlander girls) is a secondary, even unintended effect. Making a trans character look predatory was never the point of the story. Did not Kio-sensei go through the trouble of spinning an elaborate backstory to position their almost-but-not-quite trans woman/ trans-fujoshi character outside of serious IRL consideration?

Almost… but not quite. Hato might self-identify as trans-fujoshi and occasionally as residually male but eventually even the most stick-in-the-mud cis-het-aged-paleskinned-anglo-euroethnic close reading fans of the Genshiken must eventually admit that HATO IS TRANS. That their creator does not deploy approved western self-identification scripts and terminology is no excuse not to afford the character their obvious identity.[6]

spotted hips web.jpg

Those future Hato/ Mangaka hips did not come about as bonus surgery along with the boob job. Magical fan-fiction aside, if Kio-sensei draws the ero-mangaka like that, a backstory that includes years of hormone treatments must be stipulated. Did the Hato character justify estrogen treatments to themselves as a path to becoming a better fujoshi? Something is off here. [7]

Hato as a trans character, or as a character who is the straight-imagined shadow of one manner of transwoman is a trickier spirit to conjure than a wayward salaryman. If Hato was a depressed socially isolated lesbian who gradually learned to draw in order to tell her story, Kio-sensei would have available material if he was looking for a realistic – or realistic reading – source to rip off/ borrow. Storytelling uses exaggeration, clichés, chara types and tropes because they makes a hellishly difficult task somewhat manageable. If a queer character’s design aims for something closer to “realism” these will be folded into the larger lore as well. The reason why the “okama” and the “otokonoko” reappear in manga and anime is because they are clichés, even if one of them is drawn from surface impressions of IRL Japanese gay history. Then again, perhaps Kenjiro Hato/ The Mangaka has already ascended to trope-dom. Ms. Kobayashi’s Maid Dragon‘s author has a small manga series, drawn in rough copy-bon/ na-me form; “Danna ga Nani o Itte Iru ka Wakaranai Ken/ I can’t understand what my husband is saying“. Cool Kyoushinsha has his own take on the otaku husband and riajuu wife and just to cover all the bases soon introduces the husband’s brother who is transitioning to sisterhood. The latter is full-metal rotten, an accomplished ero-dojinshi Comiket seller and a brocon who only draws their brother as uke with a thinly veiled version of…  Themself!

Congratulations to Kenjiro Hato and his demiurge Kio Shimoku on their ascension to trope-dom.

All who can, shall!

 

And here is where this essay breaks down. I hesitate to wade into the appropriation of voice swamp but I still feel that something is off about the way Kenjiro Hato of Nidaime and Hato/ The Mangaka, as character is used. Tojisha folks don’t want to see there lives erased but aren’t these token, often wonky “dream-in-queer” chimeras of LGBTQIA+ life almost as problematic? Or are they better than nothing; Hobson’s choice, they’ll take Campbell’s, etc. artifacts? Manga and anime so seldom approach “realism” that it might be futile to demand it. Likewise declaring that henceforth yuri should only be written by out lesbians, BL by gay guys and anything using a genderqueer character by someone in the life is going to work as well as ordering the tides to stop. (What about collabs? Expert advisors?). It would however be great to see more genre works from authors who know a bit about what their charas could be like. It would also be way loads of fun to see tojisha authors run roughshod over a metric shit-ton of well-loved (or tolerated) genre tropes and mangle them. Takako Shimura already did a serious take on this trick with Aio Hana. I wonder what Jin Takemiya would do with a confident young lesbian character stuck in Class-S Melodrama Lesbian High School™?

Meanwhile the ever-returning urge of the straight writer to dream and write in queer will not go away, nor should it, if only because it is a powerful, wonky societal diagnostic port. It might also be the height of folly to attempt to try to seal it up. Fujoshi (at a minimum) would tell you (politely) to buzz off. They ain’t givin’ up their art form. It theirs. Yaoi Ronso Ver. X? Scrub the Tumblr pages, password the forums. Crash dive, crash dive. Rig for silent running…

I circle back to the fujoshi (and their slash-y cousins across the pond) because they make such a great example, but there is plenty of the same effect in other genres, perhaps more suitable to cis-old-pale-het-outlander tastes and considerations.

Twenty years (or less) from now there will be a heck of a lot more mundane manga and comics written by gay, lesbian, trans and queer (as well as IS and Ace) writers and that will mean that the ones that take off can be pillaged by straight boys and girls to create improved queer character knockoffs using a wider range of established tropes. Secondary queer characters will stand a better chance of not ending up as cardboard villains, disposable sidekicks, selfless Mary Sues/ Marty Stus and /or improbable three-sexed (so no, the author is not insulting “real” LGBTQIA folks) alien werewolves in heat.

Because the ultimate privilege that a straight cis-gendered writer of the majority ethnic group in their locale can afford to a character that looks like them is the freedom to be written as acting like a jerk. A fool. A layabout. A slacker. An asshole. A coward. A spineless wishy-washy nebbish. Then these can “grow” or fall and then grasp at redemption. Or run off on a journey of discovery. Or be nudged into becoming a world traveller.

Or….

For now, the best that can be advanced is the day-to-day imperative of encouraging venues for a diversity of voices and stories; including speaking up to demand that major internet platforms do not restrict and worse DE-MONITISE nascent minority sexuality and gender expression content.

If I was a creator with any rep, I would lend whatever public support I could give to any efforts of enlarging the chorale and ensuring that folks can eke out a few coins from Adsense on them. Not only as a backstop against “first they came for…” but for an entire new pile of tropes and clichés to borrow — because that’s what we do. We grab everything that ain’t nailed down and turn it into deodorant (and noodle cup) ads. And then we tell stories with what’s left over.

Also: Hugtto Precure is ok and has much theory moe.

ENDNOTES:

[1] If I was more into queer theory I would be also be more prone to over-exaggerate the symbolic importance of one obscure “queerish” moment in a text, rather than its entire tone. Here are 15 pages of nitpicking on Future Sue’s Comiket bra unhooking stunt. Kio-sensei is overt in what he does. The question is why he does it for his audience. And academics tend to DO that kind of stuff, heck….

[2] And I really have to compare my at-the-time Batoto captures with the currently available grey source translations of the later evening’s proceedings. More nuance in Madarame’s excuses seems to have crept in. I don’t remember Madarame going into that much detail about his take on Hato’s reluctance. I only remember “uncomplicated” and “fudanshi”. This was Madarame’s parting gift, solidifying Hato’s position in the club with a fallback “official” identity if their trans-fujoshi identity ever grew strained.

[3] I note that in a spin-off manga focussing on the smol dragon Kana and her friends and adventures, Ms. K has slipped into one of the Two Moms roles and that the series must take place after the onsen Valentine’s exchange because Tohru and Ms. K have before-sleep quiet times with nightcaps and then they sleep together.
OH YES! SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!

[4] Dr R. M.Thorn; https://twitter.com/rachel_thorn_en/status/989913928472842240
See also:  https://twitter.com/rachel_thorn_en/status/968669958715555841

[5]  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabbit,_Run

[6] See: Kastel’s: “Proud to Be a Failure: Queer Ethnographies and the Art of Queer Failure” https://mimidoshima.wordpress.com/2018/06/06/no-exclamation-mark-no-future/
The “ethnographic” studies referenced point to a larger ball-of-wax as gatekeeping and taxonomy fold into neo-colonial pressures. Just who exactly gets to say who someone else is anyway? I also tracked down Judith/Jack Halberstam’s The Queer Art of Failure (Duke University Press, 2011) but that one is going to be a tough slog and perhaps a mite too infra for an old straight boy like me. They do, however have slightly more accessible works available on a blog that features writing by a collective of like-minded and equally theory-savy writers with a taste for the provocative and pointedly arch. See: https://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/about/

[7] This leads to another curious aspect of the night of passion. Madarame/ The Husband always looks like (to the point of never removing his glasses!) himself. Meanwhile The Mangaka’s form seems to oscillate between late 20-something curvy-busty femininity and a more boyish form – especially apparent as Mada attempts doggy position on them. I could swear their height is slightly variable as well. This is probably the result of the logistics of redrawing the sex scene but if Kio-sensei snuck it in on purpose, it is a master-stroke of disquieting ‘uncanny” representation.

8) This hopefully is the last of my grinds on Spotted Flower’s Ch22 etc. Been less productive than usual of late, my eyes (goddam!) have suddenly decided to age at an accelerated pace and maintenance had to be scheduled. Hooray commie-canuck medicine. All free, thanks! Also, it’s Kayak season, and aside from Hisotan, Amanchu2, (dammit, I’ll finish that Precure) and on the manga front, Hibiki, I’m not feeling it. Shouldn’t have read the fan xlations of the FMP Light Novels – will pass on the dire for now, marathon it later. Yeah, I’ll huh-watch Franxx but C’mon! Was this designed to remind us all how random golden age sci-fi anime was? Pull much plot out of ass lately? Nice titty robots, the bad aliens did it, whatever… Go out doors Naow!

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Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23: les etrangers

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23
Kio Shimoku
Rakuen Le Paradis, Vol 24, June 30, 2017

WARNING: Spoilers ensue. Methodical, theory-sodden clinical speculation on cartoon man-sex scenes and grating 4chan excerpts below the cut line.

LATE NIGHT FINAL UPDATE: 9 months after chapters 22 and 23 were published, the English fan-translations surfaced in mid March 2018. In light of this, certain concluions, based on personal machine translations and the story told by the pictures must be modified. The dissappointed 4channers were closer to the story line than I was.

A number of follow-up posts are indicated:
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/privilege-set-me-free/
and
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/05/09/homewrecker/

Continue reading

Many Happy Returns: Spotted Flower Ch 20.5

Will Spotted Flower become Genshiken Sendaime?
Spoiler lamp is on for Chapters 20.5-21.5(?)

The latest English scanlation of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower has surfaced. Chapter 20.5 is just plain wunnerful. It has been less than a year since the Genshiken ended and it looks like Kio Shimoku is getting busy again. Our win; we get 16 pages of alternate-universe, ten-years-later fujoshi fanning; starring a recognisable genderbent ero-dojonshi-mangaka and their manager, plus a new character (their editor for their commercial output) and some old friends at Comiket. Kio-sensei packs a lot into those 16 pages, along with the an overload of boobie jokes.

A brief refresher on Spotted Flower. Because of its publication in a different magazine, owned by a different publishing company, Spotted Flower could never be an “official” follow-up to Genshiken. Contracts and intellectual property issues. “The Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions…” Unofficially, Spotted, which has run for 7 years of three-times-per-year shorts, most recently as a regular in Hakusensha’s Adult/ Josei Rakuen Le Paradis magazine (and later collected into 2 tankobon volumes) has always served as Kio-sensei’s personal AU (Alternate Universe) fanfic and spinoff of his Genshiken. With the source story ended, Spotted is free to seek its own destiny. I hope that the mangaka and the magazine are thinking about permanently expanding the number of pages for each release; becoming in effect a full series. A web and Twitter search has turned up news of further larger chapters. 14pps in the March 2017 volume 23 of Le Paradis. Volume 21 carried the baby naming chapter 20.

The upcoming Volume 24 of Le Paradis threatens to release 28pps + 4 bonus pages (ch 22?) on June 30 (2017). See: http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol24/

Spotted Flower chapter 21 looks like the old gang visiting the new parents. As well, alt-Hato’s editor is about to find out more about her rising star BL auteur. We will have to wait. The 0.5 numbered chapters are devoted to alt-Hato and alt-Yajima, the whole number ones to the happy couple.

A few oblique observations on Spotted Flower:

Boobies as text:

Kio-sensei knows that guy otakus like boobies and uses them as signifiers for “sexy” and “womanly”. Sometimes one would prefer that he spend more time on the entire character rather than mashing the boobie button. He spends far less time on say, legs, butts or curvy hips (though alt-Hato, following perhaps on the Nidaime anime, has been given an impressive silhouette). When he bothers, his adult, especially adult female body chara renderings are varied and respectful – especially for larger frames. As well, he can deploy incredibly nuanced facial expressions to depict emotion. But those boobies! Alt-Ohno’s overdone nursing breast explosion. Alt-Hato and Alt-Sue’s assisted developments. Breast size is also marked as one of the stereotyped things that female socials are supposed to natter on about and rank themselves /display envy about. For a mangaka who inventively and respectfully depicts different body types, especially women’s body types, this trick feels like a throwback or at least a concession to an earlier form of stupid, easy service for Chads.

The entire Sue the pettanko western girl doing exploratory feels of well endowed Japanese women joke – which had gone on for years – is a reversal gag on a hoary manga/anime fanservice trope. It might even have slipped into reality. A friend reported that it happened to her for realsies in a women’s public bath in Korea but any envy/competition reading strips off complex layers of social interaction within the act: “Oh look a foreigner in our bath. How do we break the ice? This will be something to compliment her on, talk and laugh about and thereby welcome her into our social.

Nope, just competition and jealousy in the hen-yard. Fail!

Angela Burton(!) The sleep-over at Yajima-san’s parents’ house. And now, alt-Merei’s tender service to her lover interrupted by alt-Hato’s (at first impression) idiotic blundering question. Add to this all the Madarame-sempai interaction: “I have no breasts”(!) from Hato. Sue feeling under-endowed and therefore somehow inadequate in his eyes. While Mada might mutter to himself that it’s no big deal; lolicon, otokonoko games, etc., he neglects to open his pie-hole, announce the point and set worries to rest. Mada=otaku. Otaku=boobies want. A simple equation; the burden of more personal, more fraught exchange avoided.

Boy Detective.

Genshiken Nidaime turned on the character of Hato Kenjiro, the boy who wanted to be a fujoshi. Not a Fu-Danshi but a fujoshi. From this ridiculous conceit, everything he has (been written, etc) done followed naturally. And so continues to follow alt-Hato.

I though BL could make everything come true.

Fer krissakes! Unreliable narrator is unreliable! Google is your friend. Science can’t do that yet. If it could it would kill you and besides, an ero-dojin-mangaka could not afford it. Still, this kind of foolish banter is perfect and poignant for the worries it lets slip. Folks are growing up, settling down, having kids. Sempai is a father?!? Note the obvious (fertile, clock ticking, ticking) unsaid in the room. Nope! Didn’t notice it at all, La La La. Poor alt-Merei, like she needs another handful.

My thanks once again to long-time correspondent B.Sellers for not only giving me the heads up about ch 20.5 hitting the sites but for citing the venerable 90’s manga Family Compo in the report.

The problem of course lies squarely in the lap (ooops, yeah, but for now lets stick to metaphor) of alt-Hato’s (and their creator’s) unique vision of genderqueer. Whether to avoid drawing the attention of IRL tojisha folks or to grind off the serial numbers and avoid a trace-back conformity audit to source material, alt-Hato remains a “mostly” cis-gendered, heterosexual male person who does not think that they can “be” a woman. A Fujoshi? Perhaps, and fujoshi is all that Hato (and alt-Hato) ever dreamt of being. This of course is extremely problematic but Japan (and the mangaka) pretends not to worry about such things. It is possible, along the furthest edges of considered western non-binary, genderqueer activism to respect this dream. Hato will be Hato. Fuck everyone’s categories and nasty self-serving infra-tribal battles. Queer is as queer does. Leave the ero-dojin-mangaka alone.

Until editor-san finds out.

“If the fujoshi ever found out I was a guy…”

What a fun plot twist! As a dojin artist, alt-Hato could remain as anonymous as they wished. You can hide all manner of participation within a “dojin circle” Going pro means entirely different levels of public accessibility and interaction. The editorial staff are the first hurdle. Then come interviews, signings and publicity. Kio-sensei knows all about these challenges; his nom-de-plum and his standing plea to his fans to only photograph his hands can serve as inspiration. A booth at Comiket need only feature a someone or two, perhaps wearing the ubiquitous Japanese allergy/cold mask(s). Once in the spotlight, the pressures on alt-Hato to conform to ancient and annoying Japanese stereotypes of public behaviour for persons with ‘deemed male at birth’ bodies who present as female would be intense. Alt-Yajima’s “Host of a TV Entertainment show” suggestion and alt-Hato’s “No Damn Way!” must be considered in the light of the Japanese entertainment industry’s past ‘use’ of such.

Going public would again open up the confusing question of sexuality, this time on a far more dangerous stage. Crossdressing + breast enhanced guy BL ero-mangaka? Must do guys, right? Likes girls, or one particular woman? This is confusing – wouldn’t that be Yuri? The situation is as troublesome but not identical to all manner of internal shit-fights within western activist feminist and trans communities. Those controversies have been ongoing for decades. Japanese practice removes much of the heated activist controversy and replaces it with brutal commercial objectification and exploitation. “New Half“? “Okama“? “XXX Resbian Sex Secrets“? Crossdressing Gay Actor“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihiro_Miwa] “Hard Gay“? [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masaki_Sumitani] An ero-mangaka can keep one foot in the exalted realm of “the author”; the man or woman of letters; Nihon Bunka — Japanese Culture with a capital C. …Even as the other foot dances along the edges of “the floating world”. The latter might float but it always was and remains brutal.

Alt-Hato as a trans-fujoshi virtual lesbian might work as a manga character. For Hato Kenjiro’s creator, the character served a number of useful functions, including testing the limits of support and accomodation that a “good fan club” and a fujoshi social could offer. Let’s run the setup once again and see how it could be adapted to the meta of a character that is an “out” genderqueer ero-mangaka:

Women enjoy BL and Yaoi even though the tangle of fictional, sexed bodies excludes representing them. Numerous women who like women share in this enjoyment, even at one further remove from IRL desire. Within the Genshiken/Spotted Flower verse, the old line explanation of BL/yaoi as a pure fantasy of desire and romance holds like an absolute game engine rule. Why should Hato/alt-Hato have to desire 3D guys just because ze enjoys women-written fantasies of guy-looking characters fucking? Sex with a 3D guy for Hato and or alt-Hato is a non-playable character, even if the Hato continuum has built their lives around the enjoyment and then connoisseur-ship of fantasies of such intimacy. Therefore it is not improbable that Alt-Hato likes girls, either as residual straight guy or virtual lesbian fujoshi. Mada always was part of the fantasy. As “the only man I’ll ever…” he remains so. The only loose end would be the ero-mangaka’s 3D immersion/ performance/ commitment to the romantic ideal of the genre. Does this mean that alt-Yajima has put on a public “butch” or “tachi” persona? Family Compo Redux!

It could be more complicated; the Genshiken could have had furries.

Oh snap! Scrag the furries jokes! This is serious! it is all fine and fun to speculate on well-worn story tropes in Japanese anime, games and manga. And then to speculate how to cookie-cutter these into a manga. Behold the violence of the database. In meat-space the way trans/ gender-nonconforming folks are represented can hurt. Can be complicit in real harm: even more so than most obnoxious fictional otherings. The kind of things that authors, readers and societies have to learn not to do any more, if only because we now have better, more exciting and more nuanced replacements for these chestnuts.

Kio Shimoku created a complex character who only wished to expresss as a female subjectivity within the context of fujoshi fandom, for a number of internal story-mechanics reasons. Now a reflection of that character re-appears and they (are written, etc.) have built their entire life around living in that fandom and presenting as a woman. Kio-sensei may in the future have his character self-identify as a transwoman, a  transwoman who is a fujoshi or even the improbable idea of a trans-fujoshi. Or as something else. What interaction alt-Hato now has with anyone removed from their immediate circle of aquaintances is either as an anonymous female person or as a (gendered as female) fujoshi-ero-dojin-mangaka. The character remains fraught with internal contradictions – why shouldn’t they/ their character be given the space to breathe within them? Can Spotted be both libidinised low comedy and aspirational fiction?

I can only hope that Kio-sensei does not “reveal” the initial impetus for both alt-Hato and alt-Sue’s “urge to augment” as fallout from comments by a very dense alt-Madarame who brushed both of them off for being flat-chested. Note to Kio Shimoku: Please Do Not Go There. Even Madarame’s legendary and insufferable “spineless perv luck” has limits. I remain puzzled by why either of them would bother with augmentation. A ridiculous rack is a pain in the back – for life. Any of their women friends should have (been written, etc.,) told them this on numerous occasions. Boobies remain problematically over-inscribed in Kio’s story-worlds.

The Strongest Fan

Sue Hopkins and her alt-Sue incarnation has always carried within her character a large measure of inscrutability. The outlander woman fan/ fen as Force of Nature. Purposefully opaque. Trouble with capital T. Ariel the magical spirit. Her lore is deep, her reserves of magic yet to be revealed You saved my life so I will save yours 3 times, then go my own way. In the meantime she observes, prods, samples, tastes and gorges on experience, even as nothing touches the core of her being. None shall ever know moi. Were she native Japanese the mangaka would turn her into another Benzaiten manifestation.

Impatient. Unconcerned with social mores and prescriptions. Beyond good and evil. Grabs boobies.

Poor alt-Hato! While alt-Sue is a good-looking woman (character), it is not her bod and new tits that make her attractive. She radiates. Anyone would… And so alt-Hato lets slip his clumsy insecurities. This was wonderfully handled, even as the poor jerk reveals his fears and delusions. Yes your manager loves you… Asshat! Lookie at all the up-with-you-put she has to lavish upon you and your misbehavior. Yes, you are massively dependent on her arts and her charms.

Don’t fuck up!

Nope: your mad genderbent lurv skillz have not turned her into a lesbian despite your new tits, stylish wardrobe and constant rotten-girling. That means that at least for now, she is not going to throw you over for alt-Sue, even if alt-Sue is amazing. All this may carry a crude whiff of some idea of virtual-lesbian fujoshi-dom, even as it denies any same-sex desire by alt-Yajima. Whatever. Women in Japan, regardless of inclination still get stuck carrying the relationshippy bucket. Yo alt-Hato-chin; you should consider a grovelling apology for vamping in front of your old sempai while your manager had to stew in the next room. Reason by analogy time. If you became worried and insecure…. wait for it… Duhhh!

Kio-sensei has always been better at showing couples chafing than at being lovy-dovey. Also falling apart. Lets hope he keeps that one in the bottom drawer.

Alt-Sue is undoubtedly chief assistant to alt-Ogiue-sensei, the successful commercial ‘mainstream” mangaka. A voracious consumer of women’s pop libidinised fiction. The uber-fen. Probably does not like girls “that way” if only because the creator of this ‘verse seems to go out of his way to avoid “realistic” lesbian desire – whether from a fear of clumsiness with yuri tropes, to hide one of the main sources for the making of the Hato character (cf Mizoguchi, 2005) or out of a larger predisposition. So how is alt-Sue doing?

A digression with Lost Extras:

Has anyone noticed that we thieving leeches have not yet laid our mitts upon any English-translated Genshiken Volume Extras since volume 15? The extra panels from volumes 16 through 21 remain un-scanlated. These are traditionally whomped up as a bonus by the mangaka as the originals are re-formatted for release in a tankobon. I have gone out of my way to secure all 21 volumes of the original Japanese run of the Genshiken. There they sit in a neat pile. Sorry about my complete inability to understand Japanese. Google photo-recognition translate is a mess. No, I am not going to bring down the wrath of the big K upon myself and this blog by copying them and plopping them onto the web. Besides, If I did so, I wouldn’t admit it; I haven’t yet figured out how to chain VPNs together and wouldn’t trust the dodgy new owner of 4chan not to track IP addresses of image uploaders in any case. I can never get Tor to work and remain suspicious of it.

The only images I upload here are by way of critical comment, study and analysis. Even the parody ones by a dodgy eastern-European (or something) scan-group, who insist on putting their own wrong words into the dialog bubbles, are presented by way of example of fannish secondary production. As I hold an art degree and have given at least one conference talk on these matters, this is pure “fair use”. Have another fricking Zizek quote, just to hammer it home. Lookie at my Academia.edu account. No 3.1416-R8-cy here, nothing to see, move along.

I declare that the yet-to-be processed volume extras will remain as a way for us outlander fans to prove our devotion and appease our curiosity by buying up all the official English releases when they finally hit the shelves.

Whenever something finally happens, we will all be able to see that one page in the volume 21 extras (or was it the bonus leaflet cover?) that looks like Sue dragging Mada off, perhaps to silence any speculation as to exactly how things are going with them?

Did I mention the extremely irritating spineless perv luck effect? Sarraryman-boy privilege at 9000, again! Be sure to accompany her home, Casanova!

Perhaps alt-Sue is not a kiss-less rotten-girl wizard (sorceress? witch?) with a boob-job. I wish her chara well. May she have snacked on all the 3D cuddles she desired as she gorges on 2D yaoi-smut.

As for Alt-Saki, the wife, not the child; despite petabytes of online fan speculation it was ridiculously easy for Kio-sensei to pair her up with alt-Buddy Boy. The volume extras for Spotted Flower are instructive. Again, the woman had to do all the work. Perhaps Spotted Flower ch21 will have ‘the ex-boyfriend” casually mention how he still does not feel the urge to start a family. Wham! You didn’t have to disappear Kousaka-san or have him screw around, go gay or get hit by a beer truck. He had only to stand in the way of a ticking fertility clock. Women DO that kind of thing in manga, otherwise Japan sinks, -urrr- suffers irrecoverable population decline. Can we all say rigid gender role expectations? Stories are easier to plot out that way. All together now…

See also: loser-dog women, christmas cake women, the unmarried, amazingly hawt but still single and slightly psycho 29-year-old woman high-school teacher. Cross reference with Merei’s mom’s comment upon first setting eyes upon Madarame and Kuchiki.

Why this digression on sexuality and gender expression in Spotted Flower (with carry-over from the Genshiken) characters? I must point out that despite featuring a transwoman-appearing character, their virtual-lesbian-appearing partner, the libidinized BL/yaoi fandom they work in, the discussions of improbable male-pregnancy plot-lines, the flirting with alt-Mada and the hints of his married-life kinkeries, that Spotted Flower remains the most heteronormative “queer” manga that I can find. Buddha on a Bicycle! This thing is about having a baby and becoming a good child- raising couple. Alt-Ohno and the yet-to-be-met Alt-Tanaka (was he there in ch20’s hall somewhere?) already have two kids. And the pressure will be building – I predict – for our lesbian-appearing couple except that, yes! Japan will have no problem whatsoever registering their marriage certificate. Meanwhile, all the queer-appearing characters drop caveats and disclaimers: “Nope we still… and/or nowhere enough… not.

“I’m not gay, it’s only you.”

Spotted Flower must provoke all manner of mixed reactions within the Japanese queer community. If I ever get wind of any these reactions, I’ll try to repost/ mention them here. For now, I stick to my side of the street. As well, despite alt-Hato’s breasts (and possibly hormones) all the Spotted Folk are earnestly vanilla. Cosplay and Stripsu Pantsu. Otokonoko games. Alt-Hato is drawing dojins that follow the kind of historical story-lines that Yoshitake used to obsess over. Alt-Hato and alt-Yajima cuddle (and presumably bonk the old-fashioned way). Happily boring; male bodies with female bodies trying to stay together trying to find some small measure of contentment – 1.2 times per week (barring pregnancy).

Genshiken‘s Saki-prime once mentioned that she had gay friends/acquaintances. Alt-Saki/ the wife seems to have forgotten them. Fer krissakes, Kio-sensei; the dog was barking before with the absence of IRL lesbians in the Genshiken. This also masked the absence of IRL gay men. That pooch is now out in the courtyard howling. It is going to look rather insulting unless someone in the new Spotted-verse, even a peripheral someone likes members of their own sex.

Over here in the outlands, it is called “erasing“. It is considered a not-good thing.

On the other hand, if you clumsily represent, you risk doing a different not-good thing.

Oh heck! This is complicated!

You don’t have to make Kousaka gay. Or Sue non-binary (newfangled speak for ‘Bi”). Any of the female editorial staff at the publishing company can be a fujoshi who likes 3D women. Or you can whomp up an honest to goodness gay male BL fan character. Some do exist. Go get that handy fan-fudanshi study “Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]“. by Yoshimoto, Taimatsu.The author still sells copies and has a website for orders. [http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm]
It has testimonial interviews that you can swipe. The research is much easier now. Then you can have everyone feel uncomfortable when the editorial staff meets the mangaka and assistant.

Profit!

Since I’ve switched on the infamous ‘playset field’, it’s time for:

How the mangaka got their verisimilitude back!

We outlander types can peer in on (parts? of) chapter 21.5 as a web preview on the Rakuen Le Paradis web site – at least for now. Click on the cover image to load the pages.

No, here: 
http://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol23/trial/0424_kio/index.html?pagecode=1

Forget the problem of creating a believable otaku university club crammed with 2017-era geek guys and rotten girls. Instead, why not use a contemporary adult social; something that you can get research notes on. Say, the offices of a manga magazine publisher. Far more interesting too. The following in no way reflects upon the real conditions in any division of hakusensha.co.jp or its staff.

I like Le Paradis. They keep putting sexy adult women on their covers. All of them look like they are in the middle of torrid, romance-drenched assignations. Very grown-up and steamy. A fair amount of yuri, some BL and a noteable amount of heterosexual romance. Some backsliding, as the works inside have their share of teen characters. A josei magazine that can interest guys too – and I think that goes a bit of the distance towards explaining why Spotted Flower ended up there. Spotted might have been one of the lightest of the regular offerings. Time to up the game, now that the happy couple have their new child to deal with.

Then again 14-sai runs in Le Paradis, So do works by Takemiya Jin, Rendou Kurosaki and even of late, Kōji Kumeta. Yipe! I could run this entire blog solely on their output. I am now a convert to “Neo-Josei“! Fer krissakes, make a licensing deal with Crunchyroll Manga Service for simultaneous translated releases or something. Give me advance preview peeks and a pittance and I will regularly sing/ blog forth thy praises. Retain an aged outlander!

YO Hakusensha!!! I for one welcome my new Josei overlords.

Not holding my breath.

May I first suggest putting a hard link for Le Paradis at the bottom of your main magazine listing page? It is one of yours, right? Why are you hiding it? If the gravure bikini model pics mag gets a link, why not Le Paradis?

Towards an expanded topology of contemporary fen praxis

(Whooo-boya! I got to use praxis in an essay, again!)

Please review the Ogiue Maniax re-reading of the original Genshiken; [https://ogiuemaniax.wordpress.com/2017/05/28/return-to-genshiken-volume-3-stimulation-simulation/]

This is an excellent examination of the details that went into making the original mid-2k’s Genshiken a beloved classic. Note how the blog’s proprietor highlights how “infra” the game discussion gets (even as the English translation struggles to keep up with it). The youtbe clip of the fan-made fighting magical girls game drives home the weirdness of hardcore fandom at the time. As I have previously noted, behind some of the old-guard male fandom’s vitriol about the women-led second generation’s club practice lay the obvious conclusion that Kio Shimoku knew very little about what fujoshi and women otaku actually enjoyed and DID when they fanned out. (To be fair, fujoshi socials were a lot more secretive in 2009 than they are today.) The boy Genshiken followed anime and manga, read naughty derivative dojins, played games and derivative fan-games, constructed plasmo, even gunpla models (Plastic models, a subset being models from Gundam franchise) helped out with female-led cosplay events and wrote TLDR fan essays for publication and kept up with online fan BBS’s.

All the guy readers were perfectly willing to put up with girls running the club if they could peek in and pick up some anthropology. More fun then K-on; Fujoshi-raku. Perhaps they could then make interesting small-talk if they ever ran across a real live fujoshi. Instead: BL, BL dojins, pairing talk and unconfortable sparks between a young guy who wants to be a fujoshi and the leftover uber-geek. WUT?

Where are my secret fujoshi secrets revealed?

BLergh! “It’s all rotten stuff now and THAT TR*P!”

I have also pointed out that No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular (WataMote) had more female otaku verisimilitude in it than all of Genshiken Nidaime. And a magic wand personal massager too!. Criticise New Game as Cute Girls Doing Karoshi, but the idea that games for women, made by women are a robust market and not just a niche shelf of silly otome games involving pigeon boyfriends (or butler vampire dogs) offers glimpses of what Genshiken Nidaime missed. Women do Gunpla. There is a huge game market for women. Voice actor audio, Net-broadcast extras. The merchandise. The Cosplay. The online fandoms. The posters and limited edition whatevers that come with the BD release.

The whole effing spend your entire adult paycheck Media Mix.

This requires field study!

Now we have an ambitious young genderqueer mangaka and their very able manager/ assistant, with an editor pushing to mainstream their output. Opportunity seldom knocks twice. Played right, Spotted Flower could expand into a full mad romp/ game map through the entirety of the beat-a-property-to-death process that is modern Media Mix Marketing in CVJC. Stick to the women’s side of the avenue. You can still pop back every chapter for at least %40 coverage devoted to Otaku hubby and wife raising their first child hijinx.

Kio could get to do a manga (partially) about making manga, the holy grail/ old chestnut dream of all mangakas – if only because there is always plenty of material for next month’s chapter close at hand.

Oooh, A signing for the mangaka.
They are planning an anime!
Seiyu! Production committee meetings.
Marketing Department!
Theme music by dodgy Talento agency bands.
Console and phone game versions
Lookie; a spin-off light novel series!
Bonus audio disks, posters, key chain fobs,
Figurines, CM’s, PV’s, online forums, fanfiction.

Long walks down Otome Street to take notes.
A scene where the editorial staff gets to meet and query a group
of grown-up, employed, married contemporary fans?

Why should Saekano have all the fun. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saekano:_How_to_Raise_a_Boring_Girlfriend]

Welcome back, we missed you!

Gripe, gripe, gripe. Picky fans are picky.
We wouldn’t pick if we weren’t already completely, hopelessly sucked in.
Urusai!
Wait – the contradictions have sucked us all in… again!
Sensei knows best.

Hey? Are you gonna give the characters names?

 

Update: See also: Astro Nerd Boy‘s review, if only for the “Brian” graphic
(damn! forgot that ‘un!)
https://anime.astronerdboy.com/2017/06/spotted-flower-chapter-20-5-1-manga-review.html