Fearsome Asymmetry

“This Story Is Just 2,000 Words Of A Baby Boomer Mansplaining Hentai”
— A Twitter Bot post

“Conclusion: I love cake”
— A not-bot twitter post.

Nise x Koi Boyfriend/ Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely
Ataru Yamamoto  (2014)
Serialized In Be x Boy Magazine
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=113661 
SPOILERS ENSUE.


Instead of adding to the essay series “The Naming of Parts” I have been diverted; first by the recent plot twists in Spotted Flower and now, by stumbling across an exemplary bit of Shoujo-fied BL. Normally, the latter is not my favorite thing but Nise X Koi does a superb job of showcasing one aspect of BL that is usually hard to wrap one’s head around. You could call it a mode of melodrama or the fetishization of male same-sex romantic confusion; you could call it hot dogs but you would be just as close to understanding the true (insidious) nature of the trick. Theorists dryly describe it as “asymmetry”: an emphasis on the emotional dynamics between characters rather than on a character (a Beautiful Fighting Girl, or a Loli Moe-blob) alone; sometimes to the point where the atmosphere itself is almost a secondary character.

It is worth examining it in action, at least once.

As a bonus, if you were already uncomfortable with stories about male same-sex intimacy, this stylistic trick is going to boost your hate levels into low orbit. Take a deep breath. Not a bug; it’s a feature.[1]

“”Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in anime and manga. Although content with his lot in life, Soutarou also wouldn’t mind having a fateful encounter with a cute girl someday. Lucky for him, he comes home from school one day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.””

Vol. 2 Nise x Koi Boyfriend Lovely: A sequel to Nise x Koi Boyfriend as a continuation of Soutarou’s and Meguru’s relationship.””
Mangaupdates summary

As one can tell from the description, here there be otokonoko (just one). The English fan translation is being done by a group who go out of their way to scanlate gender-bent fluff manga. They seem to favor shoujo-ish stories, hewing close to the root genre of many contemporary works that play with gender and sexuality. You can get away with almost anything in shoujo manga — as long as you shoujo-fy it. Also, I am using the clunkier otokonoko/ josou/ crossdresser terminology because the conventional western-anglo term has been condemned as hateful out in the real world. Real folks suffer harm because of the original reading of the term. A small measure of polite discretion costs nothing.

A socially clumsy otaku guy and a crossdresser who gets a crush on him. Sounds familiar. Is this a version of the same BL cliché that Genshiken Nidaime‘s Madarame and Hato riffed on? Not quite. If anything I have renewed respect for how the Genshiken‘s author avoided convention. Some of it does however look like something that Hato would draw. It gets lewd.

When a Japanese female-gaze story uses an otokonoko they invoke tropes from past works as well as scavenged real world lore from Japanese (and other) gay communities. Very little about these characters is “trans”; they remain essentially male and inclined toward subjective same-sex intimacy, even if not avowedly “gei“. It is worth emphasizing that the rotten tribes consider male-ness as an irreducible characteristic. Straight, gay, crossdressing, gender-fluid, gender-queer, Japanese, outlander, rich, poor, whatever are all just minor variations in specs of guy-ness. All are fresh meat; therefore male-ness in the gender-fluid character must be preserved.

If human societies are rigged to favor male agency and privilege, shouldn’t all guys then be fictionally frogmarched into taking advantage of all manner of opportunities, so that they can really get “interesting” in stories? Too late for “just because you could don’t mean you should” or “real guys don’t do that!

I have a notion that some fujoshi stories are as, or even more disquieting to real-life gay guys than they are for straight guys. Straight guys will just “oh heck, two guys screwing” and tune out. The chance for a gay male reader to get drawn into the story while feelings of “wrong wrong wrong!” creep up their spine could be a serious factor. The “wrong wrong wrong” effect isn’t necessarily all about the bonking either. Anyone who has researched the genre has run into mentions of the 30-year-old “yaoi controversy” (Yaoi Ronso) in Japan. The substance of the complaints against BL-ifying gay guys is reported as “objectification” and in more recent reoccurrences, ‘fetishization” and mis-representation. The only problem is that such complaints dwell on unintended ends. The mechanics of the “wrong, wrong wrong” (beyond airbrushed violent non-consensual sex and “I’m not gay it’s only you“) remain largely opaque.

Extreme and variable emotional dynamics between the characters is generally not mentioned. Or perhaps a finer distinction is needed. “A Night at the Opera” is Ok every so often, when done by pros. When clueless Chads are nudged into doing a cover version for fujoshi because the audience is geeked on the raw charm of the fail…

If you were an ambitious mangaka and you really wanted to turbocharge this (jarring) effect, you could drape its presentation in the visual stylings of adolescent girls’ romance manga. Wispy hair, expressive big eyed longing glances, floral/iconic backgrounds, flare effects. Since we have a crossdressing character, add cute frilly girl clothes as well. Then pile on all of the usual miscommunication, “notice me sempai”, “who is going to make the first move”, “failing self-confidence”, “I need to prepare my heart”, “no, not yet, not like this” mush from the shoujo genre, only with two male leads who can take turns grinding through the clichéd sequences. This is funny in itself. As well, at any moment either or both characters can snap back into shonen-esque selfishness, resentment, indifference, arrogance, weakness and violence. Drama ensues!

Feeling woozy yet?

Boyfriend lovely ???

Nise X Koi “feels” at first as if it escaped form the pages of Margaret or LaLa magazine and ran gibbering off into the night. Later it gets nasty. Isn’t it in “bad faith” right from the title? Nise as in “fake” or “trick”? Again from the sypopsis, with an upgrade:

“Soutarou Inugami is a shy and reserved high schooler interested in otokonoko genre anime and manga”.

Not only is our diminutive doormat lad an otaku, he’s an otokonoko otaku; the bully-ish group of popular guys at school spot his fave manga and shame him for it. By spitting out his angry “cuteness is justice” defense; “so what, as long as they are cute!’ he lights a flame of hope in the heart of an onlooker. One of those handsome, popular guys has a secret and a fierce need to share it with someone who might accept them for all that they can be.

“…he comes home from school that day to find a girl sitting at his doorstep who he’s never seen before, but who happens to have the same red earrings as Meguru Satoi, a cool and good-looking guy at his school.”

She ain’t just sitting there smoking a ciggy. The crouched down, dejected look on the mystery girl speaks volumes to the longing she initially feels. The mangaka is going to dance along the edge of seduction by deception for a full chapter and a half, as the crossdresser is so wrapped up in their own excitement and insecurities that they forget to check if shy nerd guy has clued in to who the mysterious cutie barging into the apartment is. She and later he just assumes it is obvious and that nerd boy recognises them. This takes a bit of work to clear up but along the way nerd boy gets to show how heroically smitten he has become when the crossdresser gets in trouble and then by dismissing minor details and declaring that he’s enraptured with the complete Meguru-chan experience. Hooray, they now have a happy secret romance. Even some physical intimacy. Roll credits on a two chapter one-shot.

When the story resumes nerd boy starts by backtracking on his commitment to fully appreciate his lover and then develops a severe case of fleeting self-confidence. Then a rival appears. Nerd boy wavers. Otokonoko guy (in guy mode) gets wound-up angry and decides that if boyfriend is going to act like a cowardly doormat, then boyfriend should be spitefully treated in a –ahem– more traditionally yaoi-ish manner. The resulting near sexual assault is mean-spirited and pure raw meat thrown to the intended readership. Satoi-san stomps out of their lover’s apartment in a snit after no finally means no, angry that the one who understood him won’t show any backbone or prove his resolve.

A mite over-wrought, perhaps? [2]

At this point, a gender-studies sociologist might cut in and point out that because they are both well-socialised Japanese males, even if one dresses up like a cute girl, neither of the two are particularly inclined to carry the empathy bucket of sorting out the other’s feelings or do the work of negotiating understandings within the relationship. That’s a plausible excuse for later and perhaps one of the “features” that fujoshi enjoy. For now, it is expected, in-genre behaviour. They are both horny-excited and each wants their shiny new adventure to go their way. Also, those feelings: so intense, so conflicted! Why not let them slip? Fireworks time with light guy-sex.

In female-gaze yuri, everyone would run off for a while and eventually have a frank, serious, somewhat tearful discussion and work things out like adults. Someone would not end up paired off but would wish the happy couple well.

In male-gaze yuri, all would end up in the sack.

In bad faith whoever-gaze yuri one or more involved would be suffering from a serious personality disorder, so that the behavior that causes the suffering can be endlessly repeated over and over; with ever-increasing levels of emotionally wounding sex.

In a bad faith nominally heterosexual melodrama, at least one character might have a severe personality disorder, another a masochistic need for an older woman, another a narcissistic fixation on an self-centered useless old guy and there might be a pining lesbian thrown into the mix. Then the characters can variously paw at each other, because they have agency and therefore they can (neener neener neener) but they will not enjoy any of it because the story is dramatic and shall not feature any happy. Momentary physical pleasure during sullen making out only – this telegraphs literary pretension and allows for a few more turns of characters bouncing between each other for bonus spite-groping. Then all will abruptly stop, grow up and decide to get real lives or wake up and remark that it was all a dream.

The framing of any idea of “bad faith” is, in itself a highly subjective exercise. If you view any particular hetero (or homo-) normality as stifling and oppressive, anything that subverts its expectations is just peachy; even if to the riajuu, it looks like getting stuck in a temporal loop on emo night in a small-town bar.

Forever.

Bad faith is avoided in any of these genres by advancing the plot towards some resolution. Otherwise the game is just endless grinding while wandering the labyrinth. Even someone’s head ending up in a school bag is preferable to endless grinding. When a genre has a whole warehouse-load of plot tropes available for ready use, these can be strung out in service of some eventual resolution. Perhaps even a “good ending”. You lose the “serious literature” vibe with a good ending but more people buy manga than serious literature. Vox Populi, vox profitable publishing company.

If one is more inclined toward linear storylines, characterization and action, having a clump of characters run around going bat-shit random over their horny might not be your idea of a fun read, no matter what manner of bodies are involved. You want the Supply Module to meet up with the International Space Station. You expect a bit of excitement over the launch and docking maneuvers but you will have your mission accomplished!. Having everyone on the station, in the module and in mission control self-sabotage because their heads are all jammed up their particular cray-cray thing de moment (subject to abrupt change in the next 10 minutes) so that the docking almost-but-repeatedly fails, or goes horribly wrong and still repeats, will strain your patience.

No matter how many times Riley sings Kathleen.

For another group of readers, bonking pretty boys may be fun and interesting but it is much, much better when both parties are working through their stereotypical male inability to deal with new emotional situations and overcompensating dramatically while they go at each other’s bods. They can then not only switch positions but cycle through new and unexpected emotional states. Amateurs may deploy some manner of fetish-ry, but this is less effective because it is always marked as play-acting (and is a cheat to avoid actual sex and thereby edge around certain regulations enacted by a past Tokyo Governor). Far more satisfying if the two creatures are pity, hate, fear, love and disgust fucking each other all at the same time!

And they cannot stop!

“Therefore, we can conclusively state that BL holds the potential to be far more obscene than either het, yuri, fetish or gay romantic pr0n. (And that I like cake.) Q.E.D. Certain classes of Bara to remain outside of the comparison range because those are allegorical and if you don’t consider them as such, you will lose your lunch.”

Perhaps my thesis is not completely convincing?

Shoujo-fied BL often feels like a pretty-fied train wreck with light man-secks. (Or it’s just me?) What’s with this story? What’s with the characterisation? What’s all this overdone emo crap? No way that they’d do that! Now they are going at it; at least getting past necking to pawing, nibbling and pulling. Now the other one has gone all sullen and pissy. Sheeet! We get it already! BL guys not fast on the uptake. Please, can they sit down and talk it out? Please? Maybe they should watch some gay pr0n? No luck, urusai continues. Wonder what they are going on about now? Somebody must liek this. STFU!

Other views in the theory-verse suggest that while the characters are male, their emotional responses have been “upgraded” to reflect an improved male subjectivity that can do emotionally complex interaction, while enjoying the agency and freedom to act on their desires. That may be the case for stories like the Uso Lily spin-off previously considered, but it is not the only way to rebuild a guy character. What if you freed them from the need to act “supportive” or “understanding” and gave them male agency enough to go after what they wanted? Then make it so they also get wound up over their feelings, because — Hey! they are new at these and they also have the privilege and agency not to be shy about taking them out for a test drive.

That might get messy. What? Messy good you say?

There is one further “technical” aspect to the genre that arises from the canon, from fan practice and from tradition and that has evolved either into a happy accident or a sneaky author’s trick. Recalling one of the roots of the term “yaoi” – no climax, no resolution, no plot – a term of art in Japanese literary criticism long before being adopted by fujoshi, points towards a tradition within the genre for disconnected, stand-alone scenes or tableau. Porn movie directors would call these the “money shot”.

cue the wikipedia entry:

“The term yaoi is an acronym created in the late 1970s[1] by Yasuko Sakata and Akiko Hatsu[8] from the words Yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi (山[場]なし、落ちなし、意味なし) “No peak (climax), no fall (punch line/denouement), no meaning”. This phrase was first used as a “euphemism for the content”[9] and refers to how yaoi, as opposed to the “difficult to understand” shōnen-ai being produced by the Year 24 Group female manga authors,[10] focused on “the yummy parts”.[6] The phrase also parodies a classical style of plot structure.[11] Kubota Mitsuyoshi says that Osamu Tezuka used yama nashi, ochi nashi, imi nashi to dismiss poor quality manga, and this was appropriated by the early yaoi authors.[9] As of 1998, the term yaoi was considered “common knowledge to manga fans”.[12] A joking alternative yaoi acronym among fujoshi (female yaoi fans) is Yamete, oshiri ga itai (やめて お尻が 痛い, “Stop, my ass hurts!”).”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yaoi

Once again, Genshiken Nidaime‘s Kio Shimoku left clues about larger rotten practice in his trans-fujoshi character Hato’s inability to draw anything but one-page sex scenes. Fanzines/doujins must accommodate page restrictions and low-output amateur artists. There is a strong bias towards jumping right to the lewd. When creating a parody work that brings together two wildly improbable giant robot piloting guys, the scant dialogue can stick with luvvy dovey fluff or they can expressively work out their conflicted feelings while they go at it. Same printing bill.

The space station metaphor once again becomes instructive. A mangaka might already have a number of schmexy hawt mis-en-scenes in mind, complete with a who-is-wound-up-which-way script for the drama component. Wouldn’t it be cool if this one surprised that one, but is still angry about such and such, while the other has lost confidence? And they still go at it while sniping at each other! “Talk dirty to me” taken to a new level.

What if the next big scene has the two emoting in completely different ways? Do they both have multiple personality disorders? Did some magical girl gimmick their headspaces? Nothing so fancy. They are just completely overwhelmed with a whole new range of feelings and are cycling through all of them. If we can acknowledge that smut with emotional fireworks delivers more than just smut with the dialogue turned off, story mechanics becomes an exercise in logistics.

When a mangaka becomes responsible for a monthly serialised work, instead of 12 pages of doujin smut they have to maneuver the characters from one “yummy parts” scene to the next. Using the “new at this, making a hot mess out of it” excuse, a mangaka gains extra maneuvering thrusters and fuel. She can even make one of them do an end over end tumble before docking.

It is almost impossible to pull anywhere near this level of variable characterization and emotional range with boy-girl romantic shoujo. Even if the boy is Doctor Jekell and the girl is Harley Quinn. Uso Lily tried with a crossdressing boy and a girl and had to concuss the guy for multiple cases of soap opera amnesia. At no time did the heroine take her turn getting banged on the head so they she could become the male lead. Lady Chatterley may switch between haughty and horny while groom Mellors gets to be servile and then forceful but he never gets to be her ladyship. Neither does she have to muck out the stables.

Only the “carnivalesque” excesses of drag and camp offer more potential. Perhaps the entire genre needs to be theoretically re-positioned when subjected to critical analysis. Normalities must be (over-) performed so they can be subverted.

I remain uneasy with the entire genre but at least now I have some idea (beyond gehhh! dudes making out!) why something as simple as Nise x Koi set off my wrong, wrong, wrong alarms. Nothing like a bit of attitudinal gymnastics to negotiate a new understanding with one’s prejudices. [3]

Anyway, I Shouldn’t Take It Personally, It Just Ain’t My Story

Against the tautological structures of excessive emotional drama and characterisation within the genre, complaints by nosy outsiders are easily brushed aside.

Guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm, you sure? They might if they were sufficiently smitten and unhinged by their conflicted desires…
Your plotting and characterisation is bat-shit random! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Gay guys don’t act like that! Hmmmmmm? Repeat.
Transfolk don’t act like that, and you are being insulting! Hmmmmmm?

Back to weaponised queer shoujo. This type of story seems to be popular and commercially viable. Outsider opprobrium is not going to put the idea back in a box. Can’t un-see once seen. An entire “lore” surrounding the genre makes it easy for rotten newbies to crank out more. It’s not just ‘seme” and “uke“; a range of off-the-shelf roles come with modular, emotional scripted subtypes such as “wimpy seme” and “trickster, inviting uke” (which is the second link of the chain back-tracking the origins of the “emotional range character trope” effect that I will resume grinding on about in future “Naming of Parts” essay instalments.)

Recall the brief summary of Nise x Koi above. Classic BL clichés favor the smaller guy “taking” the taller, initially dominant-appearing partner. In this story, the latter is already inscribed as female-role, even if he has previously initiated, even attacked. A challenge has been issued to wimpy nerd boy. Anyone care to guess how this one ends? [4]

If heteronormative narrative tried this kind of dynamic “making progress in a relationship” story, one would end up with a Taming of the Shrew retread.

Disapproval by phobic old-school guy otaku of BL will continue but as this mirrors the emotional dynamics of the conflicted characters, the hate-on becomes an unexpected bonus for fujoshi onlookers. When reading distressed fan reactions to the alt-Mada x alt-Hato fling in Spotted Flower I began to wonder if one of the thread originators might have even been a stealthed slash-fan trolling for a taste of honey. (“the misery of others is like…” ) Yesteryear’s girly-boy threads on 4chan’s /a board were a lot more inventive and far funnier. They usually started with “If it wears a skirt, it’s a girl” and went sideways fast.

Then a further notion struck: what is all that rage really about? To properly appreciate what is so disquieting (for straight guys) about BL, one needs to untangle the fujoshi “gei” or gender-queer character from the (straight) male subjectivity gay or gender-bent character.

Here’s a fun insight into contemporary fan practice and its intersection with activist gender politics — although I might be grabbing at fog. (requires more research, subjective evaluation, database coding, yadda yadda yadda). More and more anon on /a seem to be sort of, kind of Ok with “the gay”, as long as a gay male (secondary) character gets treated “seriously” within the story and isn’t trotted out as a cardboard joke or creep or abruptly vanished – in other words; afforded male respect and privilege. No depictions of male same-sex intimacy either, please! What sets off rage is when a gay male and/ or their same-sex desire is portrayed and/or deployed in a way that appears to pander to fujoshi tastes. “Real” gay; it’s 2017 – just don’t scare the horses. “Fujoshi-fied” gay; bad thing!

As for the otokonoko as male-gaze fantasy eye-candy creature, far fewer instances of vocal hate rear up in social media venues than one might first imagine. Pro-forma surprise is usually followed with a “that’s coolio too” rejoinder. Edgy quips that “the extra” makes her even better are not uncommon. The slightly sheepish reaction (cute cartoon girl character plus slightly pervy bonus) has become a safe consensus position. Public over-reaction would telegraph any manner of weak unresolved personal issues. All good, no biggie. Similarly, creating her is remarkably easy. Design a cutie, go easy on the boobs and impute a “little bit extra”. You can even make her act with less reserve than a usual female character has to maintain. Drop one as needed into each new franchise.

However, when the rotten tribes get their mitts on an Otokonoko character, Astolfo the hottie will be mangled into something else; something complicated and insidious. Far worse than Kio Shimoku’s Hato Kenjiro. Designed to highlight male wonkiness. Does things not-for the male reader/viewer’s enjoyment. Problematic. This will not end well.

Aside: Astolfo was originally a (male) magic-using sidekick character from 1500’s European-knights-do-heroic-things tales; most notably from the poem-story Orlando Furioso (the Rage of Orlando). The hero’s “wits” get stolen, so he rages. Only Astolfo has enough magic to go to the moon and retrieve said wits in a bottle. Astolfo MkI does not crossdress. In medieval Europe, guys got all the fun clothing anyway. Magic users are expected to be a bit eccentric.

What remains are complaints against the problematics of fantasy cross-dressing characters in light of real-world fall-out; including any deceit implied in that term. Anglosphere fandom needs a new short, snappy and less loaded descriptor. It should be noted that current best practice in manga and anime invariably has the character matter-of-factly announce that they are male or have a body that others would “deem male at birth” to any who have a need to know, well before sparks fly (as well as to any number of obnoxious types who should have minded their own business before they get their comeuppance). Seduction by deception is rarely any issue, though fetishization remains one. If the otokonoko and another (usually male) character hook up it is not because the latter wanted a “girl” but because they wanted “more than a girl”.

Fetishization in general is why a majority of cartoon characters are dropped onto the page and screen; male-subjectivity otokonoko remain “flattened” to their eye-candy outward appearance, as much as any other female-ish fanservice character. Their gender-queerness is their “hook” in the same way the glasses-girl and the athletic tomboy have theirs. When deployed in slice of life comedies, she is often used as a variant and/or extra moe-blob. In adventure scenarios, a variant Beautiful Fighting Girl.

“For duty, a woman. For understanding, an otokonoko. For ecstasy, a melon.”
— Slavoj Zizek

Only when one wanders into the recycled BL thickets of josou narratives, where some emotional complexity is necessary to move the plot along, does the revealing of the “feels” component of the “better than” come into play. Her gender-fluidity and essential male “core” posits her as more sympathetic to a class of male lead. The author must then tread lightly and leave much unsaid. The two are in sync; they understand each other perfectly and therefore dialogue can be kept to a minimum. A few reassuring quips, an exchange of knowing glances because they have (re-)invented sex, a few tender words and finally the frenzied mutual tearing off of clothes that leaves at least one female-marked accessory or piece of clothing still clinging to the otokonoko‘s body, can progress through to mutual exhaustion. Both will be blissfully happy because the genre posits, then leaves to the reader’s imagination a vague intimation of mutual physical and emotional satisfaction that is for the two of them “better than” heterosexual or conventional same-sex intimacy. The novelty and transgression masks a “just so” story. One may speculate that the difficulties of fine-tuning the move from pure transactional exchange towards affective interest is why the genre remains a niche market and why the one magazine devoted to such stories went under. Lewd twincest tales play a similar trick. You need some token emotional charge but not too much, or too fast. The overload/ overwhelmed effect is what remains disquieting.

The “deception” that the straight male subjectivity fears is not present upon the body of the otokonoko but within the emotional complexity of any interaction. [5]

Snowflakes!

Understandable then that male subjectivity fan discourse has kind of, sort of, begun to make peace with matter-of-fact, just-a-guy gay male characters and even simplistic eye-candy otokonoko characters. As long as neither of them bear any marks of “rotten” purpose or complexity. A diffuse, consensus notion of essential male identity is thus preserved. There are far scarier things in the world than a touch of queer in a lad. As for secondary appropriation, the fujoshi will always come out at night to cut up what remains. Look what they did to poor Holmes and Watson!

Good luck to us all.

Have some cake.

 

ENDNOTES:

[1] This entire essay may be complete and utter bunk; the result of my residual homo-panic freak-out when a quick read of a harmless looking shoujo-ish one-shot (that looked interesting because “that scangroup” distrod it), turned into confusing guy-smut. WTF? Run Away, run away! You’ve heard of the ‘unreliable narrator” trick? This is the unreliable critical essayist version.

[2] Someone reading this might actually be here for a “review” rather than a subjective over-reaction, followed by a mess of speculation about plot mechanics and conventions. If one is really into BL-ish things, I’m betting that NiseXKoi is probably a quite good an example of its kind. The art-work is pro level. The emotions are not completely random (if you pay real close attention), the two characters are noobz enough to justify their mildly selfish fuckups, the “rival” is not a jerk; the thing is well constructed and the author has her own active doujin circle. Since I have few comparison points, I can’t say whether she is genius rank but I suspect that experienced readers would find her work solid, and “yummy”. She knows how to tell a story and play within the bounds of a style.

[3] Keep reading. It’s really easy: all you have to do is displace one bias with a different one. It just becomes a matter of fully understanding what one’s original bias was trying to protect. We guys should all thank the fujoshi tribes for “highlighting the contradictions”.

[4] MUCH LATER: In fairness to those wanting some manner of “review” and to the mangaka, I should add that the story ended on a surprisingly happy, vanilla, aspirational, linear and not too crumpled out of shape by semexuke conventions, way. The young crossdresser was snagged by the school drama club as “the princess‘ in a play and used the opportunity to solve the issue of his childhood friend blindly crushing on his girl presentation. Meanwhile doormat boy showed some spine at school and began to socialise, then used his new found confidence to declare his resolve to the crossdresser. Both vowed to have a happy high school romance with lots of sex, with the crossdresser both as a boy and as a girl. (I am almost tempted to D’awww here…)

A few points of note: once the mangaka decided to wrap it up, the characterisation and story lines became more linear, with the motivations easier to follow. Resolve. Follow through. Also of note, both characters try to abstractly empathise with the other’s situation; not at shoujo girl levels but at least they make a token effort. Even the childhood friend, while at first embarrassed, is supporttive. He also now understands why the two were hanging around with each other at school. Duh! moment. The otaku is not an intrusion, he has been vouched for within the male social/ circle of friends.

Finally, the happy ending recalls why all the straight girls are reading smutty romantic guy:guy highschool love stories. The two get to (at least promise to) sex themselves down to exhaustion because they are in a relationship. Because they are horny teenaged guys, even gay, they should really want to do so even more than playing video games. And they can, because no one is going to be labelled a slut or have to deal with a teen pregnancy and/or D&C if something goes awry.

(At some point will future general-interst high school romcoms feature stock zoned-out falling asleep at their desks with stupid grin on their faces male beta couples?)

To this end, the “formalism” of older rotten rigid BL pairing conventions are jettisoned for a more up-to-date “versatility”. It might even pass muster as aspirational ending for a young gay male reader, although the gay crossdresser type is apparently considered one of the least desireable “types” in IRL Japanese gay communities. At least Meguru doesn’t “femme out” while crossdressing, so he’s not completely outre.

[5] Ha! I have made it through this thing and not mentioned a certain game.
Slick, or whot? Oh yeah, almost forgot: Praxis! Now is must be legitimate academic-ish essay! What else? No mention of Dr. Tamaki or Lacan, although if you scratch the cheap paint you can see that old “ontological consistancy” chestnut; it’s harder to paint over than magic marker. And then there’s the “shota” component in nerd boy. Crap: even wearing shorts on the frontspiece! Pure Dr. Nagaike bait, though Tamaki called it first. Mangaka sure covers all the bases. 

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Usotsuki Daisy

Otokonoko no Koto (About a Boy)
Oneshot (2016) by Komura Ayumi
Epilogue to the Ten/Taiyou subplot from Usotsuki Lily.

front-tentaiyou-web

Warning: Spoilers and considerations of sparkling fluffy BL that depicts guys making out ensues.

Years after I wrote it, this blog’s essay on Usotsuki Lily remains one of the most popular posts. [https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/the-place-promised-in-earlier-days-on-usotsuki-lily/] I never followed up on the ending of the long-running series (D’awwww near overload; aspirational fiction levels holding at %121; coolant pressure stable, maintaining course and speed.) but this one-shot compels me to grind away once more.

This is not the easiest task. Longtime readers of this blog will recall that while I remain mesmerised by the slashy impulses and rituals of the Japanese rotten tribes, their works are not my thing. Ayumi Komura can get me to make an exception and suspend my stick-in-the-mud oyagi discomfort with depictions of man-secks. Ok; Rendou Kurosaki gets away with it too and yeah, I would wonder how (don’t hold your breath) Kio Shimoku would pull it off. Kōji Kumeta would do one of his rude bara-lampoon pairings with an over-muscled nose picking hulk and the clueless Zetsubo Sensei, so he’s out of the running.

Ayumi Komura sensei can get my attention. What the heck; perhaps I can gain some abstracted flip-side impressions as to the jarring feelings that women have to put up with all the effing time when confronted by a relentless flood of male-gaze objectification. This is pure female-gaze titillation, even if my exposure is safely limited.

Executive Summary:

Ten is smitten with Taiyou and Taiyou who decided to “give it a chance” knows who he likes. They make out and tell each other how they feel for each other. The End.

More interesting is how Komura-sensei pulls it off.

From the scan-group:

“Today we have the long-awaited Ten x Taiyou BL one-shot by Ayumi Komura, first announced over two years ago at the very end of Usolily v17, but only recently released online a couple of weeks ago on the Margaret Bookstore. It’s called Otoko no Ko no Koto (About a Boy) and is an epilogue to the Ten/Taiyou subplot from Usolily.”

This is a stand-alone work, not run in Margaret Magazine proper but still flying under their flag. Margaret in this usage, in Japan refers to the flower we call a daisy, not the female proper name. Margaret Magazine is a long-running powerhouse in mainstream shoujo manga. Think of it as Space Battleship Shoujo. Do not underestimate its reach or its multi-generational influence.

In the earlier essay, I noted how the interaction between an author and their fans can, within the shoujo genre lead towards a mediating role which leads the author to posit aspirational ideals of good behaviour and practice throughout a long-running work. While Komura-sensei never made any secret of her taste for BL-ish subplots, she kept the impulse under strict control during Usolily‘s run. Once the subject of minority sexualities and gender expressions were brought up, beyond the gag of En’s crossdressing for non-identity reasons, they were handled seriously and with respect. This corner of the Margaret-verse was an extremely nice, sincere, safe, good-hearted and understanding place to go to high school. The social circles that the characters moved in were likewise all remarkably well-behaved – even enlightened. Gender roles were seen as superficially constituted of performative elements — at least until a ‘real’ trans-girl transferred in and her ‘reality’ shamed En. Notions of rigid sexuality were positioned as secondary to mutual romantic attraction. In short; an amped-up version of the mainstream contemporary love-conquers-all shoujo magazine catechism. D’awwwww and happy endings for most ensue.

For most: let the record show that Ten’s long-crushing friend Saeki gets a teeth-grinding, glaring cameo on the back page. Sorry guy: you can’t win against the Saotome family attraction field (and/or the Shinohara family is just too random for civilians).

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On with the guided bus tour:

Ten starts his day by considering his upcoming date with Taiyou and which dress to wear. He then rejects girly attire in favour of a direct, non-gender-bent (or gender deceptive) presentation. The author was of course trolling the readership by using Otoko No Ko in the title – in its simple, original meaning as “boy”. This is after all a spin-off of Usolily. When Ten makes it downstairs, he sees that his brother En is in full girl-mode and spending time with Hinata. Fans get their En-crossdresses-for-other-reasons dose, their fakee-yuri moment and confirmation that, yes(!) today is the big day and Ten and Taiyou are going to spend it together. Out of the house he goes…

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Wait a second…

Your older brother crossdresses and is spending time with the older sister of the guy you are sweet on? Ok, just sorting things out here, no biggie. By the way, when you crossdress, don’t you look a bit like your older brother in girl mode and wasn’t Taiyou once, for a brief instant smitten by the sight of her, uh him? And didn’t Taiyou once cross-dress as Hinata to fill in at the cafe? This is confusing. Uhh, right; Margaret Magazine crossdressing shoujo romcom. Never mind, pray continue…

Ten on his way to meet Taiyou is beset by a mushy internal dialogue of romantic self-doubt. Could Taiyou have been deluded by Ten’s girl-mode, crossdressed appearance? Nawww.. On the other hand Ten is convinced that:

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Cuteness is Justice?

So Ten has a measure of giddy nonsense looping in his head. Wow; almost girl-like. Within the story-verse, Taiyou is a straight virgin guy who has decided to “give it a chance”. Ten’s sexuality is matter-of-fact gay but no mention has been made of any prior sexual experience. Ten’s virgin status is strongly imputed. We have a severely crushing young male on his way to his first possibly intimate rendezvous with his intended.

Add to the mix an extra consideration: Ten wonders whether he will still be as ‘cute’ to Taiyou after he hits his growth spurt and becomes more manly looking — as his brothers are. Come to think of it, Taiyou is looking a lot more manly of late as well. The mangaka has dealt with such body image self-doubts in Usolily and other works; Of note is one about identical enough but non-identical twins hitting puberty [Uno x Uno]. Not quite twincest, just a feeling of loss. Losing the ability to ‘pass’ as a girl is also a staple of otokonoko/ josou stories and rarer, more serious or more dramatic considerations of gender non-conforming charas. Props to sensei for deftly handling it.

While Ten does entertain a few fantasies, no life-shattering melodramas are deployed. Ten as a self-assured, self-proclaimed gay male youth isn’t a direct replacement for Margaret Magazine‘s core readership but he definitely is an upgrade in emotional awareness from the base guy model. He “wants to make more progress with Taiyou-san” and that means intimacy but his physical desire is interleaved with emotional considerations. He comes with a sympathetic head full of excitement and doubt.

Perhaps I overlook the obvious: A first-person internal monologue by male BL-gay Ten can consider things that a girl chara on her way to a first date might find exciting but would rarely be voiced or daydreamed of by a proper young female shoujo protagonist. Relationship-py stuff, for sure. Thinking about losing control after a kiss, wondering if she  would “assault” the guy; wondering how her intended would react when they both got naked and touched; becoming overwhelmed with lust by her date’s “cuteness”? Oh my! Isn’t that a bit slutty? Perhaps I need to read more shoujo, or josei manga but it looks like snooping over Ten’s shoulder affords a young woman reader a bit more freedom to consider the exciting possibilities of carnality, as well as emotional satisfaction.(1)

As well, since Ten ‘owns’ his desires and sexuality, he is not tormented or conflicted about his desires — in the manner of a certain other young crossdressing guy chara experiencing their first flush of same-sex attraction. Neither is Taiyou a slope-shouldered 4-5 year older spineless near-hiki NEET otaku coward. The generic shoujo bishie-ness of the two lower the bar, but that’s the author’s signature drawing style, so we can roll with it.

Yuppers: I will be making occasional comparisons to Hato Kenjiro and Harunobu Madarame. Too bad Kio-sensei, you made it complicated on purpose — this is what you missed, or felt you couldn’t handle or get away with. This is also what a significant number of the slashy fan-verse wanted to see play out; fan-arted and fic’d over and mourned the loss of on Tumblr (etc.). Comparing how Ten x Taiyou fare and thinking about how the other pairing failed will underline the more obvious reasons why our latter two heroes found it impossible to hook up.

More on this after the tour.

Taiyou wants to go to a game shop, get a game, go home and play it, all while hanging out with Ten. Taiyou is acting perfectly in-character as a young guy — that is to say a tad clueless about Time, Place and Occasion. Ten zones out on Taiyou’s bishie looks, in a PG rated way. He even wonders again to himself if it was a mistake not to go out with Taiyou “as a girl” but immediately rejects the idea out of a sense of authenticity.

No, no , no. That’s not right! That wouldn’t be me!

Meanwhile Taiyou remains clueless. Before you can turn two more pages they are at Taiyou’s house, in his room and no one else is home. Da-bump!

Or was that Doki-doki?

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There they are, sitting on the rug, leaning up against Taiyou’s bed. Taiyou is engrossed in his new console game when he finally notices a fidgety Ten next to him. One hand slides under another’s and then they smooch. Their second ever kiss.

Let me pause for a moment here.

As I mentioned, it has been obvious for a while that Komura-sensei really wanted to do a sweet little BL scene with these two. The big question, at least for me was: How does she balance the old-school BL tropes of ‘forcefulness’ and emotionally inarticulate homo-panic with the demands for an enlightened safe, affirmative and respectful Margaret-verse follow-through? Just how much BL and how much YA (Young Adult) can one slip into the mix?

Ten as the initiating physically smaller male chara is a well-worn tradition within rotten lore. On the other hand, he isn’t overpowering his conflicted higher-status/ more manly/ older-looking intended, even if he is leading. There is also the strong implication that as a gay young man who owns his desire, he has given some consideration to how it will manifest. Taiyou can be forgiven for still being stuck in “let’s see how it works out” mode.

Groping ensues and Taiyou appears to be overwhelmed but not repulsed. Ten goes into full romantic lust mode. Taiyou tries to catch his breath. Ten is serious and then –props to Komura-sensei for Ten’s polite asking for permission, even if Taiyou complains that Ten didn’t really wait for a full answer– asks Taiyou “do you mind if I do it with my mouth”. Props again to Komura-sensei for shifting the POV/ angle so that the ensuing pleasuring is left for the reader to imagine, or not.

Yeah; I remain uncomfortable with depictions of male same-sex intimacy. It’s the way I grew up. That said, it is being handled in such a way as to show respect and at the same time not frighten the horses (or the oyagi). Must stop whining. What if the same scene was deployed by Suemitsu Dicca as one of her ecchi josou/ otokonoko/ trap fantasies? Would it be different if it was drawn for the perv-lite male gaze? At least Ten would be crossdressing and wearing naughty knickers.

Ten has demonstrated to Taiyou that yuppers, he really, really likes him, ‘that way’. Taiyou is not just pleasured, but emotionally moved. Taiyou wants Ten’s clothes off too; “to be fair”. Clothes off at this point means shirts off or open — both sets of pants are still on, if not completely done up. Just for one last bit of self-doubt, Ten flashes on the idea that taking his shirt completely off will hammer home the point that (You don’t say, Mr Holmes!) he really is a human male.

Taiyou kisses and hugs Ten and declares that Ten’s skin feels “so soft”. Ten is vindicated! The guy he likes does not recoil in abject horror over skinship with him. The guy he likes is happy to hold him tight! Ode To Joy plays in vaulting cathedrals. Flocks of doves fly upward into sunny skies. (not depicted… budget limits…) Fangirls (and a few fanboys) go squeeeeeeeeeeeee! Love conquers all!

More hugging and smooching!

Egads! Ten! What are you doing with your hand and Taiyou’s blurry cone of light? (If this was het pr0n we’d get a far more detailed representation of someone’s junk. Ain’t that strange? What if it was gay pr0n? Hmmm. Seems to be a matter of gendered gaze.)

This is followed by Ten bubbling about how happy he is that the guy he likes liked it and…

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No need to spoil EVERYTHING. Suffice it to say, Taiyou declares that he is doing this because of his own feelings and that he has not been fooled or pressured or bribed or whatever. He really likes Ten. They declares their love! More necking and hey, because they are young, in love and horny, more intimacy to follow.

D’awwwww.

Fade out, roll credits.

Note that even while Ten was overheating for his intended, he didn’t go into any Hato-esque BL fantasy overload. His fascination was always locked onto the present, immediate physicality of Taiyou. Likewise Taiyou is overwhelmed not just by being done but by the warmth and enjoyment of giving Ten a good squeeze, or three. And they both like to kiss a lot. They also seem to realise that they can explore a bit around the other’s ears, neck, chest, etc. Oh wow! Humans come with a full covering of sensitive skin. At least a tip of the hat towards something beyond kiss then grab between the legs. They appear to be able to figure out the rest of it as well. Someone might be presently initiating but no one has fallen into seme x uke roleplaying, let alone wrist pinning, ropework or butt-raping. On the other hand, they are not just ‘fooling around’ or scratching an itch. This is romantic sex; gay love-making depicted respectfully and with mindful attention displayed toward each other.

One more time from Takemiya Jin:

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As I previously mentioned: this is an aspirational upgrade from baseline expectations; sometimes self-consciously described as ‘sparkling fluffy BL’ in acknowledgement of too-often indulged excesses.

You can get away with a heck of a lot in Shoujo manga.

We must also remind ourselves again that the primary audience for this work are women; even young-ish, teen-aged women. How Ten initiated intimacy suggests a tip sheet for an inexperienced, young (or young at heart) woman (or guy) to get things moving with the guy they like, who is being a bit slow on the uptake. (Naw, he is busy heavily processing those new affirmative consent rules… Ok, he may be just a little bit slow but anyway, it’s nice to be fancied…) As well, Ten’s experience of being overwhelmed with the immediacy of his physical attraction toward Taiyou validates his earlier otherwise embarrassingly creepy staring and stalking. We get the payoff, the raison d’être for the series’ relentless fixation on the physical attraction of attractive young critters of both sexes.

Attraction hits first: it’s all about looks. Then they get to know each other better. This is excusable and understandable. No turn red, avert eyes and stutter pantomime here. It might be shallow as all heck but everyone in Usolily-ville is good-looking.

Taiyou, likewise responds with his full attention once his desire is sparked. See how they fixate on each other. Such intense focus! Their feelings must be real. It says so in the guide at the back of this month’s issue.

The make-out scene, if Ten was switched out for a woman would be resonant to any male who has had occasion to let the woman lead. There definitely is an idealised aspect of real-life modelling to this narrative. The bodies are male but the mind directing the show and the audience she writes for is female. And slow-on-the-uptake guys are all pretty much the same across time, space and sexualities. Pay attention to how Taiyou reacts to the gift: He doesn’t just lie back and grunt. He is moved and tenderly responds.

Houston; we have a generic, idealised first intimate date scenario; with the curtains run down before anyone starts trying to act out scripts, expectations, roles, gymnastics, The Joy of Schmex Revised Edition, naughty underwear, porno movie scenes and the usual other 2 metric tons of cultural detritus to seem to get in the way of what used to be the most natural thing in the world.

Idealized intimacy that just so happens to be male:male, pulled off by Komura-sensei in best Margaret Magazine form.

No one gets fridged. No one goes on about the guilt they feel over their shameful desires or wonders if they are gay or whether it’s an exceptional case of “It’s you and only you”. No one even has to announce that they know what they like and that happens right now to be him. No one gets bullied, shunned or laughed at behind their back. No one is spotlighted and pushed towards acting out an in-story script that does not fit them. The only advice offered Taiyou was from Hinata (in flashback) to be sure of his own feelings and not “just go along” with other people’s expectations. And that advice was given as a private confidence from an older to sister to her younger brother. Older sisters in Japan have responsibilities. Because it is male:male, no one has to worry about going too far and getting knocked up. No one has to act passive or do all the work while the other fails to give the slightest indication of emotional affect.

The only thing lacking is a safety and hygiene lecture and a plug for young guys to get the HPV vaccine if they break up and start dating around. Yup, guys can get HPV-linked cancers in all kinds of interesting places too. En and Hinata could have delivered the same PSA. See this FCCJ article for alarming news about one anti-vax Japanese doctor and the ensuing public health fallout. See: http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high/892-vaccine-battle-stakes-are-high.html

Before we let this slip by we must ask: why does Margaret Magazine find it easier to show two young guys approaching intimacy than a girl taking an active lead towards her boyfriend?

Why indeed?

Strange that a franchise that started as a modest high-school romantic comedy oneshot featuring a strong-willed kendo girl and her goofy Rurouni Kenshin cosplaying boyfriend would evolve over the years into a best-practice example of happy preach-by-example queer-friendly supportive La-la land romances (not La-la per se, that being a rival publication). This installment lacks Komura-sensei’s usual afterword pages of banter and fan interaction (one end panel deemed sufficient) or any of her fourth-wall-breaking asides; they are not needed. However the sensitivity towards minority sexualities and gender expressions remains window-dressing. The sermon remains firmly addressed towards the realm of heterosexual relations. Queer is used in the manner of a biblical parable. At least it is not used as a negative example.

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

While enjoying an online course into the recent history of Japanese popular culture genres, I happened upon an early thematic division in shoujo manga stories. Some were wealth/ opportunity/ social mobility possibility stories. Others were fantasies of role-breaking and empowerment. The most overlooked, if only for their plain approach, were those typed as otometic stories. The ordinary girl who soldiers on un-noticed finds a quirky guy who believes in her. She returns his affirmation and they both decide that because they can support each other as they are that they can go on to live happy lives, perhaps together.

Even when the couple don’t walk off into the sunset, the heroine gets to say to herself: “…perhaps not this time but I now know that I can love and am worthy of love.

I immediately suspected that this old-school form is probably being repurposed in contemporary narratives, with the field of subjects somewhat widened. Looks like it still works. I wonder if any senior yuri experts have considered looking at their genre through this lens? It could offer a welcome elaboration on the finer grades of ‘story-A’ out there clogging up Book Off.

The trouble with these speculations remains that while I have sufficient theoretical knowledge about the wide currents of Japanese fujoshi lore and story tropes, like Kio Shimoku I am cheating. He has probably read more BL than I have — if only for research. On the other hand, he had only to digest the representative greatest hits of the then somewhat-hidden 1980’s through 2006 fandoms. The genre has since gone mainstream and mutated with popularity, acceptance, wider thematic range. Parts of it have adopted a more respectful approach to the portrayal of male same-sex romance and intimacy. Who needs pissed off real gay guys slagging your publishing company and author? As well, there are young guys out in the boonies who can’t get their hands on bara mags and their money is as good as their sisters’. Big tent keeps the presses running.

It is possible that the pages of current shoujo manga magazines are stuffed to the brim with ‘sparkling fluffy’, respectful, sappy, aspirational male:male romance fare ground out by the ream for mostly female enjoyment. Off to the doujin shops if they want hawt and nasty. Once again, it is difficult to make sweeping generalisations without metrics and robust survey data. I would however be surprised if this work is ‘merely’ generic and not of any particular note. You don’t get 17 volumes plus spin-offs out of generic.

Or perhaps I just like Ayumi Komura’s drawing style and her cheesy stories.

The main weakness of the characters and situations in Usolily is that they all push towards a sanitized romantic ideal. The individuals portrayed are all too shiny. The body types — all lean and thin, big eyed and wispy haired are eye-candy. Even when they try to act jealous and mean, they fail at anything beyond a comical, cute petulance. They are like puppies and kittens. It’s hard to work up any measure of homophobic dread towards a bunch of puppies and kittens. Komura-sensei works this to the limits.

In contrast, the range of body types, character depth, conflicted backstories, social ineptitude and unease, shame, hurt and isolation in the Genshiken cast is far more engaging, leaning if not towards realism, at least towards complexity. But this hobbles the march towards romantic happy endings. Continuing pair-bonding thereafter is likewise not guaranteed. The Usolily cast may have their quirks and even come with minority sexualities and gender expressions but they remain steadfastly riajuu. Sou-riajuu. En is riajuu. Hinata is riajuu. Even Samurai guy is riajuu; he might as well be a sailboarding enthusiast or rock band guitarist for all it has affected his life, social interactions and chances at love.

Flip through the back pages of a certain subset of Genshiken fandom on say, Tumblr and you will soon be overwhelmed at the number of simple, naive, sparkling & fluffy alternative good endings imagined for Mada and Hato. You may well laugh but the desire was real enough in individual fans to impel them to create these artifacts. TenxTayou is the “pro” version of reams of fan-art and fic; serving as a nod, a tribute and a sui generis example. Next episode to show how a pro mangaka does a ‘curtain fic’. (happy pair goes out shopping for apartment furniture)

A pointless digression about Genshiken’s HatoMadaHato theme:

It’s all fiction, neh? Of course Mada and Hato could have “given it a chance” and might well have been convincingly written as happily fumbling at each other like Ten and Taiyou…

…If Madarame was 5 years younger, less of a spineless slave to his university graduate soon-to-be-lifelong salaryman role; less prone to taking refuge from his past failures by hiding behind his snake-man uber-creep otaku act; less inclined to seek validation and consensus from any group he found himself in and more able to focus on the one he decided that he liked… Oops — must drop the Saki torch song in there too, somewhere…

…And if Hato could have stopped using his love of BL as a perfect hidey-hole for his same-sex desires and emerging gender-fluidity; eased off on insisting that his gay-ish desires play out according to hardcore BL fetish scripts; not be haunted by the unrelenting fear that at any time his beloved fujoshi social would turn on him and cast him out in shame and despair and if he could for one moment admit to himself and to Madarame something more than “I will stop running away”…

(Nawww… We all know what he really loves.)

…And if the rest of the second generation fujoshi membership as well as Ogiue and Ohno could have stopped indulging his need to make a ritual gift of his male self to the female social, backed off, eschewed meddling, given him some space…

…And if a few dozen other If’s central to the characterisation of the entire Genshiken cast and the arcs of its narratives could be held in abeyance for just a few weeks of in-story time, even if it was subjective 2005-2006, then perhaps…

Or not. At least Mada and Hato could have had time to talk over a few more cold beer.

Tack back towards the main discussion…

Bummer. Stories come with their own internal logics, that’s the game. Sometimes a draw is the best that can be written out of what the author writes themselves into. Mada will screw up with Sue for sure. And I still think that Spotted Flower ch12 was a cruel trick. The later chapter with alt-Sue sporting ludicrously excessive silicone oppai hints at one particular idiot opening his stupid yap once too often. In Usolily, the only boob-fixated guy is a melancholy jerk (later redeemed) and none of the female charas feel concerned in any way by the proportionality of their mammaries to the rest of their frames. The whole huge jiggly boobies thing in CVJC feels forced, beyond hysterical. Earth to the men of Japan! The titties on the woman you love are perfect, now shut the fuck up and gaze into her eyes. C’mon, you trained yourself to get hot and bothered over 2D girls with battleship parts sticking out of their backs and backsides; this one should be easy.

A woman author working in anime, games and /or manga might give one of more of her yaoi puppets cat ears or other small exotic markers but she doesn’t load up their hairy chests with 8″ naval guns or put propellers on (or in) their pants. What the fuck is up with the (our) male imagination?

Tamaki-sensei and many others gloss over the difference (or differance) with the catch-all excuse ‘asymmetry’. Dragging out the unfoldings of how such asymmetries manifest is left to bloggers and other amateur enthusiasts. Likewise, calling a diffuse range of trope and chara weirdness a ‘database’ alludes to a pandemonium of forms but eschews further understanding in favor of the eddies and currents of taste within fandoms and ‘the marketplace’. Again I am unconvinced.

It seems more probable or at least more useful to note how exotic characters are deployed into situations to handle things that should be readily worked out by the usual suspects — but for complex societal reasons cannot be dealt with directly. As in the previous speculations on a wider application of the idea of iyashi, it is tempting to add an additional degree (or more) of narrative distance beyond the distance already imposed by a fictional setting and characters.

There is undoubtedly some deep-seated, underlying cognitive bias at work in this effect.

Is liking a good story a cognitive bias?

A further  pointless digression about Genshiken:

One further compare and contrast from the Usolily-verse to the Genshiken-verse: The unappreciated subtlety of Keiko’s brutal after-club quasi-seduction of Madarame. See how the entire scene is played out in the major key of Keiko exasperation. I should have done more work on it, as many guys with a modicum of sexual experience — myself included have found themselves in somewhat similar circumstances. The woman is pissed off. She might be amenable to future or even near future intimacy but at the moment, she finds him (you) severely lacking. She is tired. She doesn’t want to put on a display of her needs or her interest for a stupid, hesitant, privileged clod sitting there in her space. She wants to be appreciated and respected. Not jumped or overpowered — appreciated. She wants to be the exclusive, unshakeable focus of his attention. She wishes proof that she fascinates. He can be embarrassed, flustered, hesitant, scared, but he must not take his eyes off her. (her face, not her boobies, uppen mit der gaze, boyo!) This is Japan. Everybody is supposedly an expert on things that are conveyed without being said. Right?

Dude! Pretend you are number one Host at her fave host club. Yup; feels like work. There is a reason why bargirls are stereotyped as weak only to the charms of their male counterparts.

He must propose, she will dispose and he should slowly proceed to demonstrate how her charms hold his undivided and unconditional attention. Most women have hair that smells good. It’s a residual pheromone thing. If she lets him get close enough, he can make a small show of being intoxicated by the scent, and it generally is intoxicating, so this wont stretch anyone’s acting skills. The urge to directly grab at her boobies or beyond must be resisted. Not, repeat not, act as President-elect. The room can catch fire around both of them; he must wait until she tells him to snap out of it and flee (with her — Duh!).

Ease back to the main theme…

Somehow in all the manga, games and anime that Madarame consumed over the course of his mis-spent otaku youth, he never once was clued in on this type of script; in comparison to the ones female fans were being force-fed daily through the actions of a panoply of character types. Guy-gaze narratives don’t bother with this sort of thing. (Lupin tries but as farce and Fujiko is going to get what she wants in any case – everything except faithful monogamy, so fair is fair) Just do the action adventure thing, try harder and compete with your rivals in endless level-up battles. Obey the Coach. Obey the Boss Take one for the team. Yawn!

Even when these stories bring a modicum of complexity to simple heterosexual romance, they rely on the tropes of character types, recreating in miniature the societal strictures that romance narratives seek to escape. Consider Isin’s Monogatari franchise; note the Araragi-Senjougahara relationship discussions. Hey buddy-boy, don’t collapse and roll over on her tatami mat. Pay attention to your girl-friend! It will be worth it. Araragi is once again “acting” in type, as is Senjougahara. Formulaic and reassuring as it is, at least a few suggestions are offered.

Note how her gaze is locked onto him. He knows enough about her to guess why she does this. Will he acknowledge her behaviour and attempt to reciprocate? I know it’s not alpha male behaviour but since when does buddy boy have the competence and earning power to act alpha? The whole alpha thing is a crock of male insecurity anyway. It’s a lot more fun this way. Hopeless! Senjougahara-san will eventually decide that Araragi is dithering and jump him. More work for the girl, again! Big, fearless vampire/ vampire fighter: hmmmph!

We seriously need some kind of aspirational Josei-ish genre for guys. Before this, we might need to see if plain vanilla Shoujo and /or Josei can handle a romance narrative in as simple and aspirational (as opposed to fantastic and/or pathological) a manner as TenxTaiyou was managed.

Did we really need to create shadow-gay characters to have two teens who like each other happily make out?

We tried dating sims and lookee how that skidded off the road. Yuri, even lesbian-approved yuri won’t work. The BL project, beyond simple matters of entertainment for fujoshi is sometimes used to posit the possibilities of romantic interaction freed from the constraints of rigidly gendered behaviour expectations — or at least elevated to a synthetic recreation of the supposed freedom afforded to male actors. Sometimes even the problematic role behaviours that can interfere and burden a guy are airbrushed away to make a point.

Why are such elaborate work-arounds needed?

 

(1) Contrast Ten and Taiyou to how Kendo girl freaked out when Samurai Cosplay boy kissed her collarbone in Usotsuki Lily. How many chapters did that take to work out?

A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

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

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

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

I will not be forever denied!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lust und figurines

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

the louche couple

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

Ogiue bliss

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

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

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

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

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

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

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

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

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

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

…Until…

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

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

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

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

Read powerful manga web

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

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must I mention freight trains again?

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

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

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

tainted web

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

On the other hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or did he? 

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

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

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

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

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

BoooWaaah!

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

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

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

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

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t go there…

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

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

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

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

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

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

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

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

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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”

Legends of the fall, conditions of the fall

The fall Genshiken web

Spoiler lamp ON for Genshiken Ch 110.

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

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

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

Qualia clench web

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

tomodochi get goggles real bad web

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

typical otokonoko fall web

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

thomas_fall web

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

Thomas web

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

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

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

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

HSDXD clench fall web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then…

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

3 pages later…

Trip and fall accomplished!

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

Resume game.

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

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

…but nooooooooooo….

sherlock-john-drunk

Holmes and Watson are friends.

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

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

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

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

“This sucks!”

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

Hmmmmph!

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

Nawwwww… Don’t tell me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to our steamy hotel room scene:

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

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

BULLSHIT!

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

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

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

BULLSHIT!

“Hato-kun, no, Kenjiro, really…”

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

“Pantsu!”

“Ufu Fu Ufu…”

“You read waaaaaaaaay too much BL!

Don’t I get to prepare my heart?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The situation was funny; now it is getting heavy.

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

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

How is Kio Shimoku going to play this?

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

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

The kid only falls for sempais?

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

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

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

How Marxian of the mangaka.

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

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

Everything that rises must converge

“most amps go up to ten. … These go to eleven. ” -Slavoj Zizek

Risa is due back to the hallowed halls of the Genshiken club room! Rejoice!

smut more recruits.web300Rika’s  shotacon younger sister will be popping back in to the Genshiken soon and that means the perv level of the Genshiken girls will kick up at least one notch. And not a second too soon! While Kio Shimoku has always treated the odd enthusiasms of the Genshiken members as Greek tragedies treated murder – much discussed, but carried out offstage, the mayhem remains integral to the story. The tradition of the Genshiken as a safe space for young people caught up in embarrassing fringe desires must be maintained. Time however has overtaken their kinks: the play of old-school otaku and vanilla grade fujoshi seems quaint: no longer abject but merely a commonplace hobby, like bird-watching.

Fortunately Shimoku-sensei stuffed a few cards up his sleeves.

Risa of course was one such ace, but the otokonoko genre references might turn out to be even more valuable.

Recall that in Genshiken time we are simultaneously in 2007 and 2014. In 2007, the “boys in skirts” genre was known, but was yet to become the next big thing in Japanese visual culture. In 2014 the bloom is already off the Bara.

Set the Way-back Sherman…

The first references to the otokonoko/ josou genre in the Genshiken show up when Kuchiki first encounters Hato-chan. Then they are followed by Kousaka’s josou game,  “I could take care of that for him”, and get full star treatment in the Nidaime anime. Three quarters of a year in Genshiken time and more than four years of “real time” have passed since Hato-chan walked into the club-room. The buildup towards the full use of otokonoko/ josou tropes has been slow, with the fujoshi fun and the stands making enough of a racket to make full deployment of “so embarrassed I’m crossdressing”, “forced to crossdress by girls/ scary older women”, “beginning to enjoy the attention” and so on, unnecessary, His crossdressing is discovered almost immediately by the girls, and any discrete skirt flipping/ bulge ogling takes place while he is asleep. The shower scene doesn’t count as part of the genre. Almost all of the cross-drama has taken place as inner dialogues over the odd arrangement that allows him to fan over BL stuff without feeling that his “real” self is threatened.

Voiced instances of the genre tropes carried an ironic, or at least referential tone and are linked to the tastes of the male characters. (Any interest from Ohno can be put down to the cosplay effect)  As in the real-life josou games and narratives previously noted, the genre at first glance appeared to be posited as a counter trend to the stagnating field of loli moe blobs. Perhaps heat-death was setting in; there are only so many ways to sexualized under-age 2D females: once incest, yuri-cest and twin-cest were all thoroughly overdone the thrill is diminished. “My younger sister can’t be so boring“. Time to move on to the younger brother who likes to/ has been wheedled into dressing up like a girl.

There was a point to my previous sloppy post, beyond the low comedy of 4chan trap crossdressing threads: diaspora fans (I am trying to find a different word than “western”, bear with it, please) were all pretty well following Kuchiki, Madarame or Kousaka variant scripts: “That’s gay dude!“, “couldn’t be that cute”, “doesn’t really matter”,  “If it has a skirt, it’s a [2d] girl [eroge chara]” and “OMG I’m beginning to …”

otokonoko argument on 4chn web600

The genre incorporates all these reactions within its narratives as well- hence the added enjoyment of restating them in rude vernacular on an anonymous image board.

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

or per TV tropes:

“Otokonoko features both girl-on-crossdresser and guy-on-crossdresser stories (it’s one of the few places where you will find m/f stories and m/m stories side-by-side in the same magazine). The target audience is men who crossdress (or are interested), and men who have a fetish for crossdressers, and the art styles and tropes are typically those of male-oriented romance / ecchi / hentai material. There is also a significant Periphery Demographic of female readers. (Although guy-on-guy otokonoko is often mistaken for Boys Love Genre, anything targeted to women is not otokonoko.)”

You sure ’bout that?

The crossdress comedy genre indeed seems to be the property of second-tier shonen/ seinen magazines:

No Bra ran for 5 volumes from 2002 in Gekkan Shounen Champion, Brocken Blood has 9 volumes from 2003 on in Shonen Gahosha/ Young King.

Depsair broken scanlate fail c8p13 web600

Tripeace 2008-2013 ran in Square Enix’s Shounen Gangan, who also gave us Fudanshism- Fudanshi Shugi (2008 – 2013, 7 volumes)  Prunus Girl (2009-) and Josei Danshi (2012 on). As a video game company that spins off properties into manga and anime they appear to really like the genre’s potential.

Softbank mobile’s Flex Comix Next carries Suemitsu Dicca’s Oto x Maho since 2008 and most of the other titles it publishes are seinen (remember her(?) name  – we will return to her works in a bit.). Comic Rex runs Himegoto (2013) and 2 spin-offs that have been re-merged into the main story.

There are tons more – I just pulled a sampling from the TV tropes Otokonoko page and aggregator searches as examples.

“Melodramatic” treatments of a crossdressing character, such as  Himegoto – Juukyuusai no Seifuku (2010, Moba Man – Shogakukan) and Bokura no Hentai (2012, Comic Ryu -Tokuma Shoten – seinen) seem to be pitched as more pervy knock-offs of Takako Shimura’s  gentle and bittersweet  Hourou Musuko/ Wandering Son. (2002-2013 Comic Beam – Seinen). They are more than they first appear to be.

Don’t call me daughter…

So far, so seinen. It can be assumed of course that the fujoshi brigades were busy trolling these offerings for fun stuff to ship from the start, as the “as long as she/he is cute” seems a fine way to lead two males into some steamy seme x uke action. But the genre is still supposed to be aimed at curious guys (and I am willing to bet, far more popular in “the west” than in Japan). Things get a bit fuzzy when one starts wondering about where all these odd tales first popped up.

Job confronts_fudanshismch2.11 web600

In 2010, Comic Rex spun off its josou titles into a full-blown otokonoko magazine “Waai – boys in skirts“. Inside the pages were odd bits of crossdressing advice, tons of make-up ads and among other series, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! Other magazines popping up to cash in on the craze included Million Publishing’s Oto Nyan,/ Oto Nyan Omega (2010-2012). All could be considered to be following on the heels of the 2010 Wagahai wa “Otokonoko” dearu! (I am an Otokonoko!): a manga/ book how-to guide for 3D otokonoko enthusiasts written by Nanami Igarashi.

Manga critic and historian Jonathan Clements wrote this about the genre in 2012 (Big block-quote warning!):

” I’m sure you’ll agree, this is something of a subgenre of a subgenre. But ever since spinning off from the boys’ magazine Comic REX in April 2010, WAai has still had enough faith in the size of its readership to punt out 270 pages of  glossy, high-quality printing four times a year – that’s once per season, in order to ensure varying uses of colours and imagery. The cover to this issue by Akira Kasakabe has two attractive ladies in a state of summery deshabillé, sorting out their lippy and watching the midsummer fireworks. Oh, except they are not ladies. They are both blokes, it says here.

If at first you can’t believe your eyes, the strapline at the top makes it as
clear as possible: “Inside this publication are cute kids, but they are not
girls. This is a new magazine for otoko no ko of the new generation.” The
Japanese otoko no ko literally means Man-Girl or Mannish Girl, but is it
intended here to mean “ladyboy”? We are back in the fascinating world of the implied reader – is this a magazine for boys who like dressing up as girls, or is it a magazine for girls who like to look at boys dressed up as girls?

WAai’s niche is still small – it is half the size and double the price of
mainstream magazines, and is not included in the online sales figures of the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association. But this is how all new niches start; the publisher Ichijinsha would be mad to print a million copies and hope that the readership to match it magically arrived out of nowhere.

The Japanese mainstream has treated the otoko no ko “phenomenon” with a degree of suspicion – perhaps wisely, considering the penchant of the media for making up new fads on the spot and hoping the herd will follow. In 2010, the Engan bus company offered spoof free tickets to transvestites as an April Fool’s joke. Later in the year, the same company offered a free ticket promotion for real, but only to female passengers who would dress up as sexy “moe” girls. The transvestites should sue!

The use of the term otoko no ko has been gaining ground in Japanese for the last ten years. But it’s only in the last two years that it has suddenly blossomed into a definable subculture, with its own publications, slang, traditions and inevitable media attention. WAai isn’t even the only magazine for otoko no ko. Already in the last year, the Japanese market has seen the arrival of Change H, Oto(star)ko and Otoko no Ko Club magazines. Meanwhile, Enterbrain has test-marketed the manga anthology Super Otoko no Ko Time, and Square Enix has tried Joso Shonen Anthology (Boys in Girls’ Clothing). Newtype, the trend-setting anime magazine, has already tested an experimental title for the otoko no ko market, with the release in August 2011 of a live- action photography special featuring boys dressed as girls. It sold out on the day of release – but was that a sign of an untapped market, or simply of deliberate under-printing to manufacture headlines?

Its aficionados are keen to point out that these characters are not transsexuals – they are transvestites, dolled up in women’s clothes as an
attempt to show a sensitive side. They are, we are assured, boys who like the idea of softness and silkiness, experiments with lipstick and girlish pursuits – an assertion which places them firmly on a timeline that reaches back for several generations, to the manga revolutions of the 1960s that valorised flower-sniffing sensitive types in reaction to the ludicrously macho heroes of the day. Japanese Wikipedia even has its own page on the phenomenon, which goes to great pains to point out that otoko no ko have absolutely nothing to do with sexuality. Just because a boy wears women’s clothes, he is not homosexual, nor does he “want” to be a woman. The artwork in WAai makes that abundantly clear, with images of characters in bikinis and lingerie, pouting for the camera but displaying telltale flat chests and posing pouches that leave nothing to the imagination.

However, there is a flipside. Is this really a magazine for transvestites? The editorial content delivers one message, but the advertising tells a different story. If we want to be cynical for a moment, let’s not immediately assume that otoko no ko materials reflect a grass-roots demand that Japanese conglomerates are sweetly serving. Let’s instead assume that a bunch of large cosmetics companies have realised that heterosexual men represent a bogglingly large untapped market for sales of make-up. Has some bright spark at Shiseido or Nivea suggested that the marketing team take a step beyond “metrosexual” and try to flog lip-gloss and crimpers directly to absolutely everybody?

WAai’s concept of femininity does appear oddly and over-enthusiastically
consumerist. In other words, its attitude is that women are “made” by buying stuff. Shopping maketh the woman, in WAai’s eyes – it’s a beautician’s idea of beauty, and seems largely materialist and product-orientated.

This is a no-win situation for critics. If we question the motives of the
publishers, we are attacking transvestites’ right to be different. But if we
report on a “phenomenon” that isn’t really a phenomenon at all, but a cynical appropriation of a subculture as an excuse to bootstrap a new fashion fad, then we are mere stooges of the marketing machine. Meanwhile, it is arguably the height of cynicism to latch onto someone’s heartfelt beliefs and lifestyle, merely because you want to shift a job-lot of depilatory cream. If it’s “in” to be a transvestite this season, that’s all very well, but that’s like saying its fashionable to be Asian, or short-sighted, or tall. What happens next year?
[….]
Meanwhile, there is a heavy and frankly boyish concentration on new anime series, with larger-than-normal features dedicated to modern serials such as Astarotte and Baka & Test: Summon the Beasts. Games reviews also take up a substantial proportion of the front matter, including self-explanatory titles such as The Boy Loves Dressing Up as a Maid and Bokukano: Ladyboy Sex Chat.

Regular readers of this magazine may have noted on several occasions that the Japanese comics market is embroiled in a massive argument about the depiction of minors. Its most recent incarnation was in September 2011, when two members of the Japanese parliament presented a petition calling for anime, manga and games to adhere to the same sort of censorship rules as other publications. In other words, there is still a massive fight about the depiction of little girls in print, and it is your correspondent’s suspicion that a large part, if not all of the otoko no ko phenomenon is not about reader demand at all, but merely a new way of circumventing the censor. Just as white panties and blank crotches, tentacles and robots formed new and odd tropes in anime and manga, could it be that bluntly stating that these “girls” are really boys is a sneaky way for certain publishers to hang onto images of flat-chested dollymops, without incurring the wrath of future censors? If so, it’s a very sneaky trick, but let’s not assume it’s a sign of sea-change in attitudes
towards cross-dressing… Unless it is.

Jonathan Clements is the author of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis: Adventures in the Anime and Manga Trade and Anime: A History. This article first appeared in NEO 92, 2012.”
— from http://schoolgirlmilkycrisis.com/2014/02/25/waai-boys-in-skirts/

 A job-lot of lip gloss ain’t the only thing being peddled though. I am going to risk over-emphasizing Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible! not only because it does what it does in such an odd way, but also because of her other works.

The premise is odd: Misbehaving rich kid males and a few trannish poor guys get packed off to an all male boarding school way up in the mountains where the school rules state that they must cross-dress on alternating weeks. Seems like LeGuin’s Left Hand of Darkness caused more damage to Japanese culture than previously assumed. This will get them to stop acting like jerks towards women, give them a chance to learn / learn of “feminine-ish” wiles and incidentally practice the responsibilities of their respective social classes while testing the strengths and weaknesses of male friendship.

A Confederacy of Dunces…

Aside from gratuitous cross-dressing tips (I bet a cookie these were lifted from Igarashi-chan’s book) there is a whole lot of way too insightful dialogue on the dangers of seeking approval, much ado about superficial X authentic attraction and plenty of the use of the abstracted feminine as other to construct male subjectivity. The story quickly lurches towards the quasi-shoujo realms of a chaste shonen-ai tale, with occasional panchu shots. Suemitsu Dicca is a big fan of the inviting abstracted “feminine”, otherwise know in fujoshi circles as the inviting/ trickster uke. Noted too is the play of social classes in the story; another big fave of BL tales.

Those wishing to see what else Suemitsu-sensei has written better be ready for hard-core yaoi dojins.  The mangaka is fully rotten. Yikes! Otokonoko tries to seduce newly met male friend, male friend is already quite gay and thinks he is seducing innocent, confused cross dressing youth. Human orifices can’t do that ensues. Note to mangaka: no glove, no love! Being a smut purveyor entails certain responsibilities in this age (what has this blog done to me? A year ago I would have freaked at seeing something like that. now all I can say is yup, looks textbook rotten…).

“Officials have already met with leaders of Japan’s $5.5 billion adult
entertainment industry in an attempt to develop regulations that conform to some small standard of basic human decency. Attending the talks were the heads of several major studios, including WoundSexerCo, Maid Molest Universal, Innocent Schoolgirl Despoil Youngest Daughter Lips Plunder Incest Distribution, and Sunrise-Rape-Rape-Nihon.
In what may signal a chastening within the industry, leading film producer
Golden Dawn Global issued a press release this week voicing its “humility and bewilderment” and offering to cease international distribution of its blockbuster series Pregnant Ladyboy Sodomized Facedown In The Rice Bowl, a 23 -part epic that has reportedly left thousands of viewers feeling repulsed, defiled, and forever doubtful about the inherent goodness of mankind.”
http://www.theonion.com/articles/japan-pledges-to-halt-production-of-weirdo-porn-th,2657/

Earlier efforts at the “do I care if it is a girl?” genre are better at getting the characterization down to believable limits. Any reader may be reasonably forgiven for wanting to wring the neck of the lad in No Bra, because he is such a pathetic horny wimp. Even when he somehow gets enough resolve to track down his barely remembered childhood friend’s true circumstances, it will take a major meltdown for him to man up and tell the truth. Like Mada, it is not a case of ‘can’t process” but that processing has stopped at Good to be King.  Oh well; magic dick syndrome is a classic young guy fail. At least his internal dialogue is far more guy-like. The annoyance develops only as a side effect of us buying the premise!

Full blown rotten narratives have a bad habit of transplanting an articulated emotional complexity onto male characters that would be out-of-place, even in female characters. Hyper-Shojo-ism!

I await a dojin-ish series where the main characters just appear to sit staring at each other while they process ever more elaborate internal monologues about trying to guess their own position and second-guess the other’s. Every 4 pages the characters are allowed to voice a few non-committal words to keep the game going. The same panel art repeats endlessly.

While the ZOMG panchu- with- bulge LoL! versions of the genre are simply loli retreads, the more complex versions can be reasonably classed as attempts to take classic BL/yaoi dojin tricks and turn them into a viable niche market product that can be pushed on X-curious otakus while delighting the hearts of the fujoshi tribes. Add to this that a subgrouping of fujoshis were always too interested in too-young protagonists, and that the flat-chested hairless otokonoko is a way to “18+” their nasty shota tastes with plenty of chances for otokonoko x otokonoko and/ or otokonoko x manly bishie pairings. Very convenient, in fact too convenient…

Houston we have double box-office!

Unfortunately for Japan’s publishing community it looks like the execution of this nefarious marketing scheme (Mwahhh-hahhh!) still needs work. As of 2014 all of the otokonoko magazines have folded. A few collections and tankubons will bring in some cash, but the genre is clearly not yet ready for prime time. (Curses, foiled…) This despite the impression that the boy-in-skirts trick was the new MSG of manga and anime; just sprinkle on any old hackneyed series and it was suddenly all edgy and fresh again. Still a niche of a niche, or of several niches…

Which in an odd way makes it perfect for the Genshiken.

Both the boys and the girls in the club-room can think of the otokonoko genre as their own private Idaho, or indulge themselves in the illusion that the other side has been suckered into thinking it was made for them, when really… All while accommodating/ displacing real-life concerns about legislation, western suspicions and “a certain bear

Welcome to the desert of the real

In the Genshiken, riajuu heterosexual desire is so fraught with danger that allegories taken from extreme narratives of human-ish pairing are the only way to approach it. or:
riajuu heterosexual desire is so boring and unattractive that it must be “charged” /”cathected” with tales of improbable longings in order to make it navigable and worth the effort.

Sin+Copyright fujoshi_rumi c47p66 web600

Or both.
And of course there will be consequences…

I could take care of that for me

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

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

Careful lad, ya might be getting in over your head

Oh brave new world that hath such creatures in it! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>Oh fuck, no wonder. Thanks, Sigmund!

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

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

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

>I want to fuck Rui’s boypussy!

>You want to fuck a tranny? gross!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

>Get out of here you twink!

>Traps=/y/

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

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

>I like being hated.

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

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

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

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

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

Too cute to be a girl

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

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

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

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

I don't trust those Bulgarian scanlators

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

What is Kio Shimoku doing?

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

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

Drawing is easy, comedy is hard.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Through All Your Houses Wandering

While waiting for Genshiken ch 93, I find a bit of background on Madarame’s latest otaku fixation and consider the proper terminologies.

The small universe of bloggers I check up on have, with one exception been rather silent on the double whammy ret-shading presented in not one but two hot spring/ onsen episodes/ chapters. Basically, Hato is now quite fully man-crushed on Madarame, even if he is not quite sure about larger issues. In ep 13 of the Nidaime anime. Madarame hasn’t been crushed on quite yet, (…forever!) so he is characteristically supportive. Manga Madarame is of course absent with a fractured wrist, but the rest of the crew have no doubts, and Hato is forced to agree that yup, he’s beginning to feel something and needs time to cool his head.

Going home, with the inevitable meet-up with Her (ok, ok, Kaminaga), right around Christmas still leaves me with hope for A Genshiken Carol with three spirits, but I ain’t holding my breath (much); followed by a New Years Eve at the temple mini arc. (Want! The first New Years Eve mini-arc was one of the things that hooked me on Genshiken, Want!)

But meanwhile, found a few neat things:

Genshiken_072_006

We all kind of get the whole trap-character Josou ero-game thing that Madarame re-acquainted himself with due to Kousaka’s new job, but here is an extensive write-up on it at the Girl Cartoons blog: “Josou, a discussion – Part 3: Josou Sanmyaku and the otokonoko’s will to power”  (http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=72 link dead see below) The whole 5 part series of posts is really quite well done, but some outre links at the ends of the posts (I’m guessing) got post 1 scrubbed. Fortunately a mirror survives:

Update: The entire five part essay series on the Girl Cartoons blog site seems to be scrubbed. Fortunately, it was scraped by The Archive and cached versions survive. In view of the obscurity of the subject and the detail of the five essays on the josou/otokonoko genre, as fantasy displacement and extreme “imagined other/ other sexuality”, I append links to the cached versions:

Josou, a discussion – Part 1: Josou, fetishism and gender identity
http://erodatabaseanimal.tumblr.com/post/814768641/
https://web.archive.org/web/20100920200856/http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=13

Josou, a discussion – Part 2: What is the appeal of pontificating on the appeal of traps?
http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=56
https://web.archive.org/web/20111116013721/http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=56

Josou, a discussion – Part 3: Josou Sanmyaku and the otokonoko’s will to power.
https://web.archive.org/web/20111115221930/http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=72

Josou, a discussion – Part 4: Otokonoko as surrogate victim     http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=76
https://web.archive.org/web/20140412113757/http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=76

Josou, a discussion – Part 5: Boku no Pico as progenitor of the otokonoko   http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=96
https://web.archive.org/web/20140412114907/http://8c.dasaku.net/?p=96

Genshiken_081_018

So Madarame might be moving from lolicon to josou-con. Per the essays above is the fantasy is fantasy issues that come up for real-life otokonoko genre fans. Reading all that stuff might … Naw… Expect some Genshiken in-joke references to rorikon wo naosu houhou) or”How to Cure a Lolicon”. Interestingly enough, one of the points of the above essays is that (simplification time) the boy readers come for the cheap thrills and stay for the novelty feels/ gender tourism. I have advanced a similar notion as yuri has “grown up” and I see from the essay that the Girl Cartoons blogger finds echoes of this in Galbraith on Shoujo, though it probably goes back as far as Matt Thorn. The josou/ otokonoko phenom though is still firmly grounded in the ‘ero” sphere, which lead to certain problems:

What started this was a link to a discussion of how Hato’s character comes off to a real life trans person found at: http://animeisdead.wordpress.com/2013/10/21/problems-with-genshiken-nidaime-and-its-handling-of-gender-issues/

Which is the second such appraisal of Genshiken’s Hato from a trans person I have found on the net, the other being a much earlier review of how an early model manga Hato was still sympathetic, in contrast to other obnoxious treatments. The reviewer at anime is dead sums up:

“The big issue with Genshiken Nidaime and its take on gender issues is that it tries to attempt a realistic and positive portrayal of a crossdresser, without really having any apparent knowledge of gender issues or why many even crossdress in the first place.

[…  ]

The first explanation is that Hato essentially only crossdresses so that they can read BL, due to a bad experience with a previous club who reacted poorly when finding out that Hato as a male was into BL. That’s a bit off-putting since it implies that people crossdress due to trauma, which certainly isn’t true in most cases. Then later it’s implied that Hato may do it because they’re gay, which is bad since sexuality doesn’t really have anything to do with crossdressing. And then the third and probably most sensible (i.e. least problematic since it’s technically a valid reason,)  Madarame rationalizes Hato’s crossdressing as just another otaku hobby and obsession. The way Nidaime tries to explain Hato’s crossdressing isn’t the most ideal, though to its credit it at least tries to do so in a way that doesn’t outright dismiss Hato’s identity.”

An earlier blogger’s view from a trans perspective:

“In the second installment of the manga, Genshiken Nidaime, we meet Hato-san, a girl who is later discovered to “really be” a boy.  As the series is ongoing, it is still unclear what Hato’s “true” gender identity is (transsexual, transvestite, other, ) but this is a plus, because in truth, Hato hirself isn’t sure what hir true identity is.  Hato is learning and exploring hir gender otherness as we watch, and the struggle is particularly interesting because hir sexual identity is mixed in with hir social identity of “fujoshi/fudanshi” (a “rotten” person, referring to someone engrossed in slash literature,) and hir sexuality (gay, straight, or other?) Hato is so many “others,” it’s distressing.  So far, Hato’s story has been treated with interesting realism and tact, though there are characters, as always, that repeatedly try to “convince him” to just live as his assigned birth sex.”
– http://fandommatters.wordpress.com/2012/01/16/transsexual-identities-in-manga/

Well, I should know better than to lurk-post after 10:00pm, but I commented, and probably went on too long – and whatever Hato’s character construction points I advanced, the parts that are irksome or worse for those who have skin in the game involve the presentation and sympathetic treatment of the character. Fair Dinkum mate!

But what gave me even more pause was a link found to another blog considering such matters in further depth. Like the Fandom Matters post above, which got into condemning some of the more obnoxious treatments and depictions of trans characters in Japanese visual culture, the post at A Certain Blogging Tobiichi makes a strong and poignant case on how the casual terminology used as genre shorthand can really hurt and offend. “Dehumanization: The Term ‘Trap” at http://tobiichi.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/a-trap-by-any-other-name/ gives some background on the term, misty origins and how nasty it can be.

Primum non nocere 

No one wants to be bully, even an an accidental one, so I can see that I probably should stop casually throwing the term “trap” around my posts. Even if it refers only to characters in manga and anime, only a few I’ve seen actually try any “trapping”, and most cut to a quick reveal and do the otaku-flavoured otokonoko/ josou thing of claiming to be a completely separate, possibly ideal female-ish creation. (which doesn’t make them less obnoxious, but situates them in a male otaku practice) Hence Kuchiki’s desperation to blurt out the “can’t be a girl” line that gets him swatted. So the term is imprecise to the genre trope as well as being hurtful.

Handling the Obnoxious Stereotypical Trap Character (the OSTF?) is the easiest part of a language retooling effort. We can reserve “trap” with caveats for a nasty portrayal of a crossdressed young male character out to “trap”. But what then does one call Hato?

Crossdresser works,, but leaves too much out to “type” the character.

trans (as a noun) is a bit clunky and perhaps should be reserved for characters where issues of personal, felt gender being different from birth ( cis-) gender are being highlighted. The Girl Cartoons essays go through the permutations quite clinically and with a certain thoroughness.

Otokonoko sounds useful, until one realizes that it is an otaku portmanteau/ pun, like fujoshi and comes with a loaded history:

cue the TV tropes block quote:

“Otokonoko is a Japanese genre of romantic and/or erotic stories for men, focusing on Attractive Bent-Gender male Crossdressers. The name is a pun. The word “otokonoko” normally means “boy” (literally “male child”), but swapping the “ko” meaning “child” for a different “ko” meaning “girl” gives a compound that Japanese sites like to translate as “male maiden”. It is sometimes called ‘”josou” (“women’s clothes”), a more generic term for male crossdressers.
Otokonoko features both girl-on-crossdresser and guy-on-crossdresser stories (it’s one of the few places where you will find m/f stories and m/m stories side-by-side in the same magazine). The target audience is men who crossdress (or are interested), and men who have a fetish for crossdressers, and the art styles and tropes are typically those of male-oriented romance / ecchi / hentai material. There is also a significant Periphery Demographic of female readers. (Although guy-on-guy otokonoko is often mistaken for Boys Love Genre, anything targeted to women is not otokonoko.)
Although cute crossdressers in romantic situations have been an occasional theme in shonen and seinen since the ’80s, otokonoko did not start as an identified genre until about 2004. Most works created before this are not usually considered part of the genre, although some have been grandfathered in.
An otokonoko character must be anatomically male (no Hermaphrodites or Gender Benders) but look convincingly like an attractive girl. Most identify as male, but even when the character identifies as female, few works try to deal with actual Transgender issues in anything like a realistic way. Since otokonoko is mainly an otaku thing, otokonoko are quite likely to wear Sailor Fuku, Meido, Miko, Cat Girl or Naughty Nurse Outfits as well as “ordinary” female clothes. Some non-fiction magazines exist to provide advice and help with crossdressing for men who identify as otokonoko in Real Life and who crossdress to achieve the look (or want to). Most otokonoko is technically seinen, although some is shounen. Works aimed at a female audience are never this, so don’t list shoujo, josei or boys’ love. ”
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OtokonokoGenre

The Girl Cartoons view is more to the point:

“Otokonoko quote above: The term is a pun on the word 男の子 (otoko no ko), meaning “male child”, with the character representing “child” exchanged for the homophonous character for “daughter/young girl”. It is for the most part connotationally and denotationally parallel to the English fandom term “trap”, minus the immediate implication of deception—of “being trapped”—in the English term. A history of the term’s usage via Google Trends dates its coinage to around the year 2009.

[… later discussing a rather nasty ero work..]

…When the protagonist’s biological sex is revealed, he is verbally abused by the two men, being called a “tranny” (okamayarou) and a pervert for becoming aroused given the situation. When he uses the word “otokonoko”, which is of course an otaku-coined neologism, he is mocked and ignored. The protagonist represents not just broadly the victimization of the non-masculine by a masculine society, but the victimization of the male Josou fan himself by a heteronormative and anti-queer society.”
Josou, a discussion – Part 4: Otokonoko as surrogate victimhttp://8c.dasaku.net/?p=76 (link died, see above)

So the term is not only an otaku-ism but carries baggage with it. The game Madarame plays is a otokonoko game full of josou characters, but Hato is not an otokonoko or josou character because of his professed limited reasons for crossdressing.

Similarly, Josou as term for a young m to f crossdresser shares the above baggage.

From Kabuki one can lift the terms onnagata (“female-role”) or oyama. These might be useable, but I assume they also already carry too much historical baggage. Works fine for the lad in Kunisaki Izumo no Jijō, but less well for Tripeace, Usotsuki Lily and Hato, all of which I previously characterized as “trap-lite” or one who crossdresses convincingly for reasons that have little or nothing to do with personal gender or sexuality issues.

Of course this kind of plot fig-leaf is probably -or soon will be-  as annoying to real world trans folk as the fujoshi habit of deploying the “I don’t like guys, I only like you” line is to some members of the gay community, but for now it is a stock character trope. As previously mentioned, it usually comes with some small “super power” or at least some heightened personal awareness.

From Takarazuka Revue we get musumeyaku (娘役, literally “daughter’s role”) as opposed to otokoyaku (男役 , literally “male role”). Apparently the fans have also come up with the term onnayaku (女役): literally, “Woman Role-Player”; an unofficial term used by fans to refer to the musumeyaku, as the word musume means “daughter” while the word onna means “woman”, and therefore implies a greater level of equality with the male -gendered actresses who are called otokoyaku (otoko means “man”) Some fans have begun using the word onnayaku to refer to the older female-gendered actresses who are more experienced and well-known than the younger girls.– liberally lifted from the wiki entry. 

Not quite Hato yet, give him 5 years…

Wait, got it.. otomeyaku. That should parse out as acting (or presenting) in a maiden’s role.  That’s a good Hato-fit; although fujoshi-yaku could be coined just for him, and him alone. A cursory google-search doesn’t get any hits on these as trope terms. A fresh neologism! Yum!

(Later: not so fast buddy boy: already used by western Takarazuka fans, pops up in yuricon forum entries among others.. Yup Erica-sensei’s gang got there first, again! -Awwww-)

Next time: Ch 93! After the Festival – No fantasy for you, Mada and Rika butts in!  Hooray! The raws iz out…

Can't get no...

Can’t get no…

 

Much Later: While searching for Hato Kenjiro’s Genshiken-verse pen name (Takeya Mikako grrr.. always forget it) I stumbled upon a site; an exhaustive compilation/ bibliography of extant Transgender characters/  motifs in manga, comics, books and , well… everything… Jana’s TG Lists; transgender in media. Since 31 January 2004. Current to December 2015 , at least.
See: http://tmapps.net/index.html  Old/ backup site: http://tmap.uphero.com/index.html

So, there are folks who care deeply about these matters and are there for those who need them. The project looks very powerful.