Easter — spring 2020 update

Greetings! Briggs N. Stratton, Emergency Blogging Hologram here and I’m guest-hosting this post because someone has been neglecting their responsibilities.”

Mudakun: “Leemmee alone, go away!”

B&S: “See what I mean? five months since the last post, only a few review threads on Twitter; even those have a meh! under-tone…”

Mudakun: “Terminate Emergency Blogging Hologram NOW!”

B&S: “Not happening Buddy Boy. Time to post something, anything.

Mudakun: “Don’t wanna, go away. Fyck off, get lost.

B&S: “Na-nee?

Muda: “For reason numero one, this is gonna be a self-indulgent as wot read for anyone who bothers…

Continue reading

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5: Kio’s Gate

Spotted Flower chs 27.5 – 29.5
Kio Shimoku, Thrice yearly manga in Rakuen Le Paradis magazine
https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/

Free web extra chapter 29.5 Dec 30, 2018:
https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol28/trial/1230_kio/HTML5/pc.html#/page/1
via https://www.hakusensha.co.jp/rakuen/vol28/trial/1230_kio/

Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on  Amazon Japan (kindle) #29 Feb 28, 2019
Rakuen Le Paradis magazine on Amazon Japan (kindle)  #28 Oct 31, 2018

WARNING: Spoilers and lewdz ensue.

Horny on Main:

English language fan-translations of Kio Shimoku’s follow-up to his Genshiken saga have fallen way behind, leaving only rabid determined readers to search out other language scans and try their hands with phone translation apps. As well, a vocal number of the old-guard Genshiken fans have walked away from Spotted Flower as sequel, bitter that the author slammed his two most prized creations together for a few pages of furtive guy-secks. Much powder was burnt discussing if Spotted Flower can even be considered a sequel to the Genshiken, or even if it was all a dream, or a doujin-within-a-manga, penned by a 29 year old Ogiue.

I think we all missed something. Slow on the uptake. Sensei pulls out the bamboo cane and starts doing emphasis whacks, as if at some crusty zazen class.

Spotted Flower is here for the lewdz!

There used to be a heck of a lot less sex in the Genshiken. Think back. Horny virgins. Much allusion to sex and desire and “enjoyment” and DIY doujin porn yet no sight of it. Three eventual couples but even among them, intimacy treated like murder in Greek tragedies. Performed off-stage. Saki in the original Genshiken letting slip that Kousaka did her while gaming, Ohno’s famous “This is what I…” as well as one vague reference to cosplay fun with Tanaka. Ogiue cheesed that Sasahara doesn’t act more “forceful’. Otherwise it was teasing allusions all the way down, even with Angela and Keiko underfoot.

Rakuen LeParadis has a completely different readership demographic and Spotted Flower is a different property but perhaps we all were thrown by Saki/The Wife’s pregnancy. The characters are all grown up now. They get to do sex but somehow adult married sex feels disenchanted, less than as if they were still bright and shiny young things. Boring adults are boring as they get bored. They have nothing but their old otaku hobbies to do any more except fuck, and then fuck around. And thence back to work. Perhaps we were tricked into considering awkward married intimacy as somehow less lewd than???

By the time Kio-sensei was ready to go on a tear, we had all been properly set up.

One IRL year ago – the pace of Spotted Flower time crawls with its thrice yearly releases – Madarame was trying to get Sasahara to stand as alibi for Hato’s scent on a housecoat and was doing a damn poor job of it; turning the meetup into a brag session about some definitely-not-boring married 30-somethings’ sex. At the same time, Sue had come upon her napping boss Ogiue having a mildly hawt dream and had snapped; not merely stealing a waking kiss, but grabbing Ogiue’s boobs and vowing (in an echo of their first meeting) to steal her panties.

Chapter 27.5
Editor Endou attempts to gain more information from Ogiue about Asaska-sensei (Hato’s pen-name – possibly Hato/Yajima as a ‘circle’) and ends up going out drinking with Ogiue’s group plus Hato and Yajima after a day of convention doujin selling. Endou does her best to put aside her questions as to why Hato/ Asaka-sensei had a boner under her dress that one time, telling herself that her job is to encourage creativity. She then proceeds to get blind drunk and has to be carried by Yajima back to Hato and Yajima’s place – where it appears festivities continued. The next morning, Endou wakes foggy and hung over and bolts into the shower/ bath room (typically the toilet bowl has its own separate “water closet” in Japanese homes) where she gets a full-monty nekkid reveal of a just-showered Hato. Endou screams…

Chapter 27.5.2
Sue continues to sexually harass Ogiue with her big boobs. Ogiue ends up with her head under Sue’s top and decides to turn around and go for it.

Chapter 28
Ohno visits Saki, bringing her own baby and nurses both kids. Saki nods off from exhaustion. When she wakes, she tells Ohno that she suspects that her husband has cheated on her. Unsaid is that we all know that Saki knows damn well with who.

Chapter 29
Sasahara is at Ogiue’s and Sue is sitting next to Ogiue. As Sue gets overenthusiastic, perhaps in an effort to spite the boyfriend, Sasahara acts as if he he is enjoying the show then lets slip that he has heard big gossip. Ogiue, guessing what he is thinking about Sue’s antics, proposes a threesome in exchange for spilling the goods. Sue goes into shock, visibly traumatized as Sasahara is left speechless.
In a final panel, Mada is heading home from work.

Chapter 29.5 (free web extra)
It is immediately after the hangover morning naked shower reveal. Hato had been thinking about a newly acquired naughty doujin while showering and was sporting an erection when Endou bumbled in. Endou-san is traumatized. Yajimacci angrily shoos Hato to the bedroom and tries to calm/ explain matters to their editor. Yajima even tries to sell Endou on the idea of Hato/ Asaka-sensei coming out as a fujoshi transwoman but this flips Endou’s ‘pro’ switch: the idea is shot down as likely to be taken as a stunt. Yajima senses that she is on the verge of losing their editor and plays her ace. Yes, sensei and her are a couple but sensei has had an “it’s only him” male crush since their university club days. Endou goggle mode to %110, coolant pressure rising, editor re-captured. When Hato is fetched back into the living room, Endou-san is fully dazzled.

The next issue of Rakuen LeParadis is due out at the end of February 2019.

A few points of note. Props again to the earlier correspondent who characterised Merei Yajima’s management and in-relationship style as “policing Hato’s gender and sexuality”. Merei policing mode at max. At least the cursed demotion to fudanshi status was avoided; fujoshi-dom instead advanced as the main reason/explanation for Hato’s presentation and top surgery. Even then the women’s’ fan homosocial/ magic circle that is BL threatens to evaporate for Endou-san:

“Yajima: So, you’re still willing to continue working with us, right?
Endou: I- I guess… I guess it would be fine, but… / I’m not sure if I can talk about BL as freely as before… But it should be okay…?”
— Spotted Flower, chapter 29.5, pps 10-11 Translated script by athrun_chan

…Which forces Merei to play her ace.

Wait for the sneaky self-satisfied-author kicker. The last words in the chapter mumbled by the now-fascinated Endou are in the nature of:

“You like BL, but that’s not quite it. I thought that…”
— ibid p14

Kio-sensei is slipping us the notion that the neat little indeterminate-Hato puzzle he built for his Genshiken Nidaime readership has now hooked an in-story bystander. Once again Hato becomes both fujoshi creator/ consumer/ fangirl and male remainder whose same-sex desires can be offered up as bounty to the fujoshi collective. Can Endou make the conceptual leap? She had already granted tentative lesbian couple status to Yajima and Hato (a not unheard-of judgement as acknowledged by Yajima) but lesbian fujoshi are no big deal in their fandom. What is missing is the usual “heart-of-a-girl” placeholder-ism for a trans* /genderqueer identity. Only the unique trans-fujoshi conceit remains. There will be no table manned by CYAN publishing reps (Endou’s company. I’ve seen that logo before; is it a call out to one of Spotted Flower’s publishing company Hakusensha’s IRL divisions?) at any future Tokyo Pride parade. Not yet. Then again, Kio Shimoku’s critical view of fujoshi socials tracks with a 2000’s era (and earlier) apolitical/ socially disengaged view of BL fandom. Some suggest that this is changing.

However Japanese publishers, even in 2019 remain known for their cautious, conservative incrementalism (backed, tested and proven with sales figures). Endou-san’s division might anthologise select Asaka-sensei doujins but their bread and butter appears to be work-safe properties that ‘pro’ mangaka like Ogiue churn out. Ogiue’s circle might still whomp up some ‘good stuff” for big conventions but that’s a special treat for hardcore fans. Asaka-sensei must remain a trade secret for now.
.

1.048596%

I never completely got the existential shock that drove a significant number of Genshiken and even Genshiken Nidaime fans to make such a big deal out of whether Spotted Flower was a ‘true’, voice-of-god, cannon sequel. From the beginning, Kio-sensei’s pro-forma denials, wrapped in legal and industry rituals for an author two-timing different publishing companies made any final and definite pronouncement impossible. From a Schrödinger’s Spotted Flower, the obvious resolution, a wink and a nod toward the fannish conceit of the AU (alternate universe) seemed an inevitable step, especially since Japanese pop fiction is jammed to the rafters with time looping and probability shifting stories.

Spotted Flower ch 35:
Drunk Hato, Yajima and Endou garbage-pick an ancient IBN laptop and a microwave oven on the way home from a post-convention piss-up.

Few hardcore Spotted Flower detractors were ready to make the conceptual leap. Most who wouldn’t seemed to be guys. I might be wandering into wild speculation-land but guys don’t generally immerse as much in fanfiction culture. Even if aware of the lore, could the AU trope possibly be too ‘gendered’ for serious manly-fan consideration? Or the consideration of a subtype of guy fan? Give stuff like that a chance to get loose and next thing, it’s all multiple probability rotten fangirl shipping fic all the time. All the way down. Rinse, repeat.

Only a dream? Ok. A doujinshi-fied roman-a-clef that turns out to be authored by the “real” Ogiue. Cool Story Bro!. Kio Shimoku wanting to wreak misery and heartbreak upon the Old-boy Genshiken fandom, using his insidiously powerful ball-crushing attention-whoring gender-bent Hato creation as a 10-ton shithammer? Always suspected as much. Everything Hato Touches Dies!

Waughhhhh!

What sad lack of imagination! Kio Shimoku got to the laptop and microwave oven first. If the author does it, it is no longer an AU. It took a bit of effort but he created a probability line where everyone lives, gets bored with their riajuu lives and starts fucking around. Then they really go at it. A lot!

Behold! Kio Shimoku’s ecchi adult ensemble rom-com achieves a stable divergence value.

Hijinx ensue! Who gets threesomed first?

Also; never stop reading or scanlating Spotted Flower.

Because…

 

Shimoku’s Basilisk.

Spotted Flower 26.5+27: Keep your eyes on me, now we’re on the edge of hell

Spoilers ensue (0)

1) Une Saison en Enfer

Sempai, I may have left my scent on your hanten.

In chapter 27 of Kio Shimoku’s Spotted Flower ‘the Husband’ AKA Harunobu Madarame has arranged to meet up with his university club junior to nail down an alibi as to how a certain Mangaka’s signature scent ended up on a house coat/ hanten in Mada’s apartment. At least that’s the excuse. Madarame has clearly set up the meeting so that he could brag about his adventure to ‘the boyfriend of the other mangaka (Ogiue) who the boob-grabbing girl foreigner (Sue Hopkins) helps out’ (the habit of eliding names in Spotted Flower is getting clunky, c’mon it’s obviously the once and future…) Kanji Sasahara.

Just to make the exchange somewhat balanced, Kio-sensei added a surprise earlier this summer in a 2-page web-extra chapter (26.5) on the Rakuen Le Paradis website. After many years, Chika Ogiue’s assistant couldn’t take it any longer and jumped her sleeping liege, stealing a deep and thorough kiss, as Ogiue had a nap-dream of a romantic moment with her boyfriend. As the long-overdue dawn of explicit f:f intimacy in the Genshiken verse, the execution feels rushed and troublesome. I am also at a loss to translate the European scanlator’s colloquial final dialogue; I am guessing that Sue’s retort was something about “not being finished yet” (playing on the page inking that Ogiue requested before napping off) followed by a declaration that she has yet to secure Ogiue’s .. panties (???) This translation is clearly NOT even close:

One of the machine translations dropped the word “pants” into the output. It would fit… Who knows? Meanwhile at least one of Sue’s hands is up Ogiue’s sweatshirt and much further “taking” is strongly indicated in a final cut-out panel.

Hmmmmmph! Maria Sama is still watching.

I am even less impressed because any Sue x Ogiue appears to have been whomped up primarily as a set-up so that Sass-boy can have a somewhat equivalent “triangle” situation to discuss in comparison to Mada’s. Oh wot the heck. Steamy Sue x Ogiue times finally. Kio, may I suggest grabbing some Takemiya Jin for a few pointers, so it doesn’t come off as pure Loser Fanboy service… Please. OMG, no, not the Kurogane Kenn stuff !!!

Mada’s triangle is judged trickier as there is a newborn baby in the mix. For the most part, Sasahara-kun plays his role perfectly by re-iterating how much of a dawg/ player/ scumbag his sempai has become, all while dropping asides about how he would lurv a threesome with Ogiue and Sue (1).

So yeah… Guys.

Putting aside the growing suspicion that Spotted Flower is a Shimoku’s Gate probability line where the majority of all annoying fan pairings/ ‘ships’ that the author was pestered about over the years are to be played out by bored and horny 30-something year olds, the discussion between Mada and Sass is odd in that “no danger of accidental pregnancy from -this- infidelity” is a talking point… As opposed to say; ‘Hato finally got his wish and he uked me, as in took my ass, quite thoroughly!” — although the occurrence is mentioned in passing. Madarame appears to be enthusiastic about sharing details, treating the tryst as a Man-of-the-World Experience Points bonus round, rather than displaying any uncertainty over his sexuality. Neither does he give any hint of having a crush on Hato.

Instead of the insecure and flustered contemporary guy harem lead, Madarame now aspires to an earlier (1970’s-1980’s bubble, pre-1992-crash) model of male infidelity as natural privilege, of the kind that so often made a complete fool out of Urusei Yatsura‘s “Darling”, Ataru Moroboshi.(2) If winning the “most interesting mistress experience award” wasn’t enough, Kio-sensei piles on a few extra privilege points. When Mada grumbles about a sense of melancholy and unreality surrounding his life of late, Sasahara spills to Mada that ‘the ex’, (who can only be Makoto Kousaka) was in a pitiful state after seeing [Kasukabe-san], crushed that he had not been judged worthy of husband-and-father-hood by her.

“In my opinion, the idea of getting married to someone as eccentric as him didn’t suit her. And it’s normal. So really, you won her over with your own merits, senpai. And poor guy went back to my place, dejected, after you showed him your newborn daughter.
“Eh? You think so?”
“You look like you’re gloating. Disgusting.”

Also, a fortunate choice of translation: Madarame! You ‘three times asshole’ (as the italian scanlators put it) You DOUCHEBAG! (as Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit suggested.) I found this great essay on why douchebag is a perfect term for entitled manchildren (4).

Aggressively Foolish and Annoying; Expects Privilege.

Lest you think that I went on too long in previous posts about Madarame being Kio Shimoku’s Japanese exploration of the same themes as Updike’s ‘Rabbit’, (3) I can only say that I lack the mangaka’s skills at condensing the argument to a few lines of dialogue. Disappointed fan-boy butthurt over the manga story arc is no longer relevant; Kio-sensei’s ambitions have grown along with his chops. Or he is revisiting an earlier fascination with conflicted emotional plots; Heat Haze/ Kagerowic Diary/ Kagerou Nikki, Yonensai and Gonensai, as his confidence and abilities have grown. If anyone dropped the pictures and framed the dialogue with a smattering of convincing descriptive filler, Spotted Flower could stand toe to toe with most Murakami short stories. No talking cats required. Background music allusions optional. But such would be a criminal waste; Kio Shimoku loves the visual medium: Consider the cute, dishabille bedroom Hato and the look on their half-turned face! Priceless!

Wither Spotted Flower‘s Hato? Kio Shimoku missed his creation, returning them to the story in chapter 12. If their role was only to be the instrument of Madarame’s downfall, why was so much time spent adding depth to her character, her work life as an ero-doujinshi convention sales supported mangaka and her curious partnership with her manager-lover-(collaborator?) Merei Yajima? Unlike Murakami, whose women creations remain magically opaque to their male main characters, the Spotted-verse has tantalising snippets of characterisation for its women characters, and of course almost a complete character study for Hato as trans-fujoshi-ero-mangaka.

At first glance, and if you continue to squint, Hato has succeeded with Yajima’s help. Their dream of a fennish world to envelop them has come true, even if the cost has been pronounced. Rotten has consumed them. Rotten and the requirements of a hyper-expressed fujoshi practice govern far too much of their lives. In bed with Merei, Hato is still “collaborating” in their production. Merei will send her off, grudgingly citing “research”, even as she knows it is far more. Hato’s long-held infatuation is real and true, but can only be expressed as one or another variant of a late 1990’s BL bonk scene. And in her own way, Hato is just as irresponsible and immature as Madarame. This may tread perilously close to the sin of misgendering but she makes “guy” mistakes about relationship stuff, or at least Kio-sensei has her make mistakes in a way that echoes her residual – kept for BL field missions – guy-ness. Wondering if Yajima “had turned into” a lesbian and was in danger of being seduced by Sue was the most obvious example. The mpreg ridiculousness was so off the charts as to be impossible to keep track of; with Hato’s body alternating between being treated as alienated residual and fujoshi lore turned post-gender sci-fi wish fulfilment.

Others can later debate how clumsy Kio-sensei was and where. The fact remains is that it was not necessary to a simple ‘The World of Mada Will Fall‘ plot to do any of this.

2) Wait for me, you’ve gone much farther… Too far.

I fear that both readers and writers of romantic comedies and romances have one thing in common. We have scant idea how a “real” romance (het or other) should “naturally” work. Is it that we suspect that without delusions and puppet scripts and assigned roles no one could ever meet up and sustain interest in another? Twitter and Tumblr are full of pseudonymous queer comments condemning this or that clumsy heterosexual pairing as “too het”, which I take as a shorthand for a sense of alienation and reification with the social role demands and expectations tack-welded onto too many girl meets boy stories. And that feeling reflects a truth. Guys and girls go to “sports bars” to find “normal”, straight, hard-working, easy to understand potential partners as much as they did 600 years ago at the harvest market’s festival.

When I was younger I used to wonder about the innocent fools who would slowly drive their customised cars up and down the main street of my town on warm summer weekend nights. Would they sit down years later and tell a child that he or she was born because some butt-ugly piece of Detroit metal with oversized tires attracted mom to dad?

Yes, Tyler, you’re here because of that ’73 Cordoba with the bitchin’ chrome mags!

This uneasiness is part of why straight folks womp up queer characters for romance tales: supposedly the “scripts” and roles apply less, so perhaps we can watch attraction play out unencumbered by anything more than lust and genre clichés. Simulations. Reduce the variables and re-run the scenarios. We might yet understand the human heart, or at least come up with a few more stories as to how hearts might romp if only they could slip their leashes.

Hello!, have we forgotten someone?

When LGBTQ+ characters show up in vernacular narratives, too often the impression for IRL LGBTQ+ readers is mixed, if not problematic. Even if run-of-the-mill bigotry has been somewhat toned down, rendered déclassé and boorish in the better neighborhoods of the global village, those of minority sexualities and gender expressions face further challenges of “erasure”. ‘It is fine whatever you get up to: I/ we/ society simply don’t want to see (any trace of) it“. The mere public existence of LGBTQ+ people acting as if they have as much right to be where and as anyone else -might- “frighten the horses” . When Shadow-of-gay characters appear, they are no longer invisible but too often they are routinely used in annoying one-dimensional story conventions: over-fanserviced or one or a couple of tragically killed off lesbians, outlandish performing ‘Hard-gay” guys and for trans*/ gender non-conforming/ non-binary folks, the otokonoko, the okama, the butch dyke and the crossdresser. No wonder IRL LGBTQ folks feel whiplashed. The choice between erasure or burlesque representation is not much of a choice.

Given that us straight folks ain’t gonna stop making up LGBTQ charas, some pointers or at least suggestions from the tojisha community might be a really really good idea. A decade ago Dr Mizoguchi made it clear what she thought should be extirpated from BL: so-called “rapes of love” and “I’m not gay, it’s only you”. Less obvious was her weariness with both exotic and straights-struck-by-lightning guys. What of just-so, hard-working, “yeah, I’m a gay man, what of it?” protags for BL stories?

Without looking for one singular “rulebook” for lesbian representation, one can probably intuit that extreme fanservice, including threesomes and moresomes; “killing your gays” and the insidious Maka Maka effect (fanservice angst-y f:f schmexy while either or both of a pair wait for “the right guy”) should take a rest. For gay guys, probably it’s more a matter of degree. You have the guy who works with the woman MC. You don’t have to  “queen him out” so that he can be a team-mate/ sidekick and not a romantic interest. An offhand mention is sufficient. See how useful guy privilege is?

To these obvious pointers, we can now add a few new ones for trans* characters, thanks to Twitter threads by Bogi “Takács PERSON, 100% migráncs @bogiperson”.

Who?

“I both edit and review a lot of trans-related fiction. I edited Transcendent 2: The Year’s Best Transgender Speculative Fiction 2016 (#Lammys winner) and the upcoming Transcendent 3 too. :)”

Ok, thems sound like experience points.

  • Writing thread! Introducing trans and/or intersex characters – some common and less common pitfalls! 
  • Worldbuilding thread! Some pitfalls related to shapeshifting, gender, and trans people.
  • Worldbuilding thread! How (not) to include trans people as background characters – some common mistakes.
    — Threads archived at: [ https://threadreaderapp.com/user/bogiperson ]

Nowhere in these is there a requirement that trans* charas must be perfect Whoever-Xues (we need a name/term for the wish-fulfilment self-insert non-binary chara – my suggestion with an X in this case follows the Chinese convention of pronouncing a leading X as Sh) These tips make plenty of sense and as a bonus, rid potential stories of more than a few groaners.

It was a dark and stormy night as our otokonoko protagonist stood naked in front of the mirror” can now be excised for one further reason. I found it a fun game to keep a tally of how Kio-sensei’s Hato fares as I went through the lists. Some of the tropes might be too western-specific, others subverted (the Stand(s) were incredibly useful) while others were purposefully worked against to follow a theory-ish plot-point. The last of these; a trans social for Hato remains glaringly absent because Hato instead chose a fujoshi/ otaku social. We shall see how far Kio Shimoku continues to push a conceit noted by Takahiro Ueda; that “otaku is a violence against gay” [http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf]

Is it time to make Spotted Flower‘s snoopish editor Endou queer, so that she can drag Hato and Yajima off to a cozy Ni-Chome bar?

3) Per Aspera

That’s two of them.. Please read the thread archives for the rest. My two cents towards adding to a “best practice” code of conduct for straight writers dreaming in queer would be that that ya can’t go wrong if you keep the tone of the settings, or at least of the actions of your idea-of-queer character “aspirational”. That appears to have worked well a few times. You can also hide a fair amount of sloppy behind it.

Meanwhile…

Kio-sensei’s new thing about the chorale ensemble seems to be taking up most of his recent attention. I look forward to eventually reading it, even buying the tanks next time i make it to Japan. Spotted Flower remains viable and exultingly open ended. Yajimacci! Hato-sensei’s mainstream debut and how Endou-editor-san manages it (is she completely out of her depths when it comes to broaching the DMAB subject?) Saki’s suspicions; Saki going home to see mom for a month (a very typical Japanese post-natal tradition) Mada at loose ends.

Mada and Hato must end up at a love hotel! It should be one of those really tacky ones that look like a castle! Bonus if they get to their room and Mada pulls out 2 six-packs of beer, munchies and a game console loaded up with otokonoko games. Hey Mada, if you don’t bring some blue pills then we’ll all know that you plan to do the po po pitiful me sou-uke hime routine… forever!

Otherwise, Mada’s next big level-up event will be Kousaka popping him one in the snout.

ENDNOTES:

(1) As well as the European fan translators, I am indebted to Genshiken Dropout’s Asandyrabbit for help puzzling out chapter 27. Please support the magazine and Kio-sensei; Rakuen Le Paradis can be purchased as an e-book/ Kindle publication on Amazon.co.jp
[https://www.amazon.co.jp/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?__mk_ja_JP=%E3%82%AB%E3%82%BF%E3%82%AB%E3%83%8A&url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE&rh=n%3A465392%2Ck%3A%E6%A5%BD%E5%9C%92++%E7%99%BD%E6%B3%89%E7%A4%BE]

(2) [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urusei_Yatsura] . Rumiko Takahashi [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumiko_Takahashi] remains a living god of manga. As of writing at 60, she is still working; her current project being the retro flavored (Kyōkai no) Rinne.

(3) Not for a microsecond am i suggesting that Kio Shimoko is cribbing from Updike. Guy misbehavior is ubiquitous, there is plenty to go around. I’m just suggesting they both have booths at the same county fair.

(4)[ https://gawker.com/douchebag-the-white-racial-slur-we-ve-all-been-waiti-1647954231 ]

Till human voices wake us

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dirty….
Really?

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

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

Ohh.. fugget it…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

spotted hips web.jpg

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

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

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

All who can, shall!

 

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

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

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

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

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

Or….

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

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

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

ENDNOTES:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homewrecker

Spotted Flower chapters 22/ 23 reconsidered in light of the recent English fan translation. Spoilers Ensue. See also the earlier posts
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/spotted-flower-chapters-22-23-les-etrangers/
and
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2018/04/29/privilege-set-me-free/

— Fer krissakes, give it a rest already!
— No Way! Roll third feature:

Nine months after the Japanese publication of Spotted Flower chapters 22 and 23, a definitive English scanlation appeared in mid-March 2018. While most of what transpired within had already been known and discussed, the English version has served to put some readings into sharp perspective and (unfortunately, to me) close off others.

It doesn’t look like “It was all a dream” and worse, it looks like someone while eager for sex, repeatedly suffered hydraulic pressure failure and so agreed to other arrangements. As well, they prefaced their invitation to the bedroom with an outpouring of whining self-pity. The tone of the encounter shifts from “two guys (or at least dick-owners) trying things” to raw BL (yaoi) seme x uke roleplaying.

Continue reading

Privilege / Set Me Free

I think (after scrubbing the follow-up essay 8 times) that I finally can wrap my head around Spotted Flower Chapters 22 & 23

Yup, that’s it:

See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akihiro_Miwa
and
https://www.avclub.com/sherlock-gets-a-high-camp-makeover-in-a-forgotten-class-1823876762

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda and the Secret Life of Hato Kenjiro – guest essay by asandyrabbit

Genshiken Dropout‘s asandyrabbit considers Kiss Him Not Me, fujoshi socials and harems, Genshiken Nidaime/ Spotted Flower and the power of the One True Pairing.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I have have enjoyed working with them to bring it here. Be sure as well to visit their blog for the companion essay ‘I an Hato” (link below in notes).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda / Kiss Him, Not Me!
Comedy, Reverse Harem, Romance, Slice of Live, Shoujo
Junko (2013 —)

(Also you better bet I am talking about Genshiken and Spotted Flower. Spoilers for all three series.)

I cannot wholeheartedly recommend you watch or read Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda— it’s kind of just bad in a lot of ways. It’s a mashup of generic shoujo tropes, typical reverse harem stories, and it just looks worse than its competitors in the reverse harem market. However, it unintentionally hits on a lot of points regarding Fujoshi Culture and through this, one can find way more character depth than really was probably intended in one of the members of the harem. Here’s how.

Serinuma, the girl at the center of the reverse harem, is a through-and-through fujoshi under the specific definition of “A woman who likes BL” (as opposed to a generic term for a female fan of anime / manga, as I have seen some people use). There are not many fujoshi in anime, and only a few more in manga. When you look at most of the titles, though, Genshiken, Fudanshiism, Mousou Shoujo Otaku-kei, Tonari no 801-chan, Ruriro no Yume, the number of manga written about fujoshi that are by fujoshi is rather small, and those that are less well-known.  This means that the majority of portrayal of fujoshi is not by fujoshi at all— in fact, often times it’s a male perspective of fujoshi, writing fujoshi characters from what they see on the outside. There are a lot of assumptions that must be made about what fujoshi actually do, since it’s kind of secretive a lot of the time, and, again, most of these stories about fujoshi are not actually written by fujoshi. The few exceptions, Fujoshi Kanojo, Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, etc, put greater priority on non-fujoshi characters (though in the case of Fudanshi Koukou Seikatsu, the fudanshi largely just act the same as fujoshi would but they’re male so you can ship them).

Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is then one of the first manga and then anime written by a fujoshi, with a shoujo and fujoshi audience in mind, featuring and focusing on a protagonist who is a fujoshi. This is special because it can be seen as the author giving a role model to the audience of what a fujoshi is and what fujoshi do. It’s the first time I have seen a fujoshi protagonist in a role the audience is supposed to relate to, and it’s good to see her being a fujoshi is influential upon the plot beyond “Oh, look at this weird thing that she is.” In cases like Fujoshi Kanojo, et cetera, the girl who is a fujoshi is that way just as a way of defining her personality, with its influence on the plot limited to “Oh she’s weird so I have to get used to her being weird.”

The idea of fujoshi rejecting romance in favor of BL has been hashed and rehashed to oblivion, but usually it’s more from a perspective of “I value my BL more than romance.” Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda is the next logical step in this— Serinuma acts like she values her BL more than romance, but in reality she’s afraid of going out with a guy. So why not have her go out with a girl instead? After all, fujoshi are virtual lesbians, guys! Haven’t you read Akiko Mizoguchi’s Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan yet? At least you remember when Patrick Galbraith mentions that some fujoshi identify as lesbians because of their sexual connection to one another in Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan! Come on, get with the times already. I highly doubt Nishina, the lesbian in the reverse harem, was made with the intent of commenting on this idea, but with the understanding of fujoshi as virtual lesbians, Nishina’s relationship with Serinuma becomes much more complex.

When Nishina first invited Serinuma over to her house, there was an implication of Nishina making a move (hence why the boys all interfere) while she was there, to bridge the gap between virtual lesbians and literal lesbians. This transition is much easier for one to make than from straight to lesbian, since there is a pre-existing quasi-sexual bond between the two. Had Nishina and Serinuma not been fujoshi but just regular friends, Serinuma may have still accepted the invitation, but she would not have been so willing to demonstrate to the boys how to pose for their BL photo shoot. It’s the implicit bond of “We’re fujoshi, therefore we can talk about sexy things,” that makes this so easy for Nishina to make advances the way she does. Add to this the predisposition Serinuma has toward rejecting they boys’ advances because she’s a fujoshi— she would rather watch them fuck each other than fuck them herself, and Nishina presents herself as a painfully obvious resolution to the harem within a couple of volumes. She’s the only one who Serinuma can be with without taking away from people Serinuma can ship (Well, you COULD ship your boyfriend with other guys while in a relationship, but you may have noticed how Ogiue’s attention on SasaMada seemed to decline the more she realized her attraction to him). The farthest extent one can go in denouncing all men so they are left available to ship is by being a lesbian, which is precisely what Nishina represents.Wait a second, did Nishina just confess to Serinuma in the sixth episode of the anime?

Oh shit! She did. In the manga, this mini-arc was structured after the scene where all the members of the harem confess all at once, but in the anime, the full harem confessing is at the end of the show and Nishina is in the sixth episode. So in the manga, when Nishina says, “I love you senpai!” it is simply restating what we got a couple of chapters ago. But in the anime, Nishina’s beaten everybody to the punch by six whole episodes. Now her advantage is not only the first kiss, but the first confession. So Nishina wins the harem, right? Wrong!!! Here enters the trials and tribulations of any good generic harem show and… you know, why the fuck did Sue win the Madarame harem because she confessed first, but Nishina hasn’t won the Serinuma harem???

This is bullshit!

So, what happened? Why hasn’t Nishina won? Why is everybody in the harem so freaked out about Mutsumi attempting to confess to Serinuma in episode 11? Is it really just because the anime team did a stupid panel-by-panel adaptation of the manga without consideration to these things, or is it something more?

Nishina made it clear from the start that she was interested in getting some sweet sweet fujoshi alone time with Serinuma, but ever since then her interactions have been so platonic. The only exception to this was in the episode where Igarashi refuses to let Nishina sleep in the same room as Serinuma (and even here a character other than Nishina is reminding the audience that Nishina’s aiming to be more than just a fellow fujoshi). So why is it that after Nishina confessed to Serinuma, she seems to be falling behind the others as more of just a fujoshi buddy to Serinuma?

Dismiss this as a result of poor structuring by the people making the anime, but I like to believe there is something else going on, something that gives Nishina a level of depth far beyond any other character in the series:

The fujoshi zone.

The only explanation for how Nishina confessed to Serinuma, but everyone freaks out about Mutsumi attempting to confess five episodes later, is that Nishina’s confession was only as a friend, or rather, as a fellow fujoshi. When Serinuma describes Nishina, she calls her a soul mate. Not friend, not lover, but soul mate. This enters a nebulous gray zone (we’re kindred spirits, so claims Chiba Saori of Hourou Musuko) of not-quite friend, not-quite romantic interest. This is much like the realm that fujoshi occupy with one another. The bond created by virtual lesbianism is stronger than typical friendship —after all, most friends don’t comfortably chat about their sexual fantasies with one another— but it still lacks something from a typical romantic relationship, and that is the direct interest. One’s sexual fantasies are filtered through BL rather than directly stated to one another. It’s not quite having a partner, rather, it’s more of a formalized communal experience.

When Serinuma is on the date, she claims Nishina is “fun to be around.” There is no mention of an actual romantic interest, or her own personal fear thereof that she experiences with all the boys. Meanwhile, on Nishina’s side, this should be an opportunity for her to show all her love for Serinuma, which she 100% nails in the setup. A romantic cruise, fancy clothes, a classy plane flight. She even makes it partway into her pick-up after introducing her probably-rehearsed line about the plane itself. “When I see such beautiful scenery…”

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We wait in anticipation. Here is where Nishina gets serious! She’s showing her love for Serinuma that has been weirdly absent for the past few episodes!

…And then we get discussion of yaoi pairings. Dammit Nishina! You were so close.Nishina had the crutch of virtual lesbianism to get close to Serinuma before any of the boys could, but now she has found herself unable to stand without that crutch. Serinuma’s continually reinforced her love of Nishina as a fellow fujoshi, a virtual lesbian, and not as a romantic interest, and Nishina’s found herself unable to remind Serinuma of her actual interest. Nishina is ignoring her romantic interest in favor of having a fellow fujoshi friend. So, while in Nishina’s confession to Serinuma in episode 6, she may have been trying to express her romantic love, it comes off as nothing more than a token of their close friendship, their fujoshiship.

One could argue that any harem is built around boxing oneself into the friend zone, but quickly Igarashi brings Serinuma to understand he’s not there to just be her friend, and the others soon follow suit, except Nishina. (1) Each of them go on the dates with Serinuma, and, even if they seemingly do not succeed, everyone but Nishina is going for the romance. But the moment that Nishina has a romantic line ready, she chickens out and turns it into an excuse to talk about BL. It’s not a case of obsession or of miscommunication, it’s a case of Nishina boxing herself into the friend zone, or rather the fujoshi zone, ever since the fallout over their reversible pairing argument. She had plenty of opportunities besides the date in the last episode to make a move on Serinuma— they spent an evening in the hot spring together, just the two of them. Hell, given how much they talk about conventions and BL and how buddy-buddy they are, surely they visit Otome Road together, just the two of them. It does not make sense why she would not have made a move already, unless it’s the fact that Nishina’s too afraid to express her legitimate romantic interest in Serinuma out of fear she will lose the bond of fujoshiship they already have.

We can pinpoint the exact moment where things change. In episode 6, her original intent was to assert her superiority as a fujoshi and cut ties with the BL side of Serinuma, meaning she can pursue her as a romantic interest exclusively. But she realized that hurting the BL side of her relationship with Serinuma would hurt her chance at romance, so she was stuck doing the only thing she could: not interfering at all with her connection to Serinuma as a fujoshi, and hoping that she could pursue romance as well. But, because of this, and because Serinuma reinforced their connection as fujoshi and pushed away their connection as lovers, Nishina found herself growing comfortable with just being buddies. She got close to Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi, but she was also ultimately distanced from Serinuma by being a fellow fujoshi. So ultimately, Nishina becomes stuck as purely a virtual lesbian— stuck in pure fantasy.

This of reminds me of another harem arc wherein the only same-sex character is able to get closer than the other harem members because of their connection through those means, but their ultimate downfall is their inability to escape from fantasy. It’s almost like the reason I’m so attached to having Nishina win the harem is as a way of making up for Hato losing the harem in Genshiken! The ultimate difficulty Madarame cites in dating Hato is that Hato is too obsessed with fantasy; so much so that they can’t just accept the possibility of romance at face value and go with it. The closest bonding experiences with Madarame that they had were often the most real— when the two of them talked as just friends, or when Madarame was so impressed by the simple gift Hato gave him of homemade chocolates on Valentine’s Day.

Ultimately, Nishina and Hato have the same downfall— their inability to escape fantasy and enter the real world, and have their romance with their crush as sincere romance. Originally I was hoping Nishina would succeed where Hato failed— after all, Nishina’s got a leg up on Hato by being able to be virtual lesbians with her crush, rather than just otaku buddies. But I was mistaken. The problem from before is the problem now.

This is the fujoshi zone. (2)

Wait a second, it seems like I’m forgetting something here. Hato… Madarame…. Maybe there’s an alternate universe set several years in the future wherein Madarame and Hato actually fuck?

No way. This can’t be happening. Miracles don’t just happen. I have to be dreaming! Kio has to be making it in a dream! But… if it’s real, what could this mean?

If, in Genshiken, Hato was ultimately defeated by their fantasies, Spotted Flower’s !Hato is reunited with !Madarame by their fantasies. They even say themselves that they’re remembering another dream from the college days— one where !Madarame (or is it the Genshiken’s Madarame?) is the sou-uke. Only because of their ruthless perseverance to make !HatoMada reality are they, years in the future, able to steal from !Sasahara !Saki !Madarame’s anal virginity (after giving their own, mind you). It is like the answer all along was that if you hold on to your fantasies and dreams for long enough, they will become reality. It’s almost like my fantasy for HatoMada to become reality was answered, as was theirs! It’s almost like… I am Hato! (3)

So, what does this all mean for Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda? Can the recent development in Spotted Flower foreshadow a conclusion to the Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda harem? Are all the basic bitches who want Igarashi to win sadly mistaken under the notion that Nishina’s just a boring-ass lesbo fujoshi? If Nishina was to be Serinuma’s answer, then everything would fall into place. Her arc would conclude by being able to show her affection for Serinuma, not only as a fujoshi but as a lover, and we would all have a happy ending.

Ah, shit, I’m kidding myself.

We got !Hato and !Madarame to fuck once, but it’s far from the point of !Madarame divorcing !Saki, giving her the child support, and taking !Hato as his new lover. Hell, we’ve gotta take !Yajima out of the picture too. (4) I’ve just had a year of intense sadness and disappointment over the regrettable conclusion to the Madarame Harem only to find endless joy in seeing Hato and Mada really do it in each others’ butts. Maybe you can’t handle that kind of thing because it’s too gay, so let’s put in your mind this instead— Hato and Madarame fucking in Spotted Flower is good indication that Nishina and Serinuma will fuck, and straight guys looove them some yuri, amirite?

I do think that is something to explore: How is the yuri-potential in Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda affected by being written for girls versus for guys? There is definitely a difference from what you see in general yuri manga. The girls’ ones focus much more heavily on interpersonal connections, friendship, often more clear gender roles, often including the influence of sexism, whereas the guys’ ones are more about there being a couple of cute babes having sex and being cute together.

Knowing though that Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda was drawn by a woman, could it be that Nishina’s actually not a loser, she was just drawn that way? After all, it’s only after her and Serinuma have had their struggles and dissatisfaction with one another (fallout from the “Akane x Lord / Lord x Akane” debate (5)) that they can begin the path to more than just friendship. We’ve got the gender roles— Hell, Serinuma mistook Nishina for a boy when they first met. We’ve got the fast start with a kiss, followed by the period of uncertainty. Has all of this just been a ploy by Nishina to get closer than ever to Serinuma? Nishina has developed her connection with Serinuma to the point they two are unbreakable, so Serinuma’s connection must therefore be just as strong. How are any of the boys supposed to interfere with that? Maybe it isn’t Nishina in the fujoshi zone, but Serinuma, and Nishina is the patient (not predatory guys! Predatory lesbians totally don’t exist in yuri, I’m sure Junko the BL author knows that and will give a very consensual representation of same-sex relationships) lesbian waiting for the right time to make a move. Now that would truly reflect Spotted Flower— !Hato’s insistence was met with flat rejection by !Madarame, but when !Madarame is weak and lonely, now he finds himself reminded of the possibility. Shit, it seems like Nishina has a plan! All we need is for Junko to follow through on it.

Wait, what? I’m getting new information from my sources… it seems that the harem is over, and Serinuma hooked up with Mutsumi?

Heh. Sure, go ahead and believe it, ye most gullible of folk. I think we here all see the writing on the wall. We all know the truth now. Nishina is the only one for her— there can be no other. We may have Serinuma and Mutsumi in the main canon for now, but just you wait for the sequel. Just you wait! Serinuma will be through with that boy before you know it. You all expect me to believe Serinuma’s going to be upset about her newfound boyfriend getting it on with another boy? This is just a thinly veiled expression of her dissatisfaction with their relationship. If !Yajima will let !Hato go for the sake of fulfilling their BL fantasies, then you can’t convince me Serinuma, who easily exceeds the passion for BL of !Yajima, would be against seeing her man get it on with another man. I don’t buy it for one second. Just a few volumes earlier she was shipping him with the shota-bait! I’m all for character development, but I’m not buying that she can possibly be dissatisfied with this turn of events. And then for Mutsumi to ask her which she prefers: her waifu or him. The gall! If she seriously answers with him, I’m going to be done. Junko, you’ve turned the moral of the story into, “Being a fujoshi is bad! Get a boyfriend, get married, bear his children, and forget about your life as a virtual lesbian.” I may not know Junko the person, but I do know she’s written some well-respected BL. She’ll see the only possible outcome here. Serinuma’s going to break it off with this Mutsumi bitch and FULFILL HER DESTINY WITH NISHINA! FOR THE FUTURE! FOR BL!

FOR HATOMADA!!!!!

— asandyrabbit (genshikendropout.wordpress.com), October 25, 2017

Footnotes:

1: …And Mutsume. This is one of the arguments I see people saying for why Mutsume is the best option, because he treats her as a friend, blah blah blah. Yea, I’ll give you that point. He’s certainly a believer that lovers can be friends too. But what makes for a better friend, someone who’s just ordinarily kind, or someone who has much of the same generosity but also is much more relatable? I don’t think there’s a right answer to that, but I do think there’s a right answer to Mutsume vs Nishina. Come to think of it, maybe the reason people don’t consider Nishina to have the same attitude of “lovers and friends” that Mutsume has is because she’s a girl? Like, maybe people naturally assume they’d be friends before lovers— all lesbians are, right? Let’s ignore the “lesbians rent a U-Haul on the second date” stereotype. Nishina definitely has a different kind of kindness from Mutsume, I would say though. Mutsume is more focused on simple human compassion and empathy, whereas Nishina is more focused on just spoiling Serinuma to her heart’s content. Perhaps Mutsume’s attitude is better since it’s more of an emotional equality, but in the long run, what we would likely see is Serinuma grow accustomed to Nishina’s luxurious lifestyle, thus making them equals in that regard. Perhaps as well then, Mutsume and Nishina are largely doing the same thing, and the difference in their actions is the result of socioeconomic differences? Shit! This should be its own post.

2: I have a series of six posts on Watashi Ga Motete Dousunda which everything up until this point is a compressed version of. If you decide to check me out you can skip those posts.

3: https://genshikendropout.wordpress.com/2017/10/24/i-am-hato/

4: Well, maybe. Perhaps !Madarame will see the real American dream: getting a threesome, and he’ll be convinced to marry both of them. Harem all over again! Wait, shit. If !Yajima agreed to that, then we really would have a harem. I don’t know where !Sue lies nowadays, but I’m sure !Angela would still be plenty willing to give him a good fucking. Add in !Saki and we really do have another harem. Take that you normie bitch! Who’s lusting after who now, huh? Oh, I guess she already was anyway.

5: …of which I have to heavily disagree with their resolution. Akane x Lord is obviously the right answer, which, knowing Nishina to be the bright young lady she is, makes me assume she agreed to reversibility for Serinuma’s sake. No, this isn’t a reversible pairing, not with such distinctive roles. Akane is clearly the protective top. Hell, he transforms into armor for goodness sake. Can’t get more protective than that. He’s the one to make the first move of transforming into the armor to save the Lord. Plus, sticking with traditional roles, the lord would be the slimmer, more delicate, feminine one from a life of leadership, as opposed to the stronger, more masculine Akane. If you have Akane as a top, there’s such good potential for drama— the jealousy over the Lord’s concubines, as is implicit in his nature as a protector, the dashing saving of the Lord from sticky situations with his transformation (and getting the Lord into other sticky situations, NAWMSAYIN?)… it goes on. I’m a fan of reverse pairings, so naturally I would be interested to see how Lord x Akane would turn out, but you have to admit that the natural order is Akane x Lord.

Referenced material:

Akiko Mizoguchi – “Reading and Living Yaoi: Male-Male Fantasy Narrative as Women’s Sexual Subculture in Japan” [https://urresearch.rochester.edu/institutionalPublicationPublicView.action?institutionalItemVersionId=5822]

Patrick Galbraith –  “Fujoshi: Fantasy Play and Transgressive Intimacy among “Rotten Girls” in Contemporary Japan!”
[http://www.academia.edu/3665371/Fujoshi_Fantasy_Play_and_Transgressive_Intimacy_among_Rotten_Girls_in_Contemporary_Japan ]

Spotted Flower Chapters 22, 23: les etrangers

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

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

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

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

Continue reading

Spotted Flower Chs 22-23

What the hell just happened?

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to interpolate Italian text, when you only know French? That said, some of the more impatient fans across the pond have applied their arts and their passion to chapters 22 and 23 of Spotted Flower.

That sure didn’t look like a dream sequence? What happened?

Oh My! What fools.