Too Het #4: “Outlanders, Outsiders and Outlaws”

Initially I wanted to slot Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miss_Kobayashi%27s_Dragon_Maid] into the yuri section but recurring complaints about how it plays fast and loose with busty dragons sexually harassing young boys (named Shouta — jeesh!) led me to notice something else. Boobie burlesque routines aside, the manga, the anime and two other spin-off mangas are loaded up with charas who all desperately long for company and affection. Dragons and wage slaves alike, everyone is ronery but some of the charas do ronery wrong:The most serious complaint that can be raised against Dragon Maid is one that is all too common to Japanese ensemble comedies: 

Foreigners, outlanders, gaijin are always too loud, too touchy-feely, clumsy and ignorant of local customs and codes of behavior. They lack discretion. They are inevitably in need of socialization — even if the freedom behind their irresponsible behavior is secretly envied..

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Fourth and last of a 4-part essay series on Japanese vernacular visual narratives conventions surrounding the depiction of intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Series starts here: https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2019/02/22/too-het-1-a-tyranny-of-impregnative-mimesis/

Work-in-progress warning: Even though this is the last installment of this essay series – and the one that took forever to wind up – I will be still messing with it. As the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and make a few changes. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

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Too Het #3:”There are only girls at this school”

Approaching the yuri genre; Japanese pop visual culture’s stories of women’s same-sex affection and desire with the motive of finding (and perhaps borrowing) visual tropes of physical intimacy – from skinship to sex adds one further point of view towards an already contested genre. Classifying stories and representational strategies according to imputed audience’s gaze seems to be the simplest way at first to try to winnow out obviously exploitative girl-on-girl-action porn that was custom-built for horny guys’ immediate needs and not much else. From there on, it gets complicated.

hanjuku_joshi_011 girls school web

A wide range of readers, including straight guys can develop a taste for light romantic melodrama which yuri does very well, thus avoiding the need to sneak into bookstores at night to purchase Harlequin romances. Neither should we discount the appeal of watching the main character(s) progress through a shadow-of-lesbian (or even semi-realistic lesbian) bildungsroman, especially when we can cheer the character(s) on from a safe emotional distance. I have speculated on yuri as a site for such an expanded take on the iyasheki effect, even as this emotional distance risks trivialising real lesbian subjectivities.

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy below the cut. Part 3 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Work-in-progress warning: This series is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

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Too Het #2: ‘Unlimited rulebook! Boku wa kime-gao de sou itta’

“…She said in a poised voice…”

There are a few things that commend the BL (Boys Love) genre to its creators and traditional core audience that madden the outside observer. Why can’t fujoshi just be satisfied with regular heterosexual pr0n? They could amp it up with more romance or schmexy and even change the characters so that they can act freer from societal restrictions; why do they have to use shadow-of-gay-men characters to act out their prefered bodice buster pulp fictions? If the characters are guys, why make them sometimes – but only sometimes – follow a strict formulaic script that ill-fits the bodies and what anyone who cared to ask would find out about IRL (In Real Life) guy:guy sex? Why does one subset of the genre insist that the story is far more emotionally poignant and melodramatically overwrought if neither of the two characters considered themselves “gay” before their fateful encounter? Does the problem with the BL genre lie mostly within the yaoi sub-genre and does yaoi even exist any more?

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 2 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Work-in-progress warning: This series is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

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Too Het #1: A tyranny of impregnative mimesis

Manga whoopie for the disappoint.

Futari Ecchi; seinen manga, Young Animal/ Young Animal Arashi (extra chapters only)
by Katsu Aki, 74 Volumes, Hakusensha, January 1997 – present
[ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futari_Ecchi ]

WARNING: Adult themes and over-consideration of traditions of Japanese cartoon intimacy, including sex below the cut. Part 1 of a 4 part series on limitations within Japanese vernacular visual narratives depicting intimacy. Snark. Some spoilers.

Work-in-progress warning: This oddling is under construction and as the sections shake out, I may return to this and other sections and mess with stuff. Hit refresh if returning. I’ll remove this when it feels done and dusted.

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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 ]

Chapters 125 & 126: Ghost Pain

“The author should not pull a Rame when writing about Rame pulling a Rame.”
– Forum comment, ch 125

HNK that right web

Warning! Spoiler lamp for chapters 125 & 126 is on.


One chapter left before the curtain comes down on the second generation of the Genshiken. I suspect that at this point, Kio Shimoku is writing with an eye to a smooth adaption for any potential second cours of an anime. Those of us who were used to more robust plotting and longer setups must look at the rushed, even forced concluding chapters with mixed feelings, once we get over the initial shock that our beloved franchise may be, if not terminated, at least on extended sabbatical.

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Genshiken 123-124: the honorable schoolboy

tumblr_o9m0wuT6iu1uhmw2xo1_500.gif

BREAKING: Rumour has it that the Genshiken is winding down
and will cease in 2 more chapters (ch 127).
Great sadness overtakes me.
per:  http://i0.wp.com/otakomu.jp/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/200860.jpg?w=680 

Now back to the post I finished 15 hours ago:

there are no ethical feels under late-stage capitalism.
— tumblr simulator ‏@TumblrSimulator

“”Men have had to do fearful things to themselves before the self, the identical, purposive, and virile nature of man was formed and something of that recurs in every childhood. The strain of holding the I together adheres to the I, in all stages; and the temptation to lose it has always been there (along) with the blind determination to maintain it.””
— The Dialectic of Enlightenment, p32, Theodor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer First English translation: John Cumming (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972) see also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic_of_Enlightenment (1)

Lieutenant Mandella

shorts c124

The harem is over, the fujoshi Genshiken is gearing up for the new year. Hato will soon be well and truly a sempai if only the club can attract any new members besides Risa Yoshitake. One gets the strong impression that the only fealty Risa will ever acknowledge is to her dread lord and older sister Rika. Still she is interested in Hato as kun, even if those interests are sketchy. I still harbor a faint hope that Ohno will cajole them into doing Sailor Moon and Tuxedo Mask cross-play, preferably during club recruiting days and the stuco be damned.

As well, Hato might soon have consider some modest form of out-ery. If not on campus for club recruiting days, then elsewhere; the Hatos have a rather tense wedding in the offing as well. Within the confines of the clubroom, Hato Kenjiro is now fully inscribed as a fudanshi/ rotten boy/ rotten (someone’s) brother. Around the Genshiken he can put aside the worry that he will be dropped back to “intruding male” status. Still a crossdresser, presumed to be interested in 2D male same-sex romance (and schmex) and still presenting as / ‘being a girl’ but having taken a vow of exclusive never-to-be-consummated 3D Mada-sexuality according to the sacred rituals of the cult he has worked so hard to join.

Looked at from an odd angle, Madarame conferred this new improved and approved status upon him as part of the bargain that resolved the harem crisis within the Genshiken. As a consolation prize for rejection, it seems to have taken. The rest of the tribe has not downgraded Hato within the club to creepy- guy- we- can’t- figure- out- and- do- not- know- how- to- fit- into- our- female- isolationist- fan- social. There is even a drinking party to mark the transition, although Rika’s maneuverings and Merei’s acknowledgement of the situation leave no doubt that “he” is considered a possible (nominally) heterosexual love interest for Yajima Merei… Whenever she feels ready to captivate the Hato continuum with her 4-koma-comedy-fu. Note that Hato v2.2 (tipsy variant) does not hesitate to bend their female presentation by offering to don the shorts lest Merei and Rika succumb to further temptation when the soon-to-be sophomore drinking party ends in everyone falling asleep blotto again.

shorts2 c124Next time try frilly bloomers he said, with a posed look.

The Hato continuum has not fallen apart from the knowledge that the girls snuck a peek at someone’s packed panchu, even if the knowledge is slightly more embarrassing than the full-monty smooth-smooth reveal of their male self. Hato (tipsy variant) seems to be enjoying the attention.

Fudanshi studies12 web 600

So, yuppers, it is a good bet that Kio Shimoku got his hands on, or at least is familiar with the previously mentioned Japanese fan-made studies examining fudanshi (2) and has situated Hato within the %20+/- of the male %10 of Japanese BL fans that self-report as nominally heterosexual, asexual and/ or petrified of the idea of 3D male:male physicality… Which is pretty much how Hato was originally drawn – it is just better elaborated now that 3+ (reader-)years of harem suspense has been worked through.

Kid, you’ve earned yourself a promotion. Sign the re-enlistment papers.(3)

Must raise you high among the run of men

It remains a testament to the sneaky and well-honed skills of Kio Shimoku that the great harem train wreck has solved very little, except for moving any potential Genshiken hookups off stage for a (the remaining) few chapters.

‘Real’ or in-verse ‘3D’ minority sexualities and gender expressions are still considered too strange and unfamiliar for comfortable consideration, but it looks like ‘fudanshi’ is a good enough substitute for ‘gay‘ ‘trans‘ ‘bi‘ and/ or ‘queer‘. For some diaspora fans and probably a few Japanese readers, this is heartbreaking. For myself, I find it an evasion that points out the limits of how much realism one can stick into a slice-of-life comedy manga before it breaks unspoken rules of Japanese editorial conservatism. Their big printing presses; they don’t run on paper and ink, they run on money. No bucks, no Buck Rogers. Still, one has to give the mangaka his due: the evasion has been pulled off with a modicum of style and perhaps enough subtlety to squeak by the Japanese fan. But the question persists:

“OTAKU AS QUEER?

If so, I much prefer this female Otaku to male one. Or, putting my preference aside, I cannot help thinking here about one word that suits this homo-sexual aspect of female Otaku: “queer.” In order to develop this association of ideas, it’s useful to quote another small remark by Okada. He says: “The reason why there is no movement of gay culture in Japan is the existence of the Otaku culture.” I must add an immediate note to this remark since there are some gay cultures in Japan too; especially in Tokyo. But, as Okada has suggested, there is no integral gay movement as in New York.

Okada’s observation is right since it’s an observation, but from a critical point of view, we should raise a question: Is Otaku a “substitute” – or even a “sublimation” – of the absence of gay culture? I don’t think so. In my opinion, it’s rather an “oppression.”[emph mine]

If so, I’d like to substitute the long-awaited word “queer” for the word “gay.” The original sense of the word “queer” is “to be strange,” but, as you know, it has transformed its meaning as to include homo-sexual implications and has gotten nowadays even the status of disciplinary term to criticize various cultural standards that oppress the minority’s way of life. From this point of view, a kind of female Otaku can probably be called queer, even if they are not fully but partially homo-sexual.

Or rather, if male Otaku is the only Otaku as Karasawa observes concerning Azuma’s book, we should, instead of allowing it to be simply “not queer,” put on it a seal of “seemingly-queer-but-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.”

–Otaku Culture and Its Discontents: A Record of Talk Delivered at “The Colloquium in Visual and Cultural Studies” by Takahiro Ueda, (October 17, 2007, University of Rochester)http://www.ritsumei.ac.jp/acd/cg/lt/rb/623/623PDF/ueda.pdf

For contrast, once again, please consider the Tumblr blogger Wildgoosery’s epic HatoMada shipping manifesto and/or 19-post shrine starting at: http://wildgoosery.tumblr.com/post/146945645973/the-hatomada-project-part-1

Wildgoosery has, in the parlance of policy politics litigated their argument brilliantly. Depending on your particular point of view, you may choose to quibble but their argument remains powerful, coherent, and extremely, yet entertainingly well put. And, hooo boy, was I reminded of a lotta things that I missed/ ignored, even as I am reminded of more than a few quibbles I have with the inexorable ending proposed. Wildgoosery’s manifesto plainly and simply calls out for the legitimacy of the feelings, same-sex, guy-guy, gay feelings, between Hato and Madarame, tentative as they may be. (4)

If it were only that easy. From another fan of the BL genre, one who also is ready to take the tropes of the genre to task:

“The majority of the stories produced in this popularized and mainstream “boys’ love” genre contain tropes such as (1) rape as an expression of love; (2) one or both of the protagonists maintaining that they are straight even after they are homosexually involved; (3) the top/bottom roles in sex corresponding to the masculine/feminine appearance of the protagonists; (4) the roles never reversing; and (5) sex always involving anal intercourse, as I have shown in detail elsewhere. These tropes have become staples, I argue, in order to achieve “heterosexual romance” narratives for heterosexual female readers across the bodies of two male (same-sex) protagonists, and in order to present their romance as an “impossible”- and therefore a “precious”- one.”
–A. Mizoguchi 2003

I must be careful not to use unfair juxtapositions. Wildgoosery’s nailed to the mast pairing advocates for ‘Sparkling, Fluffy BL’ (a term cribbed from a scan-group) rather than ‘A Cruel God Rules Over Ussturm und drang yaoish BL. While western slash communities liek their hawt as much as any well-behaved group of pr0n enthusiasts, when putting on the nominal public face of the movement, they try to present concerns for equality, respect, and consent as important in their stories. Large subsections of it have evolved into a curious form of aspirational social activist vernacular literature. For the most part, Japanese rotten tribes have yet to consider such extra features.

Given all that, it should be easy enough to fan-fiction up something that slips around the aforementioned problematic tropes, while at the same time having fun with them. As I have poisoned my mind with stacks of pronish net-doujinshi and fanfiction, including (an admittedly small sampling of) the dreaded m-m stuff, it shouldn’t be that much of a stretch. One should try to make it politically correct and respectful as all heck too. No erasing ‘real’ gay desire; they just are not quite ready to fully assume an out gay identity yet. They are about to invent sex! Wouldn’t they want their new exciting thing to be ‘special’ and unique?  Who wouldn’t? (5)

Mada: It’s no good. I am still nervous around women.
Hato: It’s no good for me either. I am still hung up on you.
Mada: You are kind of cute.
Hato: Well, duhhh… I work hard at it…

Whoa! Hold it right there! That was too effing easy. Before you know it an insidious brainwashing effect from exposure to slashy Tumblr shipping manifesto shrines can take hold and the results will not be pretty.

Must… stop… NOW!grab that arm web

Whew!

Best to leave Genshiken slash to those who love it and are much better at it. Akiko Mizoguchi’s final admonition in the above quote is however, worth further consideration. Of course heterosexual female BL and slash writers ‘project’ their desires, their dark fantasies and their highest aspirations upon the screen of fictional ‘gay’ male bodies. What further distortions would be introduced if heterosexual males were to project theirs as well?

Besides the simple crudities of 4chan banter about ‘traps‘, what would happen if straight boys started writing slash?

Laugh all you want, then gaze again at Kio Shimoku’s fearsome project. He’s nowhere there yet; he’s off by a country mile but you can get a better idea of the minefield that lies ahead. No wonder he didn’t slam Mada and Hato together. Anyone can write “And so Madarame and Hato become lovers“. Then what?

Kio Shimoku CAN do relationship manga; or rather he can do the slow, painful, wistful unravelling of young heterosexual relationships, as he so eloquently demonstrated with Yonensei (四年生) and Gonensei (五年生). I wish some nefarious fan-lators would finally take on his earliest full project Heat Haze/ Kagerou Nikki(陽炎日記) (1995) (disambiguation; there are other manga with the same simple term as title)

kagerou083web

He sure looks like he has no problem doing straight, young Japanese university student seriously dramatic relationship-py stuff. But if he decided that he would try a full metal newbie male-male love story, would he ‘merely’ map his previous straight narrative conventions onto two guy characters, all while dancing around the conventions of BL? Where would he get the Japanese two gay guys realistic stuff from? Medieval Japanese tales of monks and acolytes? Damn! (6)

I knew this societal oppression/ prejudice shit would have consequences, he said with a posed look.

kagerou112web

We so seldom speak of love

Fortunately for (and by) Shimoku-sensei, love, sexuality and even gender presentation are the least of Hato Kenjiro’s problems. The poor fool is an incurable, raging ROMANTIC. Males do that madness in very clumsy and dangerous ways. (We know! intone the rotten girl chorus; That’s what makes BL so much FUN!)

I am edging around the larger, older (and patriarchal-y inscribed) sense of the term; the urge to heroically/ insanely demand that the self and the world (or at least your patch of it) reshapes itself to one’s wild and crazy ideas that call for ‘something more‘, something fuller, something that matches ‘the shape of one’s heart‘ and the narratives of one’s fancies. Unfortunately this invariably involves other sentient beings and functioning social structures that happen to get in the way.

I take my desires for reality…

I know not if males are biologically/ structurally more prone to the ailment, but male socialization is mostly useless in preparing dudes for even the lightest brushes with it, let alone the onset of full-blown romanticism as a chronic condition. As madness and weakness it is to be avoided, feared and guarded against. So much so that it is never discussed, except in hushed tones around the campfires of men. It is as if as little as whispering of it can call down the madness upon one’s head. When it strikes, male strength and privilege can easily cause the afflicted to act violently unpredictable; a danger to others and themselves. Murders takes place, wars start.

because I believe in the reality of my desires…

The classical Greeks feared ‘romantic’ love and ‘romantic’ misbehaviour. They knew it was nothing but trouble. Crimes of passion. Women are supposed to be better at dealing with it/ better socialized to dealing with it, and historical sexism kept all but a few of them away from situations where a nasty case of romanticism could destroy a noble house, turn neighbor against neighbor, start wars and topple dynasties – all for the sake of ‘mere’ fancy. It is of course this very madness that are played with in the venerable tropes of fujoshi story-spinning. As an extra bonus, no women, even fictional ones, have to suffer as the guys go haywire on each other. That’s Entertainment!

…Then they take you 

It was always assumed that a light dose of romance fever in a woman’s teenage years inoculated her against later outbreaks and bolsters the practical, even instrumental outlook that her historic role demanded. BL and rude yaoi is, after all a shoujo romance variant: a damn fine one for the women who made it, support it and keep it strong.

Their Boat (7)

It does so many fun things elegantly and with deft economy. As well, it confuses and annoys most guys sufficiently that we’ll keep our butt-insky “I have opinions! Drop everything and listen while deferring to Meeeeeeee! Then change everything so that it goes my way!” snouts well away from the fun. (yes, I could have used the terminology, but lets drag the mechanics of the effect out into the daylight, just as a reminder. Note as well how Hato went to extremes to avoid this.)

tears GB2 tweet

Another nifty thing about BL from the POV of the rotten audience: all the “feels” emotional relationship-py maintenance work/ heavy lifting is stuck onto some storybook guy, rather than an analogue of who gets stuck with it in real life. It must be soothing to see male-ish critters get stuck carrying the bucket, even if in often ridiculous fictive circumstances.

Hato, the previously suspect crossdresser, now the crossdressing fudanshi and eventually, in an alternate, equally fictive future, the gender-non-conforming BL ero-mangaka seeks out these complications because he (she, ze) believes in BL not just as a genre but as a solution to what their heart(s) finds lacking in the world. Whether it is the romantic melodrama or the nekkid cartoon dudes jumping each other while doing romantic melodrama, BL has a lock on Hato’s very soul. It, and the spectre of a future Hato Ero Mangaka Sensei that can create BL is Hato’s first, true and only love.

Sorry Mada

Mada would change for Saki but Hato would not and could not change for Mada. Hato couldn’t even ease off on the throttle. We are not talking massive life-altering change here either. Dressing better and getting a job was all that Madarame managed in Saki’s honor. Hato couldn’t even find a way to spend some guy-Hato time with Mada hesitantly talking over the confusing situation that they found themselves in. Sure Hato upped the nadeshiko levels on their “presentation”, but was that for Madarame, or to do their part within the harem scenario as gift to the tribe?

Face to face with Madarame about to confess, Hato just had to blurt out that any real-life snuggling must involve BL-ish kink-eries between Mada and them because after all is said and done, the schmexy fantasy is more important than the reality of the intimate presence of the one you love. (Or I miss Kio Shimoku’s brilliant insight that this would be exactly the kind of idiot mistake a guy would make, even one presenting as a girl, when in intimate “negotiation” with their intended? No matter…) Mada, being a nerdy guy was of course unable to give an emotionally savvy response, ( and the parallelism between this unforced error and Mada’s minutes earlier “forbidden” misstep should not be forgot, even if separated by chapters) even if it would have just been a restatement of “fantasy is fantasy and reality is reality” (You better chose which one you have feelings for, fool!) In the end no so such admonition was needed. Hato had long ago decided.

At that moment Hato could not wiggle out of their fujoshi costume/ straitjacket. If the fujoshi costume by some stretch of the imagination IS Hato’s ‘true’ emergent trans* identity, then it is an extremely limited one. The two-note nadeshiko/ full- metal rotten girl persona that is always ON leaves no room for down time, for messy, personal, awww fuck it, lounge around in sleepwear and eat kombini junk food out of styrofoam Sunday afternoons. No room either for raw emotionalism when one’s heart is broken, in fact no room at all for the shape of a human heart.

Hato cannot even mourn the loss of his and her love.

To expect high levels of ethical behaviour in young adult hookups is madness and to impose a higher standard on the hookups of young adults who have minority sexualities and /or gender expressions is plain old-fashioned prejudice: however to expect such from characters in an aspirational slice-of-life light comedy manga written by one who is outside of these concerns is understandable and can even be argued as necessary.

A digression with a parallelism:

Kio Shimoku has shown us otaku and fujoshi living spaces. He has even shown us the messy not-so-passion(ate) pit that Keiko retreats to after a hard night of soothing rumpled salarymen. The glimpses we have seen of Hato’s digs, packing- tape- barred closet aside, are too damn clean and well-ordered.

There is something horribly wrong, wrong, WRONG about this.

Go off to live at University, don’t get laid and keep your room neat and tidy. Poor Hato! Please don’t shatter on us!

The Genshiken is about fans and geeks and Hato’s fanning is as legitimate as anyone elses. Shouldn’t Hato have the right to dial it back if needed?

Is Hato a narcissistic, neurotic, unstable little psycho?

By no means; Hato is (written as) a young, most of the time guy trying to work through some rather challenging desires and identity issues. Exploring the messiness is part of the ride. At least he(and she) is far less of a tedious jerk then Holden Caulfield. (Gehhhhhhh). And he (and she) are fearsomely consistent.

Direct Interface – A Cure for Cancer

Hato Kenjiro, before he found that doujin in the locker room should have been on track for a happy riajuu life. He clearly wasn’t. Follow in your big brother’s footsteps as a Judo champ. Grow up, get married and plod towards the grave performing a happy small town life. Instead; there he is in the high school art club, already well-versed in BL fan-lore trying to insinuate himself into a fujoshi social. That well and truly exploded in his face but from a larger perspective, he was ready for it. Even treachery was preferable to his zombie life. Perhaps the ostracism he faced after spurred him to seek a University degree, if only to get out-of-town. Perhaps he already knew that he had to whatever the case.

“Her surname means ‘axe in a tree'” http://bakemonogatari.wikia.com/wiki/Yotsugi_Ononoki

Consider another dead-then-reborn to the world character: Nisio Isin’s cruel jest in Tsukimonogatari, Yotsugi Ononoki. [http://myanimelist.net/anime/28025/Tsukimonogatari] Familiar of Yozuru Kagenui, Ononoki is a tsukumogami made from of the corpse of a 100-year-old woman. As if she was a farm implement that had magically developed a life/ an afterlife. Not a ghost or zombie; a human life treated as the spirit of a sword or sickle or a teapot, reborn as an enigmatically cute but extremely dangerous young girlish… something. She remains the ‘mere’ tool as she was condemned to be throughout her long life. Read the fan-translations of the light novels and see the fate that she narrowly escapes.

“Yeah, I killed him. I’m a monster. Don’t turn into a monster.”
— Yotsugi Ononoki

Hato does not have the wisdom of a re-animated edo era Japanese woman’s hard and full life to moderate hir desperate fancies. Original Hato was disenchanted, almost dead to the world. Now the Hatos want to be a creator; they aspire to a minor form of divinity if only to honor the kami / sensei who created them. This desire involves sexuality and gender expression but such concerns are secondary to what he, she and ze are built to be, built to desire and built to desire to create.

Dying is easy, comedy is hard.

Yajima Merei should be careful, very careful. She may now know how to get Hato to look at her, but the gaze drips with transactional need for her comedic storytelling mojo rather than any personal, physical or emotional longing. Or worse, the personal, emotional and physical longing is there, but it remains a bubbling incoherent mess trapped beneath the surface of give me how to do that! Poor Hato. If they cannot learn friendship, how can they ever hope to feel love?

Fortunately, the lad is suggestible. And obsessive.

Notice me kouhai web

Perhaps not from yaoi smut, but friendship, like love and overblown romance are learned and societally mediated human behaviours, complete with their own rich narratives. Somewhat like playing a guitar; you have to study, watch, listen and practice if you want to carry a tune.

Unfortunately BL/yaoi narratives are short on male friendship, they so fetishize it as to upgrade it to schmex at every chance they get. And women are glaringly absent in the genre. Tales of female friendship won’t help Hato either; I don’t see him getting any useful inspiration from Anne of Green Gables. A more knowledgeable senior blogger holds Sailor Moon in high esteem. It couldn’t hurt (unless Ohno found out). And as for love?

In an earlier post I joked that he should be (written as) marathonning anything by Takemiya Jin [http://okazu.yuricon.com/2013/06/02/interview-with-yuri-manga-artist-takemiya-jin/]  Takarazuka theatre? Nope. Time to throw out your books. The Hatos need (to be written as having) more 3D-verse friends and more experience at friendship. I wonder if it is harder to write a character who is ‘bad’ or inexperienced at friendship than one that effortlessly makes and keeps friends?

One year into the fujoshi Genshiken, a small portion of the pressure on Hato the now-official fudanshi has been lifted. The Hatos might be able to relax and see what they can be when they have the chance to be a little less constrained and a little more themselves.

Love will wait a while longer.

Endnotes:

(1) While not my fave translation thereof, this may be of interest while the link works.
More of my earlier grindings on this one (I once affixed a blown up copy of it to the door of a classroom in art school – how Germanic!) can be found here:
https://heartsoffuriousfancies.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/i-have-heard-the-mermaids-singing-each-to-each/

(2) Yoshimoto, Taimatsu. 2008. Fudanshi ni kiku [Talking with fudanshi]. Self-published.http://www.picnic.to/~taimatsu/common/milk/milk_postal_taimatsu.htm.
The 2009 follow-up study lists Tagame Gengoroh as co-author.
http://doujinshi.mugimugi.org/book/396607/
More: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/taimatsu_torch/
See also:  https://translate.googleusercontent.com/translate_c?depth=1&hl=en&prev=search&rurl=translate.google.ca&sl=ja&u=http://picnic.to/~taimatsu/index.htm&usg=ALkJrhhoWTTK5M2pzzo0fAcy12Xjt_wJ7Q

For both studies, sample sizes ran to 100-110 respondents.

(3) cf: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forever_War  Go read it if you somehow have not yet had the pleasure. (And yuppers, many of my titles and headings are oblique refs to ancient scifi novels and/or movies. It’s a hobby… )

(4) Oh heck. Mentioning the “quibbles” makes me feel… uncomfortable. Once again; the worst thing that their creator did to these two is that they were never really given the chance to become friends.

(5) They are of course wrong. Redacted

(6) The solution is simple and obvious, but the resulting fan-fiction ends up reading like yuri with bishie guy bodies.

(7) http://www.tor.com/2016/05/04/lovecraft-reread-joanna-russ-my-boat/

A BIT LATER:

Dr. Maniax mentioned (in tweets) a short bonus section in the Japanese Genshiken Vol 20 tankobon, which was supposedly racy, so like a rabid fanboy I hunted the dark nether recesses of the intertubes until it fell into my clutches. It’s a bath scene with the girls, but if I read it right, they somehow, at the end, forget (or something else happened) that Hato is there too. Ok, some mixed onsen bath hijinks?

More interesting is one page of the ch120 volume extras. It looks like a page of Mada and Hato talking, after they went off the second time at the temple. Holy missing 18 minutes of tape, Mr President!

Something about BL is all I can get. ANYONE CARE TO CLEAR UP THIS MYSTERY?

tumblr_oaqnd9pvP51udfndwo1_1280.jpg

Kujibiki Unbalance Rakugu Shinjuu

… Something came up. Go on ahead and I’ll catch up with you later…

pulp scifi flowers

“The thing that is obvious to many not-young women is that no guy is owed anything just because he has an idea in his head of what he’d like. This is a very serious problem globally, apparently. These guys feel that their sincerity means they deserve the girl. And, to some extent, that is how this scenario is presented. Touko’s feeling are honest and sincere, so of course Yuu will come around to falling for her. But why? If Yuu doesn’t feel it, why do we assume she must eventually do so? This bugs me a lot. In real life, on Quora and in media.

Which leads me to the, I think, obvious conclusion about Yuu. What if she’s asexual? If so, she’s never going to have those feelings for Touko or anyone. She might come to love Touko and continue to admire and like her, but never have sexual interest in her. So, then I can’t help but see Touko’s coming on (to be crude) to Yuu as another burden, rather than a blessing.

Both these things nag at me while I read this manga. And I worry that Yuu’s agency will be stripped from her as the narrative continues.””

-Erica Friedman, Yuri Manga: Yagate Kimi ni Naru (やがて君になる )
Review in OKAZU, January 6th, 2016
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2016/01/06/yuri-manga-yagate-kimi-ni-naru-%E3%82%84%E3%81%8C%E3%81%A6%E5%90%9B%E3%81%AB%E3%81%AA%E3%82%8B/

“The dream which one comes up with on one’s own is a fantasy that is ultimately not possible to share with others. Although, of course, imposing it on others is always possible.”
Furuhashi Teiji, quoted in Mizoguchi, 2008, Ch6.

“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 Kenjiro, Genshiken ch 66

 

My previous post went over like a lead balloon. One more time; I have no knowledge of how the heck Kio Shimoku is going to play Chapter 122.. Jeesh, why do I even feel like I have to write that? It was pure speculation rendered as fanfiction; partly because I smelled a set-up, partly because there were problems with MadaHatoMada and also because there were a few things I wanted to work on – including that dreaded “default position”. I was not gloating, or if I was, it was over figuring out a plausible resolution, rendered as an overdone snippet of Mada speechifying.

I even had Mada go out of his way to emphasise that he was leaning towards Hato, before he pulled a noble (chicken-out) sacrifice. Amirite about Hato’s first love or not?

I have been true to my project. That solution was pure “Myth of the Oarsmen“; duty, honor, planet Genshiken. The alternative is scopophilia, which is presently manifesting itself to excess.

As for fanboy tears, most of us are too fascinated with the imminent train-wreck to shed much. Just because Genshiken is now about fujoshi fanning and features a boy in a skirt, it is not a work from Slash-land or a radical genderqueer manifesto or an allegory of feminist empowerment.

Hato is not going to wake up like Neo in a pod to discover that she was dreaming the entire Genshiken after a bullshit virus-fever and that she should go back to virtually running the algae photosynthesis factory controls for her wimmens-only cyber-dystopia that mixes elements from Joanna Russ, The Matrix and Ghost in the Shell, and completely leaves out men. They all died off last world war.

“OK, I remember now, but why does my avatar now look like this?”
“We found some old records while you were sick and voted to switch over our avatar design specs. It was all in this amazing ancient book of wisdom titled “Dykes Like Us”.”

My grumpy fanboy brothers; the Genshiken could be far more hostile or even oblivious to our patronage. Just sayin’… No Homo or not, it is still all about us guys. Note too all; spend too much time counting scalps and you’ll miss the razor blade in the shiny shiny apple.

Whoops, a sci-fi yuri-esque digression or two. I wonder how that wandered into my train of thought?

“Look, call it denial if you like, but I think what goes on in my personal life is none of my own damn business.”
Robert Mankoff cartoon

Like it or not, the heart of Hato Kenjiro is front and center in the dramas surrounding the new Genshiken. Without him (and her), we guys are just peeping into the sacred spaces of a female fandom; we are Kuchiki. If you want more Genshiken, you’re stuck with Hato, the fujoshi planet field exploration unit. It would have been so much easier, if not boring to have made him a femmish-presenting out gay male.

Unfortunately, Hato Kenjiro is not “gei”. Hato Kenjiro is a fujoshi, which is like saying that he is a duck that thinks he is a cartoon robot cat from the future. The simple declaration of his desire to “imagine desire and so desire as fujoshi women do” is such an insane defiance against the order of forms as to reek of privilege if not madness, were he “real”. It would be like Donald Trump announcing that he could get pregnant if he so chose, because he is very rich and has the “really really best scientists”.(1) Perhaps it is even more extreme; like a male middle-class teen in some midwestern American town deciding that he could become pregnant because, “Hey! if Donald Trump wanted to, he’d do it, so I should be able to!” And this doesn’t have anything to do with thinking that he is two-souled or born to the wrong gender either, just to notch up the count on the impossible delusion scale.

Give the kid a John Varley anthology and tell him to go back to studying for his college entrance exams. Hopefully he will figure his life out and not get rich enough to do something hurtfully stupid to other folks in the pursuit of remnants of his teenage dreams. (2)

Hato Kenjiro as a well-behaved construct owes much of his appeal to this kind of fancy. There must be a few guys out there who like reading BL and yaoi and probably most of them would enjoy the chance to fan out with other fans, even or especially if these other fans were rotten girls (or rotten women, or.. etc..) But how many would crossdress to do it? (Aside: I hope the Hato Kenjiro character has not caused any IRL pressure to be brought upon them – c’mon Stan, you’d look great!) And how many would deny that their real-life desires ran towards the guy side of the avenue?

At this point, anyone so ensnared in such customised and bespoke desires would be driven to consider, examine and elaborate them. “Why yes, it seems that I am more drawn to guys than girls, but the muggins gay scene does nothing for me. For some reason I really like the way the relationships play out in this, that and the other BL stories and those yaoi dojins. Oh well, such is fate, now how do I get me some?

It could make for very odd advice columns in gay male magazines. Dear Doc Feelygood, I grew up in a small town in rural Japan and…

Eventually either the fantasy or real world physical desire would win out. All groups socialize their members or the disaffected withdraw from the group.

The larger question remains. Why the heck, beyond weird storytelling is Kio Shimoku doing this?

I think we must include all, including nominally heterosexual fantasy otherings by the fandom as subject to his project. We must also consider isolating homosocials and the isolating effects of fandom from a larger riaju world, both in its satisfactions (safety, friendship, enchantment/ re-enchantment) and discontents.

Do issues of real world desire and gender expression come into this tale? Beyond “otokonoko” hobby crossplay, I don’t think very much does, at least on the surface. Kio Shimoku has been very clear about tossing out disclaimers. They may strain real world credulity but they are more than sufficient for a romcom manga.

In Hato’s case, fantasy and the social surrounding it are far more urgent to hir desires than any needs of the flesh that involve another person. Hato definitely cares about Madarame, but the uniquely Hato-ish way that care comes out is custom-built for serial comedic failure.

This is sleight of hand by Kio Shimoku. We would have no trouble deciding what Hato was if this was kinked heterosexual desire. “Uh, I have these fantasies about you in rubber underwear, cat ears, tied down with octopus tentacles, singing show tunes. And we’d probably switch roles once we got to know each other better, just for variety and by the way, I insist on blabbing about these romps to my friends before and after, if you go out with me”.

“Cause I really like you.”

I’m not saying it couldn’t work. It would just make for a rather specialized Tinder profile. If the vehicle of these desires was a hot girl, she would get a post-punk band out of it. (Ask me about the short-lived 1980’s “Dover Beach Young Communist Faction“, “Natasha” and her leather-boy posse sometime… Or not, as it was pretty well was what was on the label.)(3)

Beyond the questions of non-traditional desire, same-sex attraction, non-binary sexualities and non-conforming gender expressions lies the question of whether the desire expresses as paired intimacy, group bonding, hobby social activity or even competitive sport. Of such things, sweet dreams are made.

Who am I to disagree..

I may be pushing the analogy too far. Plenty of healthy confused young’uns mess up their first crushes with the usual bucket load of commodified fetishisms that they have absorbed from web pr0n. Usually someone they know will eventually “well Duh! Smooth move, asshat! What the fuck did you think would happen?” them.

Part of the blame for any Hato & Mada train wreck must fall on the Genshiken social itself. The harem sweepstakes have become crass; plenty of lobbying and side-bets on who would make the most interesting pairing but very little pre-emptive harm reduction. Ogiue and Ohno in particular have let this slip by. Both have executive authority, seniority and experience in somewhat functional relationships. It might be a bit unfair to drop the load onto them but why is Yoshitake doing all the pot-stirring? Why is Yajima Merei the only one who seems to think that it will hurt like heck? As one Genshiken fan has noted; very creepy but in-character with what can go wrong when University clubs turn into soap operas.

The Genshiken has featured at least two other fannish socials that have gone bad and hurt people. Is Kio Shimoku taking the dangerous mountain road turn too fast to make a point?

And let us not forget that “Madarame sou-uke” was not a Hato invention. That one carries over from Ogiue’s  SassMada dojin. In many ways it is the last or latest manifestation of her “original sin”

Is this set up is meant to suggest that a lack of practical real-world relationship interest/experience by fujoshis, plus the oddity of same-sex crossdressing fujoshi-but-a-guy pining, plus their drooling need for BL fannout has kept the rest of the Genshiken from raising any caution flags? The closest thing to harm reduction might be the entire Yoshitake-inspired plot as battlefield surgery. Fail the HatoMadaHato story as fast and hard as needed and rebound Hato at Yajima. Who Madarame ends up with is of no importance as long as it isn’t Hato. Best if he shuffles off stage. Ditto with Kuchiki. I wonder what will Yoshitake do if any new males show up wanting to join the Genshiken? She appears to have no qualms about defending an exclusive female space. I doubt if even an “out” gay male fudanshi with super drawing skills could slip by her shields. I wonder if a lesbian fujoshi could. In some ways she is an outwardly sympathetic steathed Kaminaga.

Meanwhile, as passionately pro-Hato correspondents have pointed out, we could view Hato and the Mada crush as the best an inexperienced, conflicted and confused crossdressing, “I’m not gay, It’s only you, No I don’t think I am a girl trapped in a body deemed male at birth, I made the female me to isolate, contain and process my enthusiasms for BL and yaoi, participate in the socials that surround and perpetuate the genre and experience the desires that are stirred in me thereby. One day I hope to try a variant of them in real life, eventually without the wig and dress, if I can only find someone who wants me the way the characters in my fave dojins want each other” young person could manage.

Whew! Tall order.

“Oh, and I’m going to blab about it and draw it into dojins so I can share it all with my fujoshi friends!”

Jeebus Buddha and Bob! This is going down the rabbit hole again. At least I have come up with one neato residual from the exercise. The next thing that Kio Shimoku or some ambitious BL author should come up with is a raunchy comedy wherein the uke is a gay guy BL mangaka, the reluctant seme-draftee is a shy gay-leaning civilian male and the mangaka is mining their relationship hijinks and tribulations for material. Add much trope overload. What made for an obnoxious yuri tale (Manga no Tsukurikata) could be retreaded into a bucket o laffs for a rotten audience because watching guys run themselves through the wringer is a hoot for the gals.

Just credit me as Character Design consultant and forward a reasonable fee via the contact form.

Given how nasty it could have played, Hato was being exceedingly, (even touchingly) earnest in their crush by dropping plenty of formal cautions in Madarame’s path. Unfortunately these came out like melodramatic romantic clichés: “I push you away, sacrificing my love, because I am conflicted, pursuit might sway me/ I need you to chase after me“. Then came the too-much-information flood as fannish excess. This too could be read as touching, because Hato trusts Madarame enough to think that Mada will understand the fanning impulse behind the weird. Unfortunately that was probably too much to ask of a celibate straight geeky guy.

The “shut him down hard” solution has not been used.

Dammit Hato, you used up all of Madarame’s “weird turn pro” reserves. Mada overload. Coolant leak, core shut-down. Emergency power reserves dropping.

Nor has the famous Hato-chan self-control slipped. Hato-chan’s self-control never slips. Hato-kun might blubber and teeter on the edge of bat-shit crazy; Hato-chan is bullet-proof. The worst that will ever show is a blushed face.

The Hato continuum is crushing hard, but never hard enough to let go of their first love.

If only Hato could shut up about the sou-uke and seme stuff. Of course hir can’t. The seme/uke convention is the currency of fujoshi exchange and Hato wants to participate in that exchange more than anything else in hir life. What Hato finds lacking in “gay” and in “straight” is hiding in BL. Hato want! Once Kio Shimoku came up with this algorithm, all manner of neato consequences popped up.

I have noted that there is something excessive, something that meets the bet and redoubles it about Hato deciding that it was inevitable that Hato-chan would end up as girl-bottom. To quote professor Rod Serling;

Who eats the sins of the sin-eater?

Did Madarame have to be conscripted as sou-uke just so that Hato could become sou-uke to a sou-uke, the ultra-uke or uber-uke. The lowest of the low, the lower depths, donzoko, a prince (and princess) of hell? Jigoku Otokonoko?

De Profundis:

“In the empty clubroom, I sat down and wept”

The lore of BL and yaoi makes the uke the most interesting character of any pairing. The ukes are the ones who get to crank all manner of conflicted emotions to 11 and beyond. All the girl emotions of the nominal readership, plus all the conflicted guy emotions that the girls consider exclusive male property and project onto male-dom, because in real life we disappoint and definitely need an upgrade. Just don’t point that mess at women, please.

“He protected me when I was crazy and I protected him when he was drunk.”
– Sherman on his friendship with Grant.

The Hato ship is a powerfully romantic idea, for at least a significant part of the fandom but its foundations remain ridiculously unstable. Hato is wonky. Of course everything will go sideways. Mada isn’t exactly Mr. stability himself, but at least he is predictable. And I’m not going to give up harping on how BL enthusiasts hold any male friendship in such rarefied regard that they must conflate it with incipient lust. Any Mada and Hato interaction needs a lot more work getting the two together to see if there really is anything there before asking if there is anything that needs “it”, and before they even consider “it”. Banging Mada and Hato together minus acclimatization is sloppy and cruel, as well as a sure fail. Unless the fans want and consider such details irrelevant.

The infamous Genshiken second season Ogiue yaoi fantasy bypassed vanilla BL take-it-slow setups in favor of an occult freemasonry imputed to all males. Betcha didn’t know this but if the yaoi requires it, all us guys invariably prefer man-schmex to girls. Only a super-freak like alt.yaoi.Kousaka cares to play both sides of the street for louche fun. Told ya this stuff was heavyhanded.

“I’m not gay, its only you” looks more polite, but is there for the contrast and the heightened shock when the madness strikes. Even if carnivores only kill one member of the herd at a time, they still regard the entire herd as ambulatory food storage. Oh well, we’ve been doing something similar to womenkind since the neolithic, so a bit of enlarged perspective might annoy, but won’t kill us guys.

One counter-intuitive aspect of assuming a default state of male swing-any-way-ness (magic BL lurv madness or too much beer may be required) is that on the surface it doubles the absolute potential for pairing breakdown via infidelities and dumping. It is assumed that women favor stable, monogamous, OTP (one true pairing) endings, if only because the real world imposes social and economic penalties on women who fall out of relationships while giving a free pass and/or praise to males who play the field.

One more time, with expository notes:

Hoggamous, Higgamous (guy audience porny) yuri (and heterosexual harem grinders) polygamous.
Higgamous, Hoggamous (gal audience, at least serially) BL (as shoujou/ romance derivative) monogamous.

The idea behind the “could go any way, anywhere with anyone” baseline is to isolate the deterministic, transactional variables of sexuality and gender so as to run simulations on the adhesion properties of various iterations of “romantic love”. Somewhat like computer modelling the search for new antibiotics in moldy dirt samples. If it invents and refines new delusions about how to run the romantic process it is considered to be worth the extra complications. Bonus points for hawt artwork.

Unfortunately few pairings, straight, BL-ish or otherwise offer any absolute guarantees when put up against a mangaka with a mortgage. Angela or Keiko instability easily sets up Spotted Flower. Either can vanish at the drop of a hat and all that remains is the Disappearance of Kousaka Makoto for the pieces to roll plausibly into place. Hato or Sue, as most complex offer a small hope that the author will have more material with which to drag out the story before moving on to the next arc, but this in itself points out a further structural bias.

There is a virgin-angst vibe in the Genshiken, as with other Kio Shimoku works that posits the beginning of intimacy as the beginning of the end of love. Only Ohno and Tanaka seem immune. Saki-Kousaka and Ogiue-Sass give off as much heat as Yajimacci’s mom and dad. This is by no means unique to Kio Shimoku, but his works favor the rule.

Once Angela or Keiko lapse, the current harem fuss could quietly reset and begin all over again. Magic Madarame syndrome.

Along with stability/ fidelity, one should as well consider privacy and it’s enabling condition, normative behaviour. Riajuu is boring, therefore the more riajuu a pairing, the more it will get more privacy.

I wanted to spin out another MadaHatoMada fanfic to consider an  alternative to an Angela ending, but couldn’t get much further than Hato and Mada realising during their continued walk, that if they announced a “try it”, they would get absolutely no privacy ever. That wasn’t as much of an issue back around chapter 119 when I buried a short fluffy scenario at the end of the second addendum to the post that would not die. But now the no privacy effect has been further cranked by the Mangaka.

Sempai! We are going shopping for some thick sided rectangular god-of-the-corporate boardroom seme glasses for you. And a suit that fits and then a visit to a hair stylist!” Cue the paparazzi. “Hato, Hato, how fares your fundament this morning?” Next door Sue would stalk Hato, the rest would take turns stalking Mada. Soon both Hato and Mada would have to sweep their premises for microphones. Hato would have to switch to illustrating technical manuals, lest every single panel he drew be scrutinised for hidden context and clues. Tubs of lotion and econo-sized packages of rubbers would be left at their doors.

Could classic sparkling fluffy BL play out under withering spotlights?

Hato can’t keep quiet during Chapter 121. Maybe they were both planning to say nothing until they could each mull over the other’s drawings and hentai games? Mada now has to come clean for chapter 122 and Kio Shimoku is being unfair. I am not saying that HatoMadaHato should be hidden in a closet, but sheesh, a little discretion would have gone a long way.

Why is Kio Shimoku highlighting naff club behavior? Saki is matter-of-fact about having real-world gay friends. Madarame, now in self-imposed bohemian mode doesn’t seem to think that a cute otokonoko-ish boy-girl-friend is as much of a hurdle as dealing with forceful female desire – at least until mechanical concerns are brought up. Something about being open to all manner of fantasy otherings vs IRL conservatism, reticence even fear is being suggested.

Could Kio Shimoku be advancing the concern that the very process of fantasy othering carries the risk of reducing one’s capacity for real world empathy and openness to new social arrangements?

Is the fandom truly more open-minded than the riajuu? Was it all an illusion and the Genshiken members are just a few steps away from passive acceptance, even support of right-wing retrenchment? Gate, Thus the JSDF etc. has tons of BL gags, even as the latest anime episode features a snickering corrupt Japanese journalist who is even harder on the heroic military than the “foreign reporters”.

Bad domestic press, Bad!

Awww heck, the Stargate franchise had its asshat militarism too, we still lapped it up and forgave it. Of course it had big-bads that were a lot more powerful than the American military industrial complex. Fantasy pohos with swords and spears tack a bit too close to the The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere for comfort.

Holy right-wing sound truck parade Batman!

Is the Genshiken truly a safe space for “live” same-sex couples? If Mada Hato happened would things get uncomfortably juvenile in the clubroom? Does a freak couple deserve any tatemae, or is it just a case of Madarame’s lack of tatemae privileges infecting the pairing?

The club members and alumni make twice yearly pilgrimages to Comiket. Would they muster to show support at a pride parade? Could they even back off and let the two be?

They (as proxies for their Japanese readership) should get their heads up and their game on. Some rightists in the current government think that sexual minorities are unnatural freaks and that too many women are shirking their baby-making duties. Abortion is illegal in Japan. There is “only” the widely used exemption for “economic hardship”. Contraceptive technologies are less widespread than in the west. Wink and small freedoms could vanish. Would Genshiken fujoshi be able to process the threat to their freedoms? Could fans be silenced if another right-wing governor of Tokyo decided to hit them in the Comiket if politicised dojins started to show up at SEALDs demos?

One further extreme question: by over-adopting canon of BL scripts is Hato Kenjiro acting out a “safe” form of self-hating denial. Is this an ultimate fantastic blowback, in effect a “new sin” of the genre that arises from the complaints first posited in the yaoi ronso debates made two decades previously?

Because if HatoMadaHato were ever to happen, Hato’s unstoppable need to share would move from self-sabotage to self-harm. And there would be Mada harm o plenty.

Hato and Sue are about equally matched for a “lets take things real slow and not hurt each other” relationship, but the lack of discretion that comes with Hato messes things up. Hato is a leaky bucket. Yoshitake pokes Hato, Hato blushes, then spills. Hato-chan is custom-built to exchange BL gossip with the other club members. Same-sex intimacy has no intrinsic value to the fujoshi field exploration unit, only exchange value.

It was my nature, cried the scorpion as both sank beneath the waves.

If Yoshitake pokes Sue all she’ll get is blushing, running away or an obscure anime quote. Poke Angela and you’ll get an enigmatic smile. Poke Keiko and you’ll get braggadocio and /or a punch in the snout, depending on her mood.

the Stands may have left the stage, their terrible legacy remains. Hato’s desires remain abject and alien to the core of their being; the Hatos must be danced through them, as a puppet is made to dance. And a puppet’s face bares scant signs of turmoil.

Clearly Hato needs some consciousness raising. Hato needs to believe that they deserve the formal respect and privacies of honne. The entirety of Hato has yet to give themselves permission to desire their desires and to love.

Hato-as-chan rarely (dojin production night shadow was another) lets down their guard to others in desperation. In the moments after Sue released Hato from her pin and looked through the MadaHato drawings, we saw a Hato who could express emotional turmoil. The honesty and raw pain of the moment frightened and shamed Sue. A similar moment of truth would have won Madarame.

How to arrive at one during this drunken evening at Yajima’s house? Can chapter 122 preserve the goodness of the club and get the club members to shape up, support, encourage and make safe a place for whatever happens?

Ye gawds that reads like mush, but the Genshiken is guy-written josei-ish slice of life manga. You got to admit that it is making a damn good go of slipping weightier themes in with the yuk-yuks.

Can fantasy support and inform reality so that reality can act better? (4)

 

 

(1) Don’t think too hard about this one, unless you are heavily into that variety of slash.

(2) The son of a Japanese billionaire, Mitsutoki Shigeta decided that there was a far more efficient way to become the father of a large family. http://www.thenational.ae/world/southeast-asia/thai-surrogate-offers-clues-into-japanese-man-with-16-babies#full

(3)”Natasha” (names changed to protect the foolish) was young, tall, thin, beautiful, crazy and enjoyed drinking her posse under the table. The few stock commie phrases she yelled out were a fashion accessory, like the hand-painted red hammer and sickle on the ass of her tight leather pants. The rest of the faction‘s program involved conspicuous intoxication, mild fetish exhibitionism, 2.5 chord guitar rock and trying to get into Natasha’s pants. Too exciting for me, but sure was fun to watch at the bar.

(4) Earlier I had a low probability notion that Kio Shimoku would take the easy way out and have Madarame collapse into his usual self-sabotage routine. At that point, some of the women-folk who are taking this seriously would be tempted to step in and break the stalemate. However this approach fails because the group still misbehaved and the breach needs to be healed.

Also I smashed the Hato ship and this time neutered Madarame in the process. He had it coming. Mada should have dragged Hato off to a hotel earlier that afternoon, before the little fool could indulge in dramatic self-sabotage. Even a simple “I like you” from either of them would have sealed the deal. Or end it there, humanely. There wasn’t anyone left after Hato’s “date”. You couldn’t buy a used scooter with this level of hemming and hawing, let alone attempt a hookup. It was a freaking miracle that Madarame didn’t just collapse and go along with another drawing of lots. He probably was too afraid he’d get paired with Keiko. Seriously disappointed in Mada(/his portrayal), especially after he showed some backbone…

Whatever. this was too much fun to trash, so here it is as addendum:

Heavy Object.

“Let me make one thing completely clear…” Madarame took a deep breath, a gulp of beer and continued:

“I didn’t want to insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. I had long ago given up on any chance of having a 3D relationship. Every time I felt even a little bit of interest in a girl, I always screwed up and wound up being the jerk or the insensitive guy or the creep. I took a vow of “2D forever”. Even so, Saki slipped in under my defenses and look what happened. I thought I didn’t mind the hurt. I fell for a fantasy of Saki as Ritsuko Kubel Kettenkrad and was content with that. But of course everyone knew, including Saki and it ended up hurting her too. She had to keep up the pretense that I felt nothing towards her. After it was all over she cried, just for a moment. I didn’t mind hurting, but that made me feel like shit all over again, on top of ending it.

I am not up for this romance thing. At first I felt only at ease with Hato. Now that things are getting serious, it is all complicated again. All I could do was try to keep the balance in the harem and hope everything would stay friendly. If only one of you were interested in me I probably would have done my usual super-geek-out thing and frightened you off. Or creeped you out. I am used to that. It doesn’t hurt any more. Or maybe it does…

Now I’m in a real-life harem game. At least on the surface. Real life is far more complicated and random than a game. The harem genre is a well-defined structure…

Madarame took another big gulp of beer.

…But with this setup, it looks like a harem but all the characters are off, there are no save points and the stakes are too high. The harem genre has stock charactes that add a reassuring, even soothing feeling to the experience. There is the childhood friend, though perhaps I forgot her when someone moved away when we were still kids. There is the cool aloof beauty who will step into the tsundere role. There is usually an athletic girl character. Sometimes she even looks like she might be interested in one of the other girls but she will decide that the lead is interesting. There can even be the cute male underclassman who is often mistaken for a girl, like in “Girls Are Dinosaurs” or in “Lovecraft Aliens Love Comedy”. His role is to provide a manageable whiff of homeroticism. Many harem stories also feature a clingy little sister to add the spice of forbidden desire to the plot. The point being that the main character should get to experience a full range of desire, from pure to forbidden.

As harems go, this one jumbles up all the character types. It is too complicated for me to even…

“Madarame-sempai, stop!” Yajima Merei held up her hand. She looked angry.

“What, uh?”

“You heard me. Stop talking. shut it!.” She stood up. “I’m fixing this. Hato is mine. Both versions. If you two idiots were hot for each other, you’d have done something already. The rest is drama. You are going to do “we-should-no-we-shouldn’t” and the “I want my fantasies” forever or until you both go crazy or jump in front of a train. Chose him tonight or not, the drama will just keep going until one or both of you get hurt bad. And the rest of us will all feel like shit for having encouraged it. It stops here.

She turned and glared at Hato.

I am the only one here who can put up with your nonsense… And for some reason I don’t even understand, I like you.” She looked out at the rest of the club members and then back to Madarame.

“Hato mine!”

“So sit down. Or do you want to fight me for him?”

“Uh Yajima, why are you…” interjected Hato.

“You too. Be quiet!” Yajima looked back at Hato. “Do YOU want to fight me? Arm wrestle?” she flexed her right arm. “You try any judo nonsense and I’ll sit on you. You’ll probably like that. In fact I know you’ll like it. Too many sou-uke boys in this room.”

She then noticed her mom and dad staring at her.

“Oh! crap… Mom, Dad, we’ll talk later.” Her face was flushed with annoyance and embarrassment. Steam seemed to float up from her.

Yajima-san, please…” said Madarame.

“NEKOYASHI… SIT!” Sue yelled out. “SIT!”

Madarame looked at Sue and dropped to the floor. He let out a loud sigh.

Yajima looked over at Sue and held out a thumbs up.
“Good job Sue!”

Angela clapped and made a whoooping noise. “Not sou-uke! Susie’s Uke… Uke no Susie!” Then she looked over at Hato. “YajimaHato!”

Keiko looked annoyed for a split-second then grinned. “Told ya so!” she said, leaning back and crossing her arms.

Sue returned the thumbs up and exclaimed: “Good Job!” She too had a fierce grin on her face.

Hato’s face was full redder than red.

Yajima still standing looked again at Hato, then around the table. “Any questions? I now declare harem season over. Please enjoy the hospitality of my house.

I think I need more beer.”

She sat down. Hato edged closer to refill her glass.

-30-

Anyone have any other alternatives aside from a zombie attack? Less than 2 weeks left if you want to throw your version into the guess how Kio Shimoku pulls it off hat.

Win an internets.

LATER: Don’t skip the comment section

The hammer of desire

On hand-waving… 

‘Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.’
— Bertolt Brecht

Objects-In-Mirro rblurr web

…Or a distorted mirror; one that does not announce its distortions. There are no OBJECTS IN MIRROR etc. markings below the images. The pretty pictures are but entertainments. If you take them as reflections, you do so at your peril.

Yet Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture (CJVC) operates with strong feedback loops between producer, publisher and consumer/ commenter/ transformative fan worker and gives rise to certain effects, most which could be roughly categorised as over-emphasis. More interesting is the way the process also serves to mediate participant opinions and desires. The temptation to stare into the mirror is great. As is the temptation to try to bend the reflection to one’s ends.

A few right-wingers and/or cults have in the past made clumsy attempts at taking advantage of this effect; so far their successes have been limited. A nominally ‘apolitical’ fandom holds advantages as well as drawbacks. But when the fandom devours stories that point towards a fleeting shadow of social progressivism, the temptation to nudge the canon is hard to resist.

At what point does Contemporary Japanese Visual Culture (CJVC) pick up the hammer?

Tgirls web

“Fuji TV announces Japan-first lesbian drama, but attracts criticism for ‘outdated’ portrayal by Andrew Mckirdy

Fuji Television has announced a drama series featuring a lesbian love story as its central theme — a first for Japan.

But a prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist has slammed the show’s promotional material for portraying an “out-of-date” image of same-sex couples.
[…]
But Maki Muraki, the leader of nonprofit organization Nijiiro Diversity, which promotes workplace equality for LGBT people in Japan, believes the show is sending out the wrong message.
[…]
“Having two girls lying naked on a white sheet and using words like ‘forbidden’ is a little out of date, I think,” Muraki told The Japan Times on Thursday.
[…]
“The things we do are not about sex. We face a lot of difficulties in our life, for example in the workplace. To be told that the image of us is one of sex doesn’t make me happy.”
— http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/10/22/national/social-issues/fuji-tv-announces-japan-first-lesbian-drama-heels-advances-lgbt-rights/#.VkPujdSNg7X

A machine translation of an interview with Muraki-san:

https://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://www.huffingtonpost.jp/2015/01/01/lgbt-maki-muraki-1_n_6403210.html&prev=search

And a presentation on workplace diversity policies in Japan that she worked on:

http://www.outandequal.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/0M12501.pdf

A few western fans gush over Transit Girls:

http://yuri-goggles.com/2015/10/23/transit-girls-j-drama/

More Google-fu reveals that Transit Girls is most probably going to be a live-action Citrus-lite retread. Nearly underage step-sister angst and fanservice. Not much chance to confront any real-life issues. Erica Friedman’s Okazu blog review was short:

“…just a typical unrealistic Yuri trope – sister[s] by marriage fall for each other. Snooze. LGBTQ activists in Japan are about as thrilled as I am. [link to Muraki-san reaction piece] You know what I say about this – how lazy do you have to be to not even leave your living room to fall in love.”
– Erica Friedman, Okazu blog, Oct. 28, 2015
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/10/31/yuri-network-news-%E7%99%BE%E5%90%88%E3%83%8D%E3%83%83%E3%83%88%E3%83%AF%E3%83%BC%E3%82%AF%E3%83%8B%E3%83%A5%E3%83%BC%E3%82%B9-october-28-2015/

Decide yourself (?) See FOOTNOTE FOR UPDATE (1)

http://jp.jplovetv.com/2015/11/transit-girls-1-transit-girls-ep1.html

The subs look like they are in old-school/TW Chinese. Skimming through looks like they swiped a bit of Kanojo to Camera to Kanojo no Kisetsu as well.

Contrast this to her review of Otouto no Otto:

“If there is, in 2015, a single series I would call “most-anticipated,” Tagame Gengoroh’s Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) is that series.

Tagame-sensei is best known in North America for his overtly sexual comics by about and for gay men, known as bara, with an emphasis on large, hairy men (what are called “bears” in western gay vernacular).

The protagonist of Otouto no Otto (弟の夫) , My Brother’s Husband, is Yaichi, a single father, who has been estranged from his now late twin brother for many years. The volume begins on the day his brother’s widower, Mike Flanagan, arrives at Yaichi’s home. Yaichi is not at all comfortable with Mike, or the fact that his brother was gay, or married, but Kana, his daughter, can’t see the problem. The only problem she sees is that she had no idea she had an uncle at all! So when she invites Mike to stay, Yaichi can’t really say no.”
– Erica Friedman, Okazu blog, Nov. 8, 2015
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2015/11/08/lgbtq-manga-otouto-no-otto-%E5%BC%9F%E3%81%AE%E5%A4%AB/

Is this juxtaposition unfair? Can Bara auteurs can do things that Yuri and BL auteurs can’t?

Meanwhile, IRL New York:

Equality, Then What? New Plays Explore Modern Gay Life
By ALEXIS SOLOSKINOV. 5, 2015
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/08/theater/equality-then-what-new-plays-explore-modern-gay-life.html

Note how the reviewer raises an eyebrow at the designer stage props.

The article is somewhat of a follow-up on:

A Baby for the Gay Authors Behind the Daddy Penguins
By Jennifer 8. Lee
October 2, 2009 7:30 am October 2, 2009 7:30 am
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/10/02/a-baby-for-the-gay-authors-behind-the-daddy-penguins/

How’s that for a range of fictional treatments of LGBTQ lives and desires; from silly fantasy through to social realism written by and for the community? Note the strident “anti-“ in the comment section that plays the class card. (And yes, the author of the piece has the numeral 8 in her name. Google her for her wiki page if you are wondering.)

I sincerely hope this stuff pops some reactionary county clerk’s cookies (or not; I suspect the whole controversy was a cynical attempt to cash in on the wingnut celeb circuit) Here’s a backgrounder, to soothe residual knee-twitching:

What’s Good for the Kids
By LISA BELKINNOV. 5, 2009

“…approximately 1 in 5 male same-sex couples and 1 in 3 female same-sex couples are raising children, up from 1 in 20 male couples and 1 in 5 female couples in 1990.

In most ways, the accumulated research shows, children of same-sex parents are not markedly different from those of heterosexual parents. They show no increased incidence of psychiatric disorders, are just as popular at school and have just as many friends. While girls raised by lesbian mothers seem slightly more likely to have more sexual partners, and boys slightly more likely to have fewer, than those raised by heterosexual mothers, neither sex is more likely to suffer from gender confusion nor to identify themselves as gay.

More enlightening than the similarities, however, are the differences, the most striking of which is that these children tend to be less conventional and more flexible when it comes to gender roles and assumptions than those raised in more traditional families.

There are data that show, for instance, that daughters of lesbian mothers are more likely to aspire to professions that are traditionally considered male, like doctors or lawyers — 52 percent in one study said that was their goal, compared with 21 percent of daughters of heterosexual mothers, who are still more likely to say they want to be nurses or teachers when they grow up. (The same study found that 95 percent of boys from both types of families choose the more masculine jobs.) Girls raised by lesbians are also more likely to engage in “roughhousing” and to play with “male-gendered-type toys” than girls raised by straight mothers. And adult children of gay parents appear more likely than the average adult to work in the fields of social justice and to have more gay friends in their social mix.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/08/magazine/08fob-wwln-t.html

115,772 same-sex couples in the USA were raising children circa 2009. So says the statbox on the side of the article. That’s less than half the population of my town. C’mon folks, get with the program! Or perhaps I need to get with the program, as an “old” who hasn’t being paying attention to the changing social.

Since the NYTimes Magazine was running a series on the topic, here is some more fieldwork (note the approaches used):

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/10/theater/review-dada-woof-papa-hot-about-gay-men-and-parenthood.html

An older generation, a LGBTQ commune

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/09/magazine/out-of-the-woods.html

And still you get no guarantees;

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/25/fashion/weddings/unhitched-for-a-lesbian-couple-marriage-equality-was-no-guarantee-of-marriage-quality.html?_r=1

These families exist because in their neck of the woods the state can no longer deny folks their rights to get married and be parents. And random jeebus-spouting, publicity crazed asshats cannot grab the power of law and regulation and use it to bash a subset of queer folks for smug and profit. It means that happily married guy couples and happily married gal couples are afforded the same rights as everybody else. This is how we expect it to be in civilized countries. In some European countries these families, like all families would enjoy even greater rights and benefits; generous mandatory parental leave, better health and education opportunities, and even less Kim Davies.

Meanwhile in Japan…

Representations of minority sexuality and/ or gender expression in vernacular narratives are treated as entertaining variants on the theme of having a minor super power. Even Hato Kenjiro gets a super power (no, not be-dazzling Mada…)

It seems you can now build an interesting story either with the MC being bitten by a radioactive spider or by having the MC struck by sudden same-sex desire or with the incomprehensible urge to start dressing in clothing not conventionally ascribed to their gender.

Clumsy ensues.

Why not try all three?

You could kick it up a notch by actually having realistic tōjisha characters from the start, but perhaps Japan still finds that to be ‘too political’. There is also the readership’s fond attachment to the ‘out of the blue, its only you, mad love to ensue’ (tm) dance. If everyone already had super spidey powers the comic would be boring.

The limits to this type of use seem not to be “realism” but a simple-minded form of narrative utility. (lazy storytelling.)

Sometimes the thought experiment justifies the hack. There might not be that many crossdressing, liminal/ conflicted fudanshis struggling with their awakening sexualities at real university otaku clubs in Japan and even less of them back in 2009, yet Hato Kenjiro remains an interesting and useful construction. But Saki is right, the club should meet and try to make friends with some real gay/TS/TG folks.

At least these representations are not pulled out of the central casting sack for want of a quick clown or villain.

A sympathetic “truthy” representation of LGBTQ-ish characters is certainly better than using them as orcs and shikigami novelties and serves at least a few wider societal goods, but we should be cautious as to how far we suspend our disbelief. While these may serve an incidental purpose of “queering” a narrative, providing visible (shadow) representations of lives and desires, even offering the chance for the majority straight vanilla audience to dream in queer, ‘cross-dream’ or at least cheer on the cause of justice and true love; unless these narratives are positioned as testimony for and by the (tōjisha) populations they claim to represent, then these effects are afterthoughts and subject to problems.

And those of us who would examine why they exist risk missing the central question of their creation, use and popularity.

Why are all the straight boys and girls reading (and sometimes making up) so many stories about minority sexualities and gender expressions?

What’s with that? 

Sect detail mot web

Fanservice/ Mild kink?

Tourism?

True Romance?

Poisoned riajuu well?

Do the right thing/ Social Capital ?

For great Justice?

Admiration/ Akogare?

I should go on about each. Perhaps later. (1)

For now, please jump to the long-standing critique, visible (for example) in Erica Friedman’s weariness with the yuri genre Story A‘s refusal to engage with larger social concerns, supposedly rooted in the distaste of the readership for “the political”.

This observation is sound for the moment. It can even be taken as a mild reproach towards the timidity of the publishers and the conservative tastes of the audience. Stick to gauzy depictions of “forbidden love”, high school romances and secret crushes but avoid realistic depictions of the daily grind (and the daily joys) of living an “out” identity. Study after study, as well as the obvious structure of the stories themselves remind us that the main audience for these tales of “forbidden love” are not the people “in the life” / lives supposedly depicted, but the rest of us curious (mostly) heterosexual tourists. The timidity of the representations, the reassuring same-old same-old plots and the aversion to tackling serious issues is a side-effect of conservative traditions of production and conservative expectations in our escapist reading and viewing matter.

And you thought this meandering essay was going to be about social/ political activist tropes in vernacular stories that featured LGBTQ characters? I was going to go on and on and (shudder) make recommendations, do some re-inventing the wheel, mouth off and give free advice… Unfortunately, that too will creep in. But it is an afterthought. The focus must remain on the majority, nominally straight audience for these little tales and how this audience limits or could get behind activist stories.

Let me try to make this clearer by example. Assume there is enough of a market in Japan for a subset of gay desire to have their own vernacular narrative form. We’ll call it Bara. Gay guys write and draw stuff for other gay guys. Some of it is heartwarming, some of it looks extremely nasty, but it is a conversation within a social, with characters from that social. Whether or not it wants to go activist is it’s own business, because in the end it will be preaching to the choir. Few rotten girls go buying Bara mags for inspiration for their fantasies. Maybe they used to for drawing tips? Who knows, there are now pose-books out there for aspiring mangakas.

But for BL, Yaoi, Yuri and a few other odd genres that center around fantasies of gender expression, there is no “this is for real lesbians and or gay people and or trans people” subsections and/or “riajuu welcome but you may find it boring” sub-genres. And despite some of the warning disclaimers on Japanese (and other) fansites, there are no “real lesbians don’t act like this, these are straight fantasies, proceed at your own delusion” stickers on Yuri Hime or on Transit Girls. Obviously this warning is implicit, but we are easily distracted, we often forget. It would all be easier if we stuck to sci-fi and made all the queer folk Cat-aliens. Japanese Cat-aliens. Gay Japanese Cat-aliens. Oh wait, we tried that alreadyNevermind.

Along with real Japanese queer folk who might wish to see characters that they can relate to, somewhat realistically and sympathetically presented, we have a huge pile of straight boys and girls visiting for the fanservice and staying for the feels. Apparently my taste in feels, or at least the tastes of my Japanese LFB counterparts runs to the simplistic (or fantastic – and don’t forget the fanservice, we want our fanservice!). Across the boulevard, the shape of the rotten girls’ hearts is apparently equally simplistic (and fantastic – they want their fanservice too).

Understanding why we silly tourists come poking around could be useful.

Time for a digression!

There is an elephant in the room and it needs to be vaporized. It is the old “reading this stuff will make you gay“. First off; as quoted/ noted previously, gay folks have to deal with overwhelmingly straight narratives all their lives – these do not turn them (back into???) straight. Ah! that just means that gay is insidiously, powerfully contagious! Fine, then everyone would be gay by now. Besides, these stories are overwhelmingly cooked up by straight people. Ahah! That’s why they don’t work! Guys, stay away from the Bara! The Genshiken’s Hato Kenjiro is safe, fake girl-made stuff won’t turn him. Or it will turn him into… (dum dum Dumm..)

Don’t laugh. The contagion theory is still very powerful. Youth are considered especially vulnerable. Even if the gatekeepers admit the impossibility of the majority of readers being bent by these silly stories, there are always the few on the margins who should at least stay unhappily straight, marry, reproduce and then go off to have a sordid mid-life changing adventure later. Or kill themselves. More to the point is the worry that the proscription against the queer, as a social category itself may be threatened. Story A and “I’m not gay, its only you” may be grudgingly tolerated as fire-breaks but you get the sense that the mythical “authorities” would be happier if all that stuff stayed in the seedy floating world of “The Black Lizard“.

Too bad that we have finally figured out that this kind of bullshit is a drag on the smooth functioning of a modern post-industrial society and its economy. And no, we aren’t going back to slavery, bond servitude and private health care insurance plans either. (Right wingers forget that in the early 20th C it was business heads who pushed for early social policy innovations – they wanted them as common utilities that couldn’t be snapped up by the competition and used for unfair advantage – only my workers get a hospital bed, yours die, I will own whole town by next year!) Have an asbestos suit, welcome to Star Fleet, now get back to your post.

You doubt me? Go read why Bismark instituted old-age pensions.

Once the “contagion effect” is dispensed with, or at least toned down to a dull roar, we can go back to wondering why all of us straight people are reading Yuri, BL, Yaoi, even gender-benders and Josou weirdness. Start from the fanservice again and work through it.

And what of putting complex “political” situations into silly “feels” tales? Won’t the iyashi be killed?

Transit Girls could suddenly get “political” as easily as the usual “personal”. There was a strong tradition of hard hitting politically aware gekiga manga well into the 80’s, (Here is something typically class conscious, socially aware and grim) though the genre faded to yakuza grinders thereafter. Shoujo manga and later anime offshoots pioneered socially transgressive subjects and genres but now feels set in its ways. Transit Girls won’t break any new ground because it’s a Citrus retread and it is safer to play out the almost-incest schoolgirl forbidden lurv story but there is no structural storytelling reason why a tale of two young women who happen to like each other has to creep out and/or stick to hackneyed “personal” story tropes.

The limits lie in the perception of what the audience will buy.

Would a mostly heterosexual audience run away from a tale if a bit of social realism or “political” was snuck into the story? Can we lay the blame at the feet of Japanese LFBs and rotten girls? If you are a young person who suddenly finds themselves having feelings for someone of your own gender and all you have to go on is BL or Yuri (as the case may be) you sure have a good argument for being pissed off. Congratulations, you are now a unicorn! A bit of realism would sure feel supportive, even reassuring. Something that gives the idea that mundane every day life, friendship and happiness is within reach can go a long way. In some respects, the Story A bubble at least provides a small personal space where the impediments are manageable and a happy ending is possible.

Most of the time the impediments are personal: bullying, whispers at school, parents, the thwarted opposite sex suitor who thought they were close to winning true love. It does all get a bit claustrophobic, doesn’t it? Sure the meet the parents challenge can be dramatic. And the usual steam (and cheese) can be squeezed out of the step-sisters under the same roof set-up. But there is no reason why you can’t get good story mojo out of I can’t visit my partner at the hospital if it is done well. At very least, tossing one small true love vs structural discrimination challenge ups the story’s realism points. It also assumes that there is life after the happy pair graduate from high school. Will we fanboys and fangirls buy it?

If it works well once, can it too become a trope?

Then we can try for the family register hell episode!

Followed by the same-sex-partnership certificate on Friday, fired on Monday episode.

And the “stop listing our kid as a bastard” episode.

Better ration these lest the tale gets too dire: give the lovebirds a chance to surmount the obstacles, catch their breath, and cuddle. Friends and supporters can grin and give a thumbs up. A whole new slew of happy event tropes could go a long way too: visit Comike, go to a public bath and relax after, visit a shrine with your friends on New Years (hey, wait a sec, where have I ???) The audience wants a few victory parties and their D’awww moments too. Sooner or later some enterprising auteur must stage a vacation- marriage in Hawaii.

Throw too many bureaucratic bigotry hurdles at the couple all at once and it will smother the tale in grim. Then you end up back on the old “thorny path” cliché; which would be downer and a waste. Unless you personify each structural obstacle (Nurse impose-the-rules Ratchet comes with a tragic back story) and appropriate the endless level-up battles of shonen fight grinders as some kind of fantastic comedy exercise. (Once Nurse Ratchet is defeated, she realises that her opposition was because of a long suppressed childhood disappointment, resolves this and becomes an ally)

Too ridiculous?

Since the playset field somehow got flipped on…

…I always suggest a rich beta couple hovering in the wings (I’m hobby horsing, so what?) Maybe they went to New York on family business empire duty for a few years, met and tied the knot. Per the conspicuous consumption deployed in the play referenced in the above NYTimes article, a shitload of posh from the prop dept goes a long way toward legitimizing ways of living in aspirational fiction.

Ah, for the support of the wealthy and sophisticated almost-foreign other. Naysayers can’t even play the nihon-jiron card.

I’m playing clumsy social tinkerer here. I wonder what someone more knowledgeable about the issues would have to say about the series if they could contrive to find a way to watch it? Or if better extant examples exist?

Along with the attractions of more “truthy” representations of minority sexuality and gender expressions in terms of verisimilitude, interest and a ripping good yarn with a happy ending (or a wise and poignant one), the possibility for the advancement of a social policy agenda comes into view, at least to the extent that the changes advocated and the support for these can be personalised. In other words;

We’ll probably keep reading if you make the political personal.

Heck, we might even start seeking out stories with such tropes in them. Why? Here’s where I go out on limb:

1) Do the right thing:
People as individuals are fundamentally good at heart. (Hand-waving; it gives us bystanders something to do.) Neighbors and small socials invariably support and encourage diversity if given a risk-free chance, though older and/or wounded ones may struggle dramatically with their initial reactive positions. Common folk support one another, this is the wisdom of the village. This is flattering for us hand-wavers. It makes us feel like we are townspeople in a Jimmy Stewart Christmas movie.

2) Fight the evil machine:
Only bureaucracies, faceless edifices of power and profiteers enforce repressive structures and punitive rules. Again, we didn’t act like shits towards you folks, it was the bad bureaucracy!

3) The wars are over:
Conformity/ taboos/ rituals which once saved the tribe now weaken it. A new generation points the way forward. … Even if we did behave like shits it was because of the “old ways”; which we are so over with…

4) Careful with that hammer Maxwell.
Don’t go overboard on the new personalised political challenges; keep the main story on track with all the usual hackneyed melodramatic same old same olds. Yup, the happy young couple still get the bed-sheet publicity pic – we drooling fans expect it.  All peasant village weddings come with a wedding-night charivari! We really do get into hand-waving, and pot banging, and…. Any excuse for a party.

Sure it’s all fantasy, but it comes with a bonus drama CD.

Given the opportunity, there seems no great reason why a readership that is somewhat predisposed to open-mindedness (we are reading about the MC’s neh?) would not adopt a supportive attitude/ enjoy the fantasy of activism, especially if the d’awwwwww payoff is presented at no cost to us.

In the United States, reactionary forces recognise this and have spent decades subtly insinuating narratives of fear and cost into arguments against human rights and social justice issues. Social justice reforms sound good but in reality they will steal our jobs, destroy our families, degrade our manliness, corrupt our youth, slip into our daughters’ bathrooms, cause bad weather and tooth decay…

…And they will take down those damn slaver flags.

Less so in Japan.

As Japan is a culture of conformity, surface appearances, restrictions and arbitrary rules, the overwhelming majority of which have long since outlived their raison d’etre, the attraction of putting the different folks out on the front lines for societal change is universally attractive. (sounds like the plot for the Seven Samurai) A large amorphous issue like gay marriage (what of all the rules and regs and forms and laws and procedures and the prefectural governments and the constitutional amendments needed?) might be too much (for now). But when a tale or a campaign takes aim at specific day-to-day petty injustices, most of which are part of the larger portion of the soul crushing bullshit that everyone has to suck up and smile at, we have a market for some good ending aspirational fiction. As long as Japan doesn’t get serious again and have everything end in a hammer-of-the-fates disaster barrage. (The Japanese movie happy ending: everybody dies.)

Unable to get an apartment (or twice the key money), bullshit at the municipal office, sleazy yakuza blackmail(!), a loved one alone in a hospital, civil union-ish certificate on Friday then fired on Monday; make the challenges specific, personal, understandable, unfair and let them loose to tug at the heart. I sense the chortling shades of Victor Hugo and Charles Dickens in the shadows.

To a degree, the instability of traditional patterns has already wormed its way into the tropes of the social depicted in Japanese manga and anime. Fifteen or twenty years ago, the young MC’s family would have been fun, supportive and very nuclear. Now fractured families, absent parents, single parent households, dramatic fob the kid off on distant relatives (note the setup in Transit Girls) or not even relatives settings are all over the landscape. Strong, intact families like those in Wandering Son are rare exceptions. Compared to these, having two moms or two dads would read like an idyllic solution.

And here we come to the final reason why all of us vanilla fanboys and fangirls might be paying attention and cheering from the sidelines, even if it is a bit unfair:

Put the queer folk out on point

One would have to be in suspended animation to miss that for all the sturm und drang, the activist agenda advancing LGBTQ rights in the West has done an amazing job. It might not look like it from the eye of the storm, and it has been one heartbreaking mess of a long slog, but their activists and advocates have scored an impressive set of wins. Big wins that have and will shape society for decades to come. Compare these to say, average family incomes in America over the last 20 years. You have to respect what works. Seeing anything that works gives us all hope.

Is this too odd a reason to add to the pile of why so many straight boys and girls are fascinated with the odd notions they themselves dreamed up about LGBTQ characters?

Compared to the the rest of any progressive agenda, LGBTQ activists have done the impossible and that makes them mighty. So much so that reactionary types will even whisper of a “gay conspiracy“. Conspiracy? When is decades of hard work, organizing, lobbying, advocating and litigating a magical thinking “conspiracy”?

Guess what the reward is for a job well done. (2)

And yup, popular art forms get drafted do their part. Note the tone of this review, complete with the reference in the lead to earlier civil rights issue films:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/film/fall-films-emancipate-once-forbidden-love/article21023368/

See also:

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

I remember hearing about the first movie; Love is Strange a year ago, it sounds like it is on program. The appeal to social justice is clear, compelling and personal. After all if someone can lose their job for one thing, anyone can lose their job for any other form of religio-bureaucratic sanctioned bullshit. I live in Canada. Most of the provinces (like states, only bigger) still implement constitutional guarantees that mandate taxpayer-funded school boards for certain faiths. You want to keep your taxpayer-funded job, you go to mass on Sunday and you watch your Facebook posts. Exceptions are at the discretion of the board. How’s that for faith-based exemptions?

The second film is new to me; it might be a bit too stridently bolshie for American tastes. The third, I had a chance to view inflight and it felt like a Cumberbach vehicle. It got grim really fast. We know what happened to Turing. Since I loathe the British class system, I found no entertainment value in watching a fetishization of its murderous small-mindedness.

Doubtless there are many more useful examples out there, with at least half of them making up episodes in Glee. I must get over my aversion to anything that flies under the dread flag of Fox.

In the meantime, off the top of my head, something close to this was pulled off for the girl couple in Mouretsu Space Pirates. Not content to have the thwarted arranged marriage trope leave a dangling disappointed dude, it went on to show our plucky heroines unmasking the boy as a young Goebbels fronting a crypto-fascist conspiracy out for power and big bucks. The arranged marriage was just part of his campaign to seize power. Well; that was kind of political, even if set in a scifi far future light-years away.

Why bother?

Activist themes and tropes within stories cannot directly change society, at best they can “win hearts and minds” and displace older tales of dire abjection and deviance while lessening “the shock of the new”. We all tend to resist things we have not run into before; if we run into them in fiction, we can fool ourselves into feeling some manner of familiarity with the situation and the folks caught up in it. Coupling a story to appeals to justice and enlightened self-interest; This sucks, we wouldn’t like this to happen to us, we should support a fix so that everyone can breathe easier has been a part of storytelling since we all sat around the fire in caves. Ally of Justice makes for a nicer story than “when bad things happen to people, run away from them and/or throw rocks at them to drive them off otherwise the bad things will get you too“. The latter may be closer to human nature at its worst, but it raises problems for story tellers; they risk getting rocks themselves instead of a meal.

These concerns are for the rest of us scared villagers. For someone who finds themselves trying to negotiate a queer identity, having stories that say “you are not alone“, and “this is normal, life is good“, “be proud of who and how you are“, especially ones that are not too fantastic and/or loaded with dire oppressions can be a life-changer. Not everything has to be a “fight the power” tale to do some good, but it’s OK too to add “why should asshats think they have any right to jack you around?” to this above list.

Why now?

Significant reform is more than ever now possible in Japan. At first glance the Oyagi-cracy of the LDP looks like the barnacle least likely to do anything progressive: first looks can be deceiving. It has been argued that Japan’s perpetual party of power, the LDP is no longer anywhere as ideological as it appears and that it will swipe any policy platform, even socially progressive ones, if it thinks another (non-communist) party could possibly get traction from such. For a supposed right-wing party, its appetites have become amazingly ‘catholic’. It has assimilated policy initiatives from opponents and allies alike, especially if these present a good face for Japan to “the West” (look how smooth-running and progressive our society is, please invest and do business with us.) Bonus points if the grab pulls the rug out from under an opposition (or even an allied) party. The Olympics are on the horizon, Japan doesn’t want to look like Putin’s reactionary Russia. Mrs Abe shows up at the Pride parade. The LDP reads Krugman for economic policy advice. It’s not personal or ideological, it is just what it takes for the LDP to remain in power at all cost and render any alternative parties or alliances thereof weak and ineffectual. The LDP is the developed world’s most left-wing right-wing government. They have a parliamentary supermajority and they no longer give a flying… squirrel about ideology. They can pass progressive legislation at the drop of a hat if it suits their party’s strategic purposes.

Operator: Main screen turn on!

in case you missed the original

Clickee for old time’s sake

To paraphrase Michael Cucek, You have no chance to be government, make your time. [https://www.google.ca/search?q=youtube+micheal+crucek&oq=youtube+micheal+crucek]

Aside: Shisaku and Tokyo on Fire are great Jp politics/culture backgrounders! (from whence I have have cribbed much of my sloppy analysis)

UPDATE: Tokyo on Fire does a short segment on “Tokyo’s First Same-sex Marriage Certificate”

Conceivably the LDP could even do something really nasty and militarist: full equality and marriage rights at all levels of Japanese government and civil society for same-sex couples as long as one of the couple is serving in the new bent-article-9 JSDF! Yearly mandatory visits to the that shrine required too. Nothing too good for our patriotic boys and girls in uniform. Supermajority, remember?

This loony example belies a serious point. The main legalistic impediment to same-sex marriage rights in Japan is a close reading of the Japanese constitution. Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman. Any move to revise the constitution to fix this legitimises the Abe/ LDP program to revise other parts of it. Similarly, the re-interpretation of article 9 for “collective self-defense” points to the strong possibility of other re-interpretations, as long as one is willing to legitimise the entire exercise of re-interpreting.

Political chess-playing ensues. At least the pieces can move.

Despite initial appearances there never was a better time to sneak a few progressive social reforms through the Japanese Diet. Or I am completely deluded and the removal of one class of institutionalized pariah-dom in the Japanese social will so threaten the mechanisms of control and subservience that keep the salaryman at his (sometimes her) desk for 12 hours a day and the rest of the losers happy to scrape by on low-paid temp jobs, as to completely up-end the power structures and economic foundations of the nation. There goes our weekly group hate sessions… And those sound trucks.

Naw… The entire Abe/ LDP program has been to build up a monolithic appearance of progressive stability in Japanese society and politics. No more Prime Ministers of the month, no more low-class cabinet scandals, no more bureaucrats fighting out policy initiatives with competing press leaks. A nice promise of structural reforms for the business world. Quantitive easing to grease export earnings. Woman-omics. Now if they can get the Olympic stadium embarrassment cleaned up; the old pols who ran the original stadium committee have been ritually shamed and neutered. Abe’s technocrats can now step in to save the day. Everything looks stable and peaceful. As long as mildly progressive social reforms don’t come off as looking like something forced upon Japan by pesky outlanders, the pols have no reason to dig in their heels. We are talking at most of gay marriage here; not ending the whale hunt or that messy thing with the dolphins…

Oh my; a silly manga and anime blog is going on about pop poli-sci and Japanese politics!

Muda Muda Muda!

Watch for my future post on Keynesian macro-economics and Japanese monetary policy presented as allegory in Gintama:

You wipe first, you lose“.

Uh.. Where was I?

Any progressive and/ or activist themed expansion of the range of tropes and stories available to the hack mangakas and anime script teams is pure profit for ambitious authors a and publishers, as long as these new tropes can be successfully deployed at least once. I think the fandom/ public could well be way out in front of the publishers, authors, producers and TV executives.

Given that CJVC already supports a number of viable market niches that at least superficially appear to venture into the territory of representing (and perhaps supporting) minority desires and gender expressions, simple capitalist competition and the need for new interesting grist for the story mills should be sufficient to grease the wheels of social progress a bit.

There is no structural reason for the absence of activist, progressive story- lines in CJVC. Advocacy is possible and can advance progressive change. Politics has a nasty habit of getting personal but the personal is the realm of storytelling. These stories can once again recognise this as we take comfort and inspiration from the possibilities set forth in their telling and enjoy the opportunity to vicariously support progressive social change. Because the rest of us were all too busy and tired and distracted to have done anything to fix our shit; perhaps you folks will have better luck. We’re rootin’ for you…

Hand-waving for great Justice!

(1) Hmmmm… I could draw a pyramid chart of these and cash in big time over in theory land. Mudakun’s hierarchy of prurient interest over Yuri and BL ™. Come for the novelty pr0n fantasies, stay for the abstract concerns. Where my newest bit of why are we interested about this stuff slots in is another matter.

(2) For a job well done, you of course get another job. And raised expectations. And spectators cheering you on. And the idea that perhaps your program could make a nifty ‘point of the spear‘ for some larger, more diffuse program of change. And that your unique experience gifts you with rare insights and the facility to give general relationship advice to couples, fix defective technology by touching it and dress sharp. Such is the price of success!

 

UPDATE AND ENDNOTE:

This was not my brightest post but I still figured I needed to thrash out some of the ideas. Further attempts to develop them hit a snag, so still working on the troubling intersections of “gay” vs “shadow of gay, written by straight folks for their own odd purposes, not all of which involve pr0n” on one axis and realism vs fantasy on the other axis. Realism implies a certain temptation towards activism. Leave it at that for now.

Transit Girls has finished its run, and by reports, is not execrable. Shoujo, rushed, but at least the background characters are supportive. Google with the terms “watch” and perhaps the optional “247” (note download tab) added to the series name and you can probably find eng. subbed versions somewhere out on the intertubes. Raise ad-blockers to maximum, ahead full impulse.

The Okazu review of the entire series is also out:
http://okazu.yuricon.com/2016/01/25/lesbian-live-action-transit-girls-%E3%83%88%E3%83%A9%E3%83%B3%E3%82%B8%E3%83%83%E3%83%88%E3%82%AC%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AB%E3%82%BA/

At some point Viki and/or Crunchyroll might get with the program too.

The way she acts and the color of her hair

“It works even if you don’t believe in it” –Niels Bohr

Wherein I get a bit wordy as I try to string along a whole bunch of concepts towards a coherent and easy to understand appreciation of the problemmatics of the yuri genre as opposed to the BL genre within the Genshiken ‘verse.

 

While we wait for the fan translation of Genshiken’s chapter 116, with its yuri teasing scenes, take a few moments to consider also the earlier Genshiken Nidiame anime extra #4, which laid the groundwork for a bump-up in the level of yuri teasing in the Genshiken. Sure there had been previous bits in the Genshiken, stray comments by Ohno and volume extra pages which poked fun at Sue’s hero worship of Ogiue, all while making sly shoutouts to Zetsubo Sensei’s Koji Kumeta – a friend of Kio Shimoku. (go to the wiki entry and wonder about the name of Kumeta’s ex-assistant; Combat Butler ???) The short Nidiame anime extra went a little further and at first seems somehow “off”; something whomped up by the animation studio as service, something that stretches the canon too far.

snapshot20150930233001

One does not expect a group of fujoshi to suddenly start doing yuri self-shipping.

Chapter 116 of the genshiken supposedly has the yuri teasing harnessed to the goal of giving Kuchiki some fan-service so he doesn’t get all sulky about all the Mada harem goings-on. but there are no (presenting) males in the OVA Extra’s clubroom but some of us viewers. Why the improbable yuri?

After all, one of the usual conditions of BL narratives is the erasure of female characters; they either must be fujoshi cheerleaders or die-in-a-ditch evil women who will try to impede the inevitable m:m pairing. Massive amounts of theory and pop commentary on the genre offers the consensus that the women authors and readers do not want or need female presences within their fantasy spaces. Female characters would break the spell and ground to earth the electric charge of the male marionettes who are being danced towards their inevitable happy (and possibly sexed-up) ending. This rule is almost as powerful as the “its not as fun if they are real gay guys because real gay guys do that kind of stuff anyway” effect that produces the infamous “I‘m not gay, its only him” line that so infuriated (and still infuriates, though there are signs that the issue is sliding towards shoulder shrug territory) activists from the Japanese gay community. Then there are those fun self-deconstructing instances of violent non-consensual sexual assault that the sock puppets occasionally do to each other, but heh, they aren’t real and that’s the way guys act if they go haywire anyway. (1)

Still, a few questions are begged by these rare occurrences and by the glaring absence of lesbian/female same-sex desire anywhere within the Genshiken verse.

Or perhaps not so glaring. Normal Japanese fujoshi are supposed to be overwhelmingly straight women who enjoy BL tales of male:male intimacy as a “break” from reality, as a “healing” space, rather that a fantasy world to escape and stay in (as neckbearded basement dwelling NEET male otakus are supposedly wont to do with their loli materials). (2)

Contrary to early dismissive characterizations, Japanese fujoshi are not a bunch of asocial male otaku analogues (a la Kuragehime https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Jellyfish); they are normal, above average achieving, well-socialised modern Japanese women who work, date guys, get married and buy consumer goods (including fan stuff – Japan respects purchasing power) and generally live productive normal lives. They just have this one little hobby that they don’t talk about too much, at least to outsiders. (3)

My ridiculous reason for thinking the absence important is the indisputable fact that a significant number of Japanese women who happen to like other women (and may or may not self-identify as ‘bians) also enjoy BL. Enough western female slash fen are gay and/or queer; some of the most articulate defenders of the genre have made no bones about this (see this blog’s bibliography section and past posts). I have reason to believe that while there was little pop culture discussion about fudanshi/ guys interested in BL in Japan in 2006-2008 when Kio Shimoku re-started the fearsome engines of the Genshiken, there was plenty of discussion about the fact that some Japanese could-be-‘bians had taken to BL because 1) extant yuri was either in short supply and/or vile male-gaze pr0n and 2) they appreciated the female exclusivist social that produced and consumed BL.

Hato should have been a young celibate ‘bian woman. That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Grrrrrrrr! And that’s just sticking to BL. Yuri is a form of libidinized CJVC. Why does loli and otokonoko and BL rate a space in the Genshiken, but yuri does not? What poisoned yuri?

Meanwhile back to Hato, rather than Shinobu.

you-sure-you-not-cap-copy

Of course it had to be Hato. The minute Shinobu would walk through the door and casually let slip her identity, the entire Genshiken would fall into a gravity well of pr0nish hawt rezbian loser fan boy-isms. (there even is a vile hentai manga that has an all-female manga club that does nothing but sex each other down as nastily as possible: good hunting if you are so inclined – no I will not!) Fortunately, the crossdressing young guy trope was also making a bit of a breakout too. Voila: Hato.

This also adds a further structural reason for the absence of any ‘bians or even yuri in the fujoshi Genshiken: Kio Shimoku had enough on his plate trying to slip his weird creation into a female homosocial without having to juggle one more damn plotting concern. He needed something to disrupt it, but not too much. Too many balls in the air. Yet her absence remains glaring. Where is the yuri champion? She has to a be a “she”. It can’t be a Yuri Danshi. Kuchiki can’t handle it because he will destroy anything he touches. Even a male Bodhisattva would destroy any yuri he touched. It should have been Shinobu;

Please don’t bother trying to find her. She’s not there…
-Slavoj Zizek

The Nidiame extra #4 anime considered: (spoilers ensue)

In the clubroom, Rika Yoshitake complains that the current membership has shipped Madarame and all the other available males and that she is bored. Out of the blue, she proposes yuri pairings.snapshot20150930232932

Ogiue shoots down the first few that include her and Sue, her and Ohno and Ohno and Saki.

She used the SZS "I am in Despair" line

She used the SZS “I am in Despair” line

Just as you think that Ogiue is against any yuri in principle, she suggests Yajima and Yoshitake. Then Yajima and her highschool friend, than finally Yajima and Hato-chan. Yajima’s complaint is that in each case she is assigned a quasi-male role to the pairing.

snapshot20150930233303

The group then seems to give up on yuri and switches back to the stuco boys, however one of the stuco boys has an ever-present girlfriend. Ogiue admits that she never noticed the girlfriend, she was edited out by “the goggles”

snapshot20150930233330

Discussion then moves towards Hato-kun’s wrestling experience in high school and finally the Hatoxbrother pairing that had been first mentioned by Kaminaga back at the school festival. There is some reluctance to take this further because Hato is present, but Hato-chan OKs it, even encourages it. They consider a historical story along the two brother theme for Mebeatame, with Ogiue worrying that 18+ content might bring down the wrath of the stuco on the club. Sue ventures that it won’t be an issue if they don’t get caught.

snapshot20150930233729

Discussion then shifts to Ohno’s and unexpectedly Rika’s tastes for oyagi shipping and to some odd pairings of western politicians (4)

snapshot20150930233858

With the club members in a shipping frenzy, Yajima declares that she cannot keep up with the “deviancy”

The episode ends.

I would pay arterial blood for a Shirobako season 3 about animating the Genshiken. Time and space would distort somewhere around episode 9.

Of course, years later in a parallel Shimoku-sensei universe, someone who looks like an older Hato who had a “boob job” is happily making dojins with someone who looks a bit like and older Merei Yajima and lo and behold, they aren’t just mangaka and assistant but lovers. So he was a virtual lesbian all this time, neh? Or is he just a pervy dude with a boob job? The OVA#4 was a setup. Duh! Duh? Some of the fandom are going to be unconvinced. No HatoMadaHato, no love.

SF 16p5 done in 5 minutes web600

The most obvious excuse for the lack of a ‘bian fujoshi in the Genshiken, within-story is that otherwise heteronormative fujoshi females would feel as uncomfortable about female same-sex intimacy, as stick-in-the-mud old straight guys feel about male same-sex intimacy. “Hey, I don’t swing that way, sorry it makes me a bit uncomfortable, it’s just me”, “No Homo“, to use the ugly, insulting vernacular disclaimer. It ain’t polite, it is a relic of far nastier times, I need to get over it, I’m working on it dammit, etc., but the effect is real, understandable and cannot be waived away with a smug denunciation. And it works on straight girls too; I would even argue that the flip-side might be more powerful in many cases. One could even extrapolate from the OVA that a group of women sitting around discussing fictional yuri pairings might feel a bit less comfortable given the chance that at any moment the conversation could slide over to them hurling ship at each other. Restricting the pairing to fantasy males establishes a social ceasefire as well as other forms of safety within the space.

Yet this discounts the historical fact that one of the major roots for the yuri genre, the 1920’s class-S female isolationist tales of spiritual female:female friendship (and perhaps more somewhere in the purple prose?) were extremely popular women’s literature throughout the 20th century in Japan. Japanese feminist speculative fiction, sociological sci-fi also had plenty of female isolationist/ female homosocial settings, usually whomped up to go at some aspect of structural sexism in Japanese society with hammer, tongs and ray guns.

Then genderfluid Shoujo tales and Bishonen tales came along, which morphed into more explicit BL stories and the Japanese female readership moved over en masse to shipping imaginary guys by around the year 2000. Anything that looked like female same-sex intimacy was left for loser fan boys who wanted hawt lesbo pr0n. The coincidence that the Adult Movie then Video industry also took off around this time and filled their B and C grade flicks with “lesbian” “schoolgirls” probably had some effect as well, (and a further effect will be addressed below) but the combination was enough that female interest in anything that looked like the old class-S stories evaporated. Even today, the yuri genre cannot pay the printing bills in Japan without the male readership, though there are indications that some straight women are reading the stuff again.

If we diaspora fans lived in Japan and could read and speak Japanese, the reasons for this would be glaringly obvious. But most of us don’t. And there has been a lack of deep English language research and historical material on the yuri genre in Japan. This is changing:

Beautiful and Innocent; Female Same-Sex Intimacy in the Japanese Yuri Genre by Verena Maser . 27.9.2013 Universität Trier
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

All I can say is that if this gets posted on a major yuri scanlation group’s discussion board as well as on Erica-sensei’s Okazu blog theory section http://www.yuricon.com/essays/ essay section (let’s just say that in terms of western yuri enthusiasts, the two camps don’t exactly see eye to eye) then it is worth a look.

Because it is a PhD thesis, and because such are usually made freely available to the public and not paywalled and because it it well researched and very readable, it may well become the go-to, on the web source for English language fans who need to know a bit more than what you can get at the wikipedia page for yuri.

I should be more emphatic:
I highly recommend that you download and read the work.
That link again:
http://ubt.opus.hbz-nrw.de/volltexte/2015/944/pdf/Maser_Beautiful_and_Innocent.pdf

You no interested in Yuri, only interested in BL Slash? You still read it. Skim the history bits, go to the editor interviews and fan survey sections. Much learning to happen. Nuff Said.

There are other short primers on yuri out there, but these lack a few things.

Original sin:

Any casual western fan who has been curious about yuri has probably heard of those 1920’s class-S stories of heartfelt female intimacy and friendship (no sex). You might have even heard of one of the more famous series; Hana Monogatari/ Flower Tales. Of course we didn’t read them. Here’s the executive summary that all the other academic-ish works neglected to emphasise; No Happy Endings. Ever! Complete and utter bummer, followed by complete and utter bummer, followed by another complete and utter bummer. One of the women/girls always moves away, gets married, dies, evaporates, loses touch, runs off and or does all or most of the preceding. Unless they both jump off a bridge. Enjoy your soulful school-girl friendships, they will be ruthlessly crushed beneath the boots of cold hard reality and the expectations of good Japanese female behavior. Oh, and you can’t ever visit your school chums, ever. No keeping in touch. All love must, like the flowers the tales are named for wither and fall. And then be ground into the mud…

The color of the sulla flower…

Bleh!

from the wiki https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya

“One of her early works, Hana monogatari ( 花物語 “Flower Tales”, 1916–1924), a series of fifty-two tales of romantic friendships, became popular among female students. Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending. It depicts female-female desire in an almost narcissistic way by employing a dreamy writing style.[9][10]

Yaneura no nishojo ( 屋根裏の二處女 “Two Virgins in the Attic”, 1919) is semi-autobiographical, and describes a female-female love experience with her dormmate. In the last scene, the two girls decide to live together as a couple.[11] This work, in attacking male-oriented society, and showing two women as a couple after they have finished secondary education presents a strong feminist attitude, and also reveals Yoshiya’s own lesbian sexual orientation.

Her Chi no hate made (“To the Ends of the Earth”, 1920), won a literary prize by the Osaka Asahi Shimbun, and reflects some Christian influence.

In 1925, Yoshiya began her own magazine, Kuroshoubi (Black Rose), which she discontinued after eight months.[9] After Black Rose, Yoshiya began presenting adult same-sex love as being akin to ‘sisterhood’ and complementary to heterosexuality, becoming more mainstream in her works.[12]”

Well at least in one story you get a woman-couple that is not destroyed by the mills of the gawdz. Whew! (5)

Apparently this effect is well known to western women who happen to like other women and who have bothered to hunt down what older members of their sisterhood had to put up with back in barbaric times. Non-traditional life choices didn’t get a lot of happy endings in popular narratives and long escape the grubby hands of the censors. (This is perhaps less well known to the hordes of LFB’s who have become yuri fans.) You needed that nice little “comic code” etc., crime & deviancy meet a bad end slipcover to be able to hang onto the furniture. As well, the effect seems especially pronounced in Japan, where tragic endings are traditionally equated with more serious and more emotionally poignant narratives. Mono no aware

As a friend once caustically remarked: “A perfect Japanese movie happy ending: everyone dies.

Crap! Even the nice indeterminate couple in Sailor Moon die, heroically. I heard they get resurrected/ reincarnated somehow but one should be able to do better 70 years after Flower Tales. But noooo… It always the girl couple dying, one reaching for the other’s hand as they expire. The girls get Pr0ned then fridged.

Add a famous 1930’s scandal of a lovers suicide between an ex-Taka “butch” woman and her “neko” paramour and the stage is set for a pathologization in Japanese popular culture narratives of female same-sex intimacy. Soulful class-S results in heartbreak, but is tolerable because it keeps the girlies out of the pool halls. Gender norm violating butch/femme behaviour is criminal and sick and will be hunted down and ruthlessly suppressed. (6)

“The feminization of men and the masculinization of women and the neutered gender that results is a modernistic tendency that makes it impossible for the individual, the society, or the nation to achieve great progress. Accordingly, since the manliness of man and the femininity of woman must forever be preserved, it is imperative that we not allow the rise of neutered people who defy nature’s grace.”
– General Ugaki Kazushige [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazushige_Ugaki], per Borovitz, The Discourse on “Love Between Men” in Interwar Japan: Iwata’s History of Homosexuality  http://onetwothree.net/writing/discourse-%E2%80%9Clove-between-men%E2%80%9D-interwar-japan-iwata%E2%80%99s-history-homo

It takes a bit of time before the genre can shake this off.

For me, only three questions arise out from the historical survey offered by the Maser work: the absence of a mention of the testimony of Dr. A. Mizoguchi (who nominally was writing about her experiences as a Japanese lesbian using early Bishonen/ proto-BL narratives as support and inspiration for her own awakening identity, but also included a chapter on her “state of the yuri” some 10-20 years earlier in her 2008 PhD thesis) and of a related allusion by Mizoguchi to an informal or otherwise suppression of lesbian narratives by Japanese publishers in the late 1970’s through the 1980’s. This one is a willothewisp, perhaps I got it wrong. (The third involves giant robots and will be dealt with later.)

The Maser work also has fascinating interviews with editors of magazines that handled yuri stories. These are remarkable in that most of the editors don’t seem to acknowledge any particular interest in the yuri genre. Genre is what the mangaka is interested in this week, editors just carry the bags and stoke the star-making machinery behind the popular stories. Content? Whatever, not my job. I find this hard to believe, but the methodology sure reads as sound.

Also of note is her research on the print runs, readership and economics of publishing yuri circa 2005-2012. This research also goes far in explaining one particularly obnoxious (It’s just me, your mileage may vary) manga, “Yuri Danshi” (whose genesis she spends some time on) and offers some insights into the effects that a largely heteronormative (but less so that originally imagined) readership that keeps the few yuri publications (that offer a bit more than raw “hawt rezbian pr0n”) in the black, has upon the genre.

To put it crudely; there aren’t enough lesbians in Japan (or women interested in female same-sex intimacy and desire who will buy the usual yuri fare) to support regular publication of anthology magazines that feature lesbian-ish stories.

Also of note is the highlighting of one particular manga series on the fandom and the genre; to bring it up in a scholarly work takes some degree of courage. Apparently the genre defying, extremely problematically pornographic signature work by Kurogane Ken, Shoujo Sect figures prominently in fan responses – even in some female fan responses. This of course warmed my abject LFB heart, because the dammed thing caused a minor Saito Tamaki style post-Lacanian “trauma” in me when I first stumbled upon it. I am as easily enticed by the promise of a bit of exploitative girl/girl fluff as the next guy, so I was unprepared for the level of single minded commitment to kicking a tired cliche up a few notches that Sect takes on. You have been warned. Just yuri smut, don’t read too deeply. Maybe it’s just me? The extant scanlations lose a bit of the obsessive background details that were present in the original (Anon/SS?) scanlation efforts (via 4chan’s /a and /u board participants) Maser notes that even fans who normally eschew pornographic yuri variants were and continue to be seduced by the artwork and the high melodramatic romanticism of the work. Oh, and it is pure raw lolicon yuri smut. It may well be criminally actionable in some jurisdictions. The anime adaptation is sewage and best avoided.(7)

Here’s one other kicker that the Maser and most other researchers have failed to note: While it appears on the surface to be merely an upgrading of a usual “hawt lesbian schoolgirl secks” story, its plotting, pacing, character development and story arc are unmistakeably something else. They appear to be lifted wholesale from the tropes and conventions of BL tales. Shoujo Sect is BL with girl bodies. Nice trick Kurogane-sensei. Also of note is that for the most part, extremely libidinous happy endings ensue for almost everyone; unless your lover was a supernatural entity or you are a jealous, manipulative rapist sempai. (8)

Its the same story the crow told me, it the only one he knows

Contrast to 40 Years of the Same Damn Story, Pt.1 by Erica Friedman.
http://www.hoodedutilitarian.com/2011/04/overthinking-things-04032011/

In a short essay, Erica friedman runs through the signature yuri works in the canon, with an emphasis on the infamous Story A (girl confesses to girl, happy ever after). Erica-sensei’s rundown of the top 40 includes a story that I found missing from the Maser list, which is understandable as it is totally ridiculous:

“In the mid-2000s, Kannazuki no Miko created a whole new wave of Yuri fans, with an action riff on the couple from Shiroi Heya no Futari. Instead of 70s melodrama and partying, we were given giant robots and apocalyptic prophecies.”

Well, that one remains freaking weird but some of the artwork from it would become a classic yuri “signature” visual trope.

-STAR--Kannazuki-no-Miko-Review-with-MOOT-e10982160

Want more? click-eeee!

 

One must also mention that the couple in Miko end up fighting each other to the death on the moon, or something, it is unclear. They get to be reincarnated together though, so they can be together in the next life: Blergh! Fridged again!

Friedman also expands on a feature mentioned by Maser, the faux-seraglio effect that the marketing department dreamed up to lure in more LFB’s

“At the same time Kannazuki was recreating “Story A,” another series that was playing with the same key elements fooled a whole generation into thinking it was telling an original story, by stealing from *every* Yuri story that had gone before it. Strawberry Panic! added a new twist to “Story A,” – a pretend glimpse past the gauze boudoir curtains of an all-girls, no-guys-allowed world. This concept quickly became a typical feature of Yuri “Story A”s aimed at men. (Presumably to heighten the sensation of forbidden love they enjoyed in Yuri.) This added thrill has retroactively invaded popular girl’s series, such as Maria-sama ga Miteru. The radio and live shows – the audience of which are mostly men – now begin with a warning that boys are not allowed. And many Yuri anthologies that target a male audience provide that same warning on the cover, just so the audience knows it’s getting a glimpse of some forbidden women’s mystery.

Where Strawberry Panic! really excelled was as an homage to “Story A” through the ages.

The manga riffed on series like Card Captor Sakura, Himitsu no Kaidan and Maria-sama ga Miteru, while the anime stole openly from Kannazuki no Miko, the above series and even Western stories such as The Graduate and Wuthering Heights. (Amusingly, it wasn’t even the first Yuri anime to borrow from Wuthering Heights. That honor would probably have to go to Cream Lemon: Escalation.)””

It should be noted that Maser follows on the research and analysis that Erica Friedman has long made available to Western yuri enthusiasts, even highlighting most of the iconic works within this earlier short essay.

However, being a rather dense LFB (reformed MK II variant, most of the time…) it is one thing to read

“Most of the relationships presented in Flower Tales are those of longing from afar, unrequited love, or an unhappy ending.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nobuko_Yoshiya)

OR

“In the beginning, “Story A” rarely had a happy ending. This is not because of the same-sex love, very few romance manga in the 70’s had happy endings. The typical couple were doomed to never be together for one reason or another. In the case of “Yuri” couples, the options were mostly one partner died or left to get married”. (Ibid Friedman)

…and another to read Maser’s synopsis of 8 or 10 of the Flower Tales. The old boot in the face over and over and over again efect really gets the point across. There were how many of these colossal downers? 52 of em? Gehhhh!

Female same-sex intimacy aversion therapy. 

Given the sad history above, one would think that girl meets girl and they walk off into the sunset is an improvement. Well, they could do better:

“To simplify everything for the purposes of conversation here – I prefer to read stories about women in love with women. No first-crushes, no girls in school, actual women who are a priori interested in women. I’m long past coming out and I like my characters to be, too. This does exist, it’s just rarer than “Story A,” because, as I pointed out “Story A” doesn’t make any awkward political or social statements.”” ibid Friedman comments section.

I suspect Erica-sensei did not need Maser’s research to elaborate the details of why Story A with its schoolgirls finding the hints of the beginnings of happiness are a plague on the land. Friedman knows yuri. Yuri has been a life-work for Erica Friedman. Erica Friedman deserves a civil commendation from the Japanese Emperor for promoting Japanese cultural products. A smart University would give Erica Friedman an honorary doctorate. A classy and smart university would take her blog site as original scholarship, convene 3 greybeards, email her two questions as a thesis defence and award her a full doctorate. It would be worth more to them than to her.

Still, for the slower among us, and that means me, seeing Maser’s research answers a few questions and begs a few more. It might be time for me to spend a week designing a survey page, linking it up on survey monkey and making this blog do some honest work.

Following on the section about editors, the survey chapter leaves me convinced that the Japanese male yuri fandom are either the stupidest creatures in the world or masters of deception. I suspect the latter. Yeah, I’m sure there is a creep factor in these and some want innocent loli bait (untouched by male defilement, yet sexualized) but I am also convinced that the success of Aio Hanna, Sasameki Koto , and now the overt lesbian subjectivity of Takemiya Jin et al. means that what some of the fandom is craving is more authenticity, a real view of a different, more mature romantic desire that can be understood, enjoyed and perhaps adapted to their (our) own desires and dreams. (9)

First Maser defines her fandom:

“When I speak of “fans,” I rely on the following definition: fans are “persons who for longer periods have a passionate relationship with an … external, public, either personal, collective, objective or abstract fan object and who invest time and/or money into the emotional relationship to this object.” (Roose, Schäfer, and Schmidt-Lux 2010, 12) To this we can add that “fandom is characterized by two main activities: discrimination and productivity” (Fiske 1990, 147) as well as the observation that fans form a complex and multifaceted community (Jenkins 1992b, 277).
[…]
Investment, discrimination, productivity and community are not four discrete characteristics. “

Then where she found them:

“Japan’s largest online message board 2channeru has a specialized board for discussing the yuri genre called “Rezu/yuri moe ita,” described as being for men and women who want to discuss rezu and yuri (although the exact difference between these two terms remains unclear), but cautioning: “While we do not actually exclude lesbians [bian na kata], this is also not a board aimed at lesbians [rezubian].” Since the board belongs to an external 2channeru subsection for erotic/pornographic content, both rezu and yuri are here connected to pornography.”

“”Mixi is only in Japanese and remains tightly locked: those who do not have an account cannot access any of its content (not even by searching on Google). In order to sign up, potential users need a Japanese contract mobile phone to receive an authentication email. This essentially excludes Japanese without a contract mobile phone and foreigners. Therefore (and due to language barriers), Mixi has almost no foreign users. Nevertheless, most users do not sign up under their real name. At least officially, usage of the “Rezu/yuri moe ita” is thus forbidden for users under the age of
eighteen.””

The lack of emphasis on the Tamaki post-Lacanian view of fandom is interesting, but the more inclusive, more diffuse definition above serves well enough. I’m just fixated on Tamaki’s thing, with his heavy emphasis on libidinized interest, faults and all.

To the survey:

Valid responses 1353 out of 2848 (47.5%) most of the rest ditched as incomplete, some other small disqualifications (d=25)

“females accounted for 52.4% of the respondents, while males accounted for 46.1% :
“non-heterosexual” females accounted for 30.0% of respondents,
“heterosexual” females for 15.2%,
“non-heterosexual” males for 4.7%, “heterosexual” males
for 39.5%, and “other” for 1.2% (don’t know: 8.1%; n/a: 1.3%).
I deliberately put all labels for “sexual identities” in quotation marks since they do not necessarily reflect the “sexual identity” of any of my participants. It could very well be the case that yuri content is enjoyed by females who are less interested in the political aspects of their “sexual identity” (namely the LGBT movement) and see sexual activities as something they do (or could do), but which do not define them. As Welker (2010b) notes, what connects “lesbian” Japanese women is their deviation from social expectations rather than a shared identity. Furthermore, as discussed, I find supposedly fixed categories such as “homosexuality” highly problematic. My usage here is a matter of convenience as it permits me to analyze my data in a meaningful way. The blanket term “non-heterosexual” is intended as a neutral way of describing all kinds of (fluid) “sexual identities.” I agree that it is not a perfect choice (Weeks, Heaphy and Donovan 2001, vii), but it seems like the English language is still short of a better alternative.
[…]
Yet enjoying what others did and doing it yourself are two different things, as the results for the question about fan work production show:
13.9% of respondents had produced both parodies and originals, 16.9% only parodies, 8.5% only originals, and 60.7% had produced no fan works at all.
Here we see that the fans of the yuri genre exhibit various ways of engaging with their favorite text(s): far more respondents consumed fan works (81.2%) than produced them (39.3%). Only 17.2% of all respondents neither consumed nor produced yuri fan works, a result that attests to the importance of this aspect of fandom. Further analysis shows that while 49.3% of female respondents answered that they had produced some kind of yuri fan work, only 27% of male respondents said this (***p<.001), a finding consistent with prior research on Japanese fan works (e.g. Orbaugh 2010, 177)”

Asked about the need for explicit depictions of f:f sex in the works, a great many of the respondents professed to be either not that interested or even against the raunch.

Maser also asked about crossover interests between BL and Yuri:

“My survey covered this topic by asking participants whether they were interested in the boys’ love genre: 55.8% of respondents said they were interested, 34.2% said they were not, and 10.0% were not sure. This result supports the idea that the fandoms overlap. A further breakdown by “sexual identity” shows that it was mostly female and (to a lesser degree) “non-heterosexual” male respondents who liked both yuri and boys’ love: 75.3% of “non-heterosexual” females and 83.0% of “heterosexual” females, as well as 57.8% of “non-heterosexual” males answered this question with “Yes”—but only 27.2% of heterosexual” males did (***p<.001). This is probably not surprising given that the majority of boys’ love fans are female.”

Then there was related finding, one that is very, very Japanese:

“A further analysis of the responses to my survey indicates that iyashi was especially important for fans of specific texts. For example, 79.5% of those who gave the pornographic text Shōjo Sekuto as one of their favorite titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for 150 liking yuri manga (***p<.001, n = 132). In the case of those who preferred yuri anime, iyashi was especially important for the fans of the series Yuru yuri. 81.4% of those who gave Yuru yuri as one of their favorite yuri titles also gave iyashi as one of their reasons for liking yuri anime (***p<.001, n = 113)”

Iyashi you say?

Iyashi is a catch all Japanese term for healing/ comforting/ soothing. The respondents would have us believe that a fine schoolgirl Story A (with or without a bit of skin) is at least as good as a visit to a cat cafe and a cup of chamomile tea while a mogy sits on your lap and purrs (liking cats stipulated). As I mentioned, yuri like Shoujou Sect is highly eroticised fiction. Perhaps finding characters with sexual agency who know what they like and find others to share the fun, without doing a two-year silent pining away while getting up the courage to mumble a confession and then run away blushing routine can be considered soothing. Likewise, the love conquers all-ness of the newer variants of the yuri genre is a great tonic for a battered soul. A final idea about soothing: Same ‘ole same ‘ole is in itself soothing. A well done rehash on a familiar theme is soothing. Even if “you cannot move forward”.
Moving forward is overrated.

Future surveys could include (a)Novelty (b)Ally of justice (c)Happy ending (d)Hope for a better world (e)Tourism (f)Postmodern consumption of an aesthetic (h)Comfortably familiar (i) A spectre is haunting Japanese queerdom (j)Masturbation aid (k)Sex manual and (l) perhaps a few others. Please select all that apply.

Some of the questionnaire comments were heartfelt:

“I think that in Japan, many yuri [texts] are about tragic love. Furthermore, there are also those created by males fantasizing about yuri. I always think that I would like to read yuri created by LGBT women [tōjisha16 josei].

In society, many negative things are murmured about homosexuality, for example “They can’t be saved,” “They can’t have children” or “Two females can’t live together.” Or the negation is said out loud. If that’s true, then I don’t understand why such works are valued”.[16 josei].”

Tōjisha, if we remember from a previous essay post is a favourite term in the political debates over gay rights in Japan. It means witness, someone with skin in the game, testimony from one involved.

And

“Someone who deviates from society is made into ‘a thing that can be enjoyed as fantasy.’ “

And

“”Extremely often Japan’s sexual minorities are consumed as “entertainment” in this way.
… There are only a few people I can trust. The reason is that I don’t want to be made into “entertainment.” I’m always wishing for a few very sincere and positive works about homosexuality. I’m constantly thinking that it would be good if the sentiment of homosexuality (not “lesbian” [rezu] as used in the world of porn) soaked into general [texts]. I cannot understand people who say “It’s a good work” about tragic stories. … Same-sex love is “love” [ren’ai] just like heterosexual love. … I wish that there were happy and sad stories in yuri just the way they exist about normal love. Homosexuality is absolutely not special. I want it to be much more equal, that we don’t color a completely normal thing to show that it’s “not normal.”

More goodies in the original, I could stretch this post out to the moon if I kept quoting the pithy stuff.

Back to the Genshiken clubroom. The rotten girls, plus Hato-as-chan are used to the idea of steering their male sock-puppets though steamy romance tales with plenty of hawt guy-on-guy action. Now even all us squeamish cis-male pale-skinned privileged old guys who grew up in barbaric times and as a result are a bit loathe to read a whole pile of raw steamy yaoi can understand the usual aspects of their genre. Just think Shoujou Sect with guys instead of girls and lots of lotion. That’s what the girls plus Hato read and aspire to draw. Sometimes they throttle back the naughty bits and situate the bonking off-stage or off-page. But yup, That’s pretty well it.

Given the freedom, safety and power this exercise affords, and given that their straight-girl hearts are easily as squeamish about looking at nekkid girls doing the nasty as I am about looking at nekkid guys etc., it is easy to understand the absence of yuri as a genre that is seriously considered within the Genshiken.

Except for those who have been tainted by furreign thinking.

Note that Ohno and to a lesser degree Sue are not particularly annoyed by bringing up the subject. Ohno has spent time in the States and has been corrupted by outlander ways. Also, as a cosplay guru, she is used to the idea of identity fluidity.(10)

Heroes fuck the way they want, the important thing is that they are heroes. Kanako Ohno’s hobby is becoming heroes. Sue is fully furreign and therefore inscrutable. Angela, when she appears is worse and carnivorous. Ogiue as a pro mangaka can stretch her mind and perhaps consider a fictional Yajimacci as male-ish enough to start the ball rolling, but Merei immediately becomes slash-kami MJ Johnson’s “Helmut” and declares that this is just normal female friendship.

snapshot20150930233207

And of course, on a meta level, the yuri teasing is just fodder for LFB’s. A bit of yuri frisson makes the dread machinations of the rotten girls a bit less scary to us guy readers. Once we are mollified, lo and behold, the club abandons the yuri goggles and goes back to shipping guys.

Expect nothing much more from the Genshiken in terms of yuri than occasional teasing, thrown as a sop to uncomfortable male readers when the BL goggles effect gets too strong.

Unless…

Let’s detour to the previously mentioned Sasemeke Koto/ Whispered Words. This one went on for a while during the 2005-2011 period when yuri began to shed its taste for dire endings. It was frequently compared to Sweet Blue Flowers, a more serious and considered work only because both lead female characters bore a superficial resemblance to each other. Of course the two stories were leagues apart: Koto is a rom-com and Flowers is a tale of disenchantment, personal growth and finding strength. Koto‘s Sumika struggles with her feelings and then the fear that she will be forever ignored by the girl she has decided that she cares deeply for. Flowers’ Fumi experiences one classic yuri relationship disaster after another and whatever does not kill her quietly makes her stronger. Fumi is a practicing lesbian who wears her heart on her sleeve. All the lousy crap that happened to her fictional antecedants happens to her, but she will not be broken. Sumika is a happy go lucky virgin tomboy with extreme martial arts powers trying to sort out her feelings and then work up enough courage to confess and get her first kiss.

What allows Sumika the space to consider same-sex desire, and then a fragile girl-crush on her childhood friend Ushio whom she has so long protected is only the presence of the lesbian beta couple [http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BetaCouple] Tomoe Hachisuka and Miyako Taema. They are improbable. First they are a happy Lady Chatterly’s Lover trope, Miyako being the daughter of the family chauffeur. Tomoe is an 18yr old finance and business wizard who single-handedly saved the family business empire and has returned to finish high school as a last vacation in normal-ville before she goes back to runing Japan Inc(?) There are no invisible ninja bodyguards hanging around (cf Girl Saurus) but I am sure that all the students at the school know that anyone stupid enough to make rude comments in the direction of anyone who shows an interest in same-sex desire might not show up for classes the next day. Heck, they might just be vaporized where they stand by Low Orbital Ion Canon. Or their parents might end up on the dole. Still the hint that Sumika might be a “lesbian” and in a relationship is enough the threaten her run for the student council. Low Orbital Ion Canon can only do so much, but in the end Ushio, the girl that everyone knows crushes ineffectively on “cute girls” gets the position, so call it a win for the support team.

Tomoe meets a bit of reluctance from her fellow students setting up a lesbian isolationist club at school, but soon settles for a wimmen’s Karate club, as the effect is pretty much the same. Tomoe wants a girls’ club and she will get one. Tomoe also thinks that confessions are cute and must proceed according to a strict script, so it is up to Sumika and Ushio to figure out that they are meant for each other and nerve up to enjoy one long awaited kiss. Yes, all this was over one single solitary snog fer crissakes; just as the two are about to graduate. Oh heck!

Along the way there are plenty of impediments and distractions. Other folks crush on Sumika, one crossdressing bishonen, a girl classmate, a karate obsessed diminutive german transfer student (again female), a guy karate star, though this is more a ‘sweep her off he feet and inherit the family dojo‘ effect. There is also the threat that Ushio will have to move away to take care of her ailing grandma, though this gets resolved when her brother the yuri mangaka finds a woman who will up with him put. Strangely enough no one crushes on Ushio, who is the more conventionally pretty one. Her serial dramatic cute girl fascinations seem to have made her an object of comic relief. No one takes her seriously any more.

If one can get past Sumika’s super karate powers and the improbable rich girl/chauffeur’s daughter couple, the story is poignantly sweet. It turns on the idea of ‘cute’ as Ushio only pines for ‘cute girls’. It just takes her forever to figure out that cute is a very flexible concept that can also include ‘girl hero’. The hammers of the gawds do not smash their love to little bits. A happy ending ensues! The anime is not a complete mess, which is rare, though the manga is far superior.

Yet the power of the Tomoe/Miyako couple is the “shield” that protects and enables the entire exercise. As well as silencing bigots, it gives agency and legitimacy to female same-sex desire and makes it damn obvious than any social strictures against such are arbitrary and, with enough money, will and power, easily set aside. That they are a happily pair-bonded couple who fuck, sleep together and are for all intents and purposes married, normalises and legitimates normal human female lesbian sexuality and affection. Their importance cannot be under-rated. They are an improbable, even fantastic device but an essential one. (11)

In the theoretical literature surrounding the attraction that yuri and narratives of female same-sex intimacy have for male consumers, there is always a vague and somewhat politicised mumbling about an escape or respite from the demands of stereotypical male behaviour codes. This might be operative in some rare cases, but for the most part is smoke, intellectual laziness and misdirection. (12) The real, frightening problem is being alone. More and more people, male and female are learning that all the modern world offers them is a solitary life. If you can’t manage the earning power, social capital and the frame of mind to fit into what a proper nuclear family is advertised as being in your particular neck of the woods, enjoy your ‘roneryness. How to put up with, to live with another human being, when social codes no longer dictate who gets to do what and who has to silently defer is left as an exercise for the confused.

“…from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away…”
–L.Cohen, Democracy

You want me to do what? Fuck that! I’m outta here.

There aren’t a hell of a lot of good exemplary narratives out there of how to manage dealing with another human, even in the field of romance, let alone the grind of living with someone else year after year. Either in Hetlandia or Queerville. Sure they walk off hand in hand into the sunset, then what? The passive partner accommodates, the end. (13)

No wonder us guys are looking over the fence. No wonder the wimmens are driving guy BL sock-puppets all over the golf course greens to see what could happen. As a straight guy, how do I get along with a female human being, first in matters of the heart and then maybe playing house? For a long time? No idea. I thought I was just to strut around and act manly. No wonder so many guys are desperately reading yuri and not caring about the porn bits. If there are two wimmins and they get along, there must be some clue of what women are predisposed to put up with. Is this adaptable to my situation? Perhaps the fujoshi entertain similar questions about how to deal with a guy on a long-term basis? Oh shit, these are all just fantasy stories anyway,  they offer nothing but unrealistic longings and no one has the slightest idea of what they are going on about. Give up!

Maybe if real live lesbians and gay guys who are settled into long-term relationships start writing manga about their boring day-to-day domestic lives, we might get some new ideas…
Other than: The passive partner accommodates, the end

Perhaps the women who enjoy BL tales would then upgrade their cheesy stories and the silly yuri fluff that I occasionally sneak a peek at will offer me more than iyashi. Oh well, there is always Otaku no Musume-san if one of those blurry one-night stands has cosequences. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otaku_no_Musume-san

Perhaps somewhere out there, some two humans are living together, enjoying each other’s quiet company and deciding, day to day that life is pretty good and worth the effort to keep doing it that way. Hope springs eternal. Perhaps they have even arranged things so that one isn’t being damaged by the experience of living with the other.

We are open to suggestions here.

Anybody care to to add anything?

The silence is deafening.

All I hear is a bunch of social conservatives and more and more they sound like variant cruel and damaged sexual fetishists.

The passive partner accommodates, the end.

Social conservatives, religious or otherwise now all sound like perverts.

Who gives a rats ass that two X or Y might want to snog, compared to “you have to suffer all the rest of your life and behave like this or everything will get scary-scary-we-don’t-know but it will be bad.”

Let it.

Though the heavens fall.

Which points to a solution that I have long advocated for Kio Shimoku’s Genshiken.

If the mangaka wants to address the glaring lack of any yuri fannning and/or fandom and/or ‘bian interest in BL narratives (which are real and significant though more limited in Japan than in western slash-spaces) within the Genshiken, Kio Shimoku must introduce a ‘bian couple as new members.

As theoretically interesting as the concept of a Yuri Danshi is, the execution makes for one heck’uva loathsome creep of a character: buddy boy is out. (14)

The ‘bians have to show up as a couple, otherwise yuri tropes run wild and turn the Genshiken into a yuri goggle fest LFB/fanservice pit. As well, female same-sex intimacy must be legitimized and demonstrated to be as normal as Ohno and Tanaka’s, Ogiue and Sass’ and Saki and Kou’s relationships. Only couples can have sex in Genshiken, Only individuals who are pair-bonded can have ever experienced sex. No non-virgin singles allowed in the Genshiken. This is why Keiko is a perpetual outlier. At least one of the two new members has to be interested in BL, because “while the characters are male, the hands that draw them and the hearts that put words in their mouths are female“. And the contradictions of BL as a woman’s genre that erases women can be played with for at least a few more years, while the contradictions of the yuri genre can be gently teased apart.

Unfortunately a realistic male:male couple would be too much to handle in the Genshiken: they freeze Hato and all shipping, in fact the entire exercise of BL fandom in its tracks. ‘Bians only for now, please. A confused gay-ish Hato is permissable, but if Madarame’s heart is ever won over the whole fantasy BL edifice will be imperilled. “No, we don’t do that. Sorry“. Fail.

Saki’s warning that the Genshiken critters have absolutely no experience whatsoever with real homosexual people needs more work. The members will squirm. Hato, both kun and chan will face a reflection of some of the fan controversies his indeterminacy has provoked. As well, the lack of any political or real-world consequences, interest or responsibility of the Genshiken members needs some gentle poking. Some of the more pointed questions asked by real-world theorists, such as the idea that perhaps otaku/fujoshi space provides a safe, ineffective hidy-hole for nascent minority sexual and gender expression in Japan, that might otherwise manifest in real life and demand justice, need to be thrashed out.

Or not…

The Genshiken can just roll along as it has done for a while now.

One should never underestimate the attraction of iyashi.

See also:

The Sexual and Textual Politics of Japanese Lesbian Comics
Reading Romantic and Erotic Yuri Narratives By Kazumi Nagaike
http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/articles/2010/Nagaike.html

Finding the Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga
by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington,
MA Thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

The Female Gaze in Contemporary Japanese Literature
Kathryn Hemmann PhD Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania 2013
http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1920&context=edissertations

More about BL, some yuri, follow on the above:
Queering the media mix: The Female Gaze in Japanese Fan Comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

Telling Her Story: Narrating a Japanese Lesbian Community
by James Welker
http://www.dijtokyo.org/doc/dij-jb16-welker.pdf

Lesbian Identity research in japan during the 1990’s
(or There are no lesbians in Japan, GET LOST Gaijin girl! The PhD thesis remains unpublished, available only in photocopy form at the University where it was lodged. I looked for it, So sad.)
Note that if they are significant numbers of Japanese women who like other women and enjoy yuri in Japan that it could be reasonable to assume that they are as similarly concerned with their privacy as Chalmer’s research subjects were.
My Queer Career: Coming Out as a ‘Researcher’ in Japan
by Sharon Chalmers, March 2002, Intersections.
http://intersections.anu.edu.au/issue7/chalmers.html

2006-02-13-trouble_in_memphis detail

ENDNOTES:

(1) I am unconvinced. There is another term used in fandom: squick. Using fictional squick to negotiate with real-world squick and squick culture is… an interesting idea. Good luck with that. Watch your head.
Rape in yaoi
http://japaneselit.net/2011/05/13/rape-in-yaoi/

See also Nagaike, https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962

(2) Queering the media mix: The female gaze in Japanese fan comics
by Kathryn Hemmann
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/628/540

“Fujoshi and the power of female fans
[5.1] In Otaku joshi kenkyū: Fujoshi shisō taikei (A study of female otaku: Essays on fujoshi), journalist Sugiura Yumiko repeatedly assures her readers that fujoshi, the “rotten girls” who create and consume BL manga (note 36), are not poorly groomed antisocial misfits. “The majority of fujoshi,” Sugiura writes, “are adult women. They live in the real world, where things like ‘true love’ don’t exist. These women fall in love and get married in the real world, where society necessitates compromise. When they get tired, they take a break in a fantasy world, and then they go back to reality” (2006, 42). According to Sugiura, although fujoshi occasionally immerse themselves in fantasy, or delusion (mōsō), they are far from delusional (mōsōteki); for them, the world of BL is a break from reality (genjitsu), not the sort of separate reality (riariti) that attractive shōjo characters provide for male fans of the anime and manga media mix (see also Saitō 2006). Sugiura’s assessment of fujoshi is therefore largely positive (note 37). It is precisely because these women have a firm grasp on reality, she argues, that they are able to enjoy the fantasy of BL, which functions as a safe haven from the pressures of the real world.”

(3)” According to Sugiura’s interpretation, however, fujoshi are women who, while not completely passive, make no effort to actively engage with or change the media they consume. Even when Sugiura (2006) discusses the women who read newspapers on their way to work in order to gather more fodder for scenarios revolving around forbidden relationships between male political figures, she does not attempt to argue that they have any real interest in politics outside of BL fantasies. Sugiura even suggests that fujoshi have been largely ignored by the Japanese media because they are remarkably adept at hiding their fannish interests and because they don’t seem particularly unhappy or maladjusted. In other words, they do not challenge the status quo. As the subcultures associated with dōjinshi demonstrate, however, many fujoshi are not merely consumers; these women are quite active as producers as well. If fujoshi are unsatisfied with the phallocentrism and heteronormativity they see in the media mix, they create their own versions of official narratives in the form of dōjinshi fan comics, which may depict the homosexual escapades of male leads or go into more detail regarding the background and perspective of a female character who is shortchanged in favor of male characters in the original work. When female fans find themselves excluded from male-centered stories and discourse, they simply create their own.” —Ibid. Hemmann

See also Everybody’s Fujoshi Girlfriend, Neojaponism
http://neojaponisme.com/2009/06/04/everybodys-fujoshi-girlfriend/

(4) Shipping real-life politicians is considered dangerous in Japan. Since the Edo era, nothing brings down the wrath of politicians more that pr0nish satire directed at them. Entire libraries of Shunga were obliterated when the publishers started to use their educational tomes to poke fun at power. Some still surfaces, See: Even a monkey can understand fan activism: Political speech, artistic expression, and a public for the Japanese dôjin community by Alex Leavitt
http://journal.transformativeworks.org/index.php/twc/article/view/321/311

(5) If I knew how to write japanese and could manage a decent manga drawing or two (ooops, wrong art degree, we don’t all know how to do everything) I would start cranking out modern updates to Flower Tales in rude dojin form wherein really stupid things happen to keep the soulful innocents unhappily separated. heads explode, a lover turns into a cabbage, girl returns home and the village is swallowed up by a sinkhole, giant meteor impact, one of the pair gets kidnapped by the LDP and brainwashed into becoming a right-wing-nut female cabinet minister, just to finally exorcise via extreme ridiculousness the ghost of this tradition. The dialogue would just need to be random purple prose plus ellipses, lots of ellipses… Did… I … mention… …Elipses?

One minor insight can be gleaned from the relentless unhappy tone of the Hanamonogatari stories; (and Erica-sensei’s caveat that serious Japanese romance tales lean towards tragic endings; serious=tragic remains in force) the endless serial bummer parade goes a long way towards explaining why Anne of Green Gables is so popular among young women in Japan. Nobody gets destroyed/ killed/ fridged!

(6) Finding the  Power of the Erotic in Japanese Yuri Manga  by Sarah Thea Arruda Wellington, MA thesis, University of British Columbia (Vancouver) August 2015
https://circle.ubc.ca/bitstream/handle/2429/54589/ubc_2015_september_wellington_sarah.pdf

“One important notion that emerged from the attempt to understand and analyze these female-female relationships contended that there were two kinds: one that was “normal” and “harmless” and “pure”—dōseiai—no more than a passionate friendship, between two feminine girls; and, on the other hand, one that was unacceptable, the ome, in which one of the girls had an “inverted” gender and displayed masculine tendencies, exerting a negative influence, it was believed, on the ypically younger, more feminine girl (Suzuki 24-5).
[…]
significant that otokoyaku were perceived as and referred to as chūsei, one of the terms for androgyny coined at the beginning of the twentieth century, meaning “neutral” or “in-between” .

(7) Spoilers ensue:
The girl boarders at the exclusive girls school are all very, very into romantic recreational sex with each other. Most prominent of these is the Player, Shinobu Handa. She has a harem of girl lovers and flies under the radar of the school authorities, who turn a blind eye to the boarding students’ quirks. The head of the student’s morals committee has nothing in principle against female same-sex desire; she even reads feminist Japanese social sci-fi (in the general tone of Joanna Russ-ish 1970’s scifi) but is extremely irritated by the Player’s irresponsible behaviour. When the Player flirts with her, she makes it clear that while she might be attracted to the Player, perhaps even more than the Player is attracted to her, any romance is out of the question as long as the Player continues to screw around.

Meanwhile side characters run around and couple for no particular reason and indulge in mild kinks amidst declarations of romantic love. One couple faces discrimination from straight day students and the silent one in the pair is unexpectedly revealed to be a supernatural presence that must evaporate if she voices her love. Meanwhile the Player has caught the eye of a jealous, possessive and manipulative “bad lesbian” upper-class-woman who can turn the self-assured Player into a simpering easily blackmailed victim. The Moral monogamist catches the bad actor sexually assaulting the Player, chases her down the hall and bludgeons her with a fire extinguisher. Scandal and expulsion ensue.

Some month later, the almost completely reformed Player tracks down her saviour, they exchange vows and consummate their romance. The vows are right out of The Song of the Wind and Trees and Thomas era Bishonen proto BL tales, though the newer English scanlations cut them down in length considerably and thereby lose the reference. A series of lighthearted comedic after-stories establish the happy couple in a lesbian isolationist social, but add one more junior member to the menage, because what the hell, this is yuri pr0n. Further omake have a shy new character repeatedly visiting a lesbian bar to try to come out and find true love among a clientele that seems to be mostly graduates of the old boarding school. However the new girl’s chances are repeatedly thwarted as old friends reconnect and an out of control drunken office lady keeps butting in and stealing all the fun. Eventually the OL and the new girl are set to collide and we can presume a happy ending ensues.

(8) A similar cross-genre appropriative strategy can be found in one of the signature works of the jousou/ otokonoko genre, Suemitsu Dicca’s Reversible. Here you have boys and cross-dressed boys in a classic boarding school isolationist space, in a genre that is a blatant effort to re-tread BL tales for a straight, mildly kinked male audience. What unfolds is yuri-ish with male bodies. Sneaky!

(9) From the respective Wikipedia entries:
Whispered Words (Japanese: ささめきこと Hepburn: Sasameki Koto?) is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takashi Ikeda May 26, 2007 and September 27, 2011.

Sumika Murasame (村雨 純夏 Murasame Sumika?)
The main character of the story, Sumika is intelligent, tall with long black hair and athletically gifted

Ushio Kazama (風間 汐 Kazama Ushio?)
Sumika’s best friend and classmate who lives alone with her brother, Ushio is a naive girl madly in love with cute girls. She often gets crushes but they are all one-sided.

Tomoe Hachisuka (蓮賀 朋絵 Hachisuka Tomoe?)
A classmate of Sumika and Ushio who is also a lesbian. She is in a relationship with another classmate, Miyako Taema. She is 18 years old, having taken two years off from school to save her family’s corporation from bankruptcy (a feat publicly attributed to her father). Due to this age difference, she has a more mature outlook on life than the other characters. The Hachisuka family is very wealthy and traditional, but they have no choice but to accept Tomoe’s habits.

Miyako Taema (当麻 みやこ Taema Miyako?)
Tomoe’s girlfriend. While she looks like an innocent and clumsy girl, and is popular with boys (who nickname her “Princess”), her true self is quite different, having a devilish, bad-mannered personality, and is always prone to bad-mouth or tease other people. Tomoe is the only one able to ‘control’ her; they are always together, and for this reason they had no friends before befriending Sumika and the others. Miyako is a daughter of Hachisuka family’s driver, a fact that doesn’t sit well with the rest of Tomoe’s household, but as with other things, they cannot go against her.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whispered_Words

Sweet Blue Flowers, known in Japan as Aoi Hana (青い花?, lit. Blue Flower), is a Japanese yuri manga series written and illustrated by Takako Shimura. It was serialized between November 2004 and July 2013

Fumi Manjōme (万城目 ふみ Manjōme Fumi?)
Fumi is a first-year student at Matsuoka Girl’s High School, and is a tall, shy girl prone to crying. Fumi comes back to the town she grew up in and she meets, without realizing it, her childhood friend Akira Okudaira. When they were much younger, Akira had been Fumi’s bodyguard, keeping her out of harm and consoling her when she cried. Fumi is a lesbian and had her first romantic relationship with her older female cousin Chizu Hanashiro, with whom she had sex [note: when she was 13 yikes!]. Soon after Fumi moves back to Kamakura, she finds out Chizu will soon get married to a man she has never met. Not long after meeting Yasuko Sugimoto in the literature club, Fumi develops a crush on Yasuko, who later asks her out.

Akira Okudaira (奥平 あきら Okudaira Akira?)
Akira, nicknamed “Ah” by some of her friends, is an innocent and cheerful girl in her first-year at Fujigaya Girls Academy. She is the childhood friend of Fumi and after meeting her again after ten years is friends again. She acts as a main source of advice for Fumi.

Yasuko Sugimoto (杉本 恭己 Sugimoto Yasuko?)
Yasuko is a popular third-year senior at Matsuoka Girl’s High School. She is a cool upperclassman and the captain of the basketball team, though Fumi mistakes her for being in the literature club when they first meet. After visiting Fujigaya Girls Academy and rejecting Kyōko’s confession, she asks Fumi out, who accepts. Yasuko developed romantic feelings for a teacher, Masanori Kagami, when she was attending Fujigaya. After his rejection, she switched schools and changed focus from drama to basketball. Yasuko has three older sisters who all attended Fujigaya: Shinako, Kazusa, and Kuri.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sweet_Blue_Flowers

(10) Impersonating and performing queer sexuality
in the cosplay zone by Katrien Jacobs, The Chinese University, Hong Kong
http://www.participations.org/Volume%2010/Issue%202/3.pdf

(11) Contrast this to the behaviour of the wealthy Sugimoto family in Blue Flowers. Although some members indulge their private female same-sex desires, they show no solidarity and offer no support to any outsiders. They look after their own interests, act in instrumental, rather than sentimental ways and the devil take the hindmost. They use other people, that’s what other people are for. Hello realism, you suck.

(12) When a “male” reads shōjo manga by ITŌ Kimio
(trans. Miyake Toshio)
http://imrc.jp/images/upload/lecture/data/169-175chap11Ito20101224.pdf

(13) Almost completely off topic, but adult work and home life in Japan are functional homosocials until retirement and then it all goes to heck – Pratchett would suggest they need man-sheds!
see Autonomy, Reciprocity and Communication in Older Spouse Relationships by Akiko Oda
http://www.dijtokyo.org/articles/JS21_oda.pdf

(14) Whew! I am glad we’re talking about a fictional universe, with fictional characters, made by one privileged member of his society. I am an outlander with similar privilege in my society, so of course I’m going open my big stupid and make silly suggestions. Meanwhile the politics in meatspace surrounding minority sexualities and gender expressions these days is angry and dire, and this old ain’t going anywhere near it. If it even looks like I am, I withdraw further and tender ritual apologies. Include me out, but I hope it all works out well. Please come to a happy agreement and be safe.