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.

Continue reading

Genshiken 123-124: the honorable schoolboy

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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?

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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)

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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.

Small gods

On “then he woke up a girl” genderbending stories..

Why oh why? (mild spoilers ensue)

Of all the varieties of bent gender and desire manga tales out there, the magic vanishing wee-wee is generally considered the lamest. Yet they remain popular. A wizard did it (It’s effing magic!) The guy MC reacts in shock, runs around and has to learn how to be that most curious type of being; a female or rather a shoujo.

Merlin web600

Put aside cross dressing stories and clumsy depictions of might-be m2f transfolk. The god/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids instant sex change cuts to the chase. Buddy boy is now a %100 cis girl and it looks like he will stay that way for a while. A new life waits for you in the outer colonies. No more wake every morning and give praise to your sky-daddy that you were not born a woman. Suddenly half the world’s population is a threat and huge swaths of organised belief systems’ followers consider you as merchandise. It is a wonder that most of these magic m2f tales don’t end in serial carnage. Step one: make friends with Koko Hekmatyar and Murcielago. Step two: PREEMPT!

Hold on a sec! We read silly comics like this so that we can avoid all the really horrible, heartbreaking, depressing, anger-stoking, soul-sucking REAL crap that is going on in the world. Don’t bring grim reality into the discussion, please!

Your average he woke up and now he’s a girl gag manga will not have the main chara on vacation in Turkey (c.f. Orlando – see below) waking up in a seaside resort room to find that he is now a girl and then taking a stroll on the beach where she will find the washed up dead bodies of children who died when a refugee smuggling ship capsized.

Or…

The plucky journalist intern now-heroine will not wake up in a hotel in Iowa for some American political primary thing (on a cold winter morning when the nearby river has frozen over c.f. Orlando – again see below) to face the horrible realization that every single candidate running for that party’s nomination in next year’s presidential election is deeply wounded, flawed, dangerously incompetent or wildly out of their sphere of competence, mendacious to the point of schizophrenic delusion and beholden to Bond-villain billionaires (except the Bond-villain billionaire who has cut out the middleman and is running himself – “Expect Mr. Bond? I expect you to MAAAAAKE AMURRIKA GREAT and VOTE for ME!”) and that all are out to win the votes of angry violent scared mostly guys who look at the franchise as an excuse for some nihilistic therapy theatre that, incidentally involves kicking down on women… Except for the one woman candidate who royally screwed up a major corporation, left with a golden parachute and ran a very stupid and amateur tv campaign last time she tried for public office, involving an actor with glowing red eyes crawling around while cosplaying a sheep. And… that one of these crazies might actually win and screw with the life support systems next year!!! Of course there is the other party. The socialist might win. If the ex-Secretary of State Secrecy wins, it will be five years of unrelenting trench warfare backlash from the party of “Everyone we hate and fear must be our slaves! Only then can we feel safe and happy!“, as it was when a black man got elected.

Crawl back into bed, draw covers over head. Stay there.

Or you could be in Japan. Maybe magically gender switched main character wanders into a 200,000 person strong demonstration that no politician will ever listen to, no right-wing newspaper will ever report, and the few centrist news sources left are too scared of a tax audit or pressure on their advertisers to make much of and that half of what they report can be retroactively classified as “secret” to land any reporter or blogger who mentions it in jail and despite that, the next thing you know she is on a viral nico-nico clip and she will be kicked out of University and never get more than a temp job for the rest of her life.(1)

Or maybe she will get lucky and just die in a shootout between yakuza as a bunch of 70-year-old guys fight it out to see who can control all the prostitution, woman-trafficking and loan-sharking in Japan.

Maybe everybody will get lucky, the global economy will melt down and some Chinese generals will go nuts and try to start a war with Japan to distract their citizenry and seize power as everybody’s life savings, food supplies and job prospects turn into dog shit.

Or they’ll just be another earthquake, tsunami, floods, mudslides and a nuclear meltdown.

Oh Fuck!

Escapism, you say? What’s wrong with a little escapism?

So, there is this nice idyllic high-school or university situation, and this guy with friends and someone he is nerving up to start chatting with…

Ahhhhhhhh! Bliss… What could go wrong?

If the work is a webcomic called The Amazing Girl-Boy’s Adventures in Femininity, expect the First Law to be enforced.
-TV TROPES – The First Law Of Gender Bending http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/FirstLawOfGenderBending

It is always good to process the received wisdom from TV Tropes early on in an analysis. It gets the generally agreed upon stuff out onto the table. Along with the first law (Buddy Girl is not going to get to change back soon or easily) the second and third laws are worth considering as well: eventually new-she will grow to think “this isn’t too bad” and manifest some degree of acceptance. As well (3rd law) circumstance will manifest so that full gender-appropriate behaviour will be nudged at the MC – otherwise we won’t get any cognitive dissonance, bathing suit pages or even much of a story

I must exclude wish-fulfillment tales of magical medical M2F procedures; making sport of them would trespass on the dreams of people who wish it all could be that easy. Everybody is entitled to their aspirational fiction and dreams are sacred, so I’m declaring a no-go zone and sticking with the rude comedy versions where the MC gets blindsided by the change. Conversely, I will also exclude magical take-backs that involve water splashing, etc., as not fully committed to the cause. Similar problems plague the body-swapping genre; the new body is not really “theirs”. The double-double universe Japan with lawd-knows what pheromone cues (?) that cause some folks to fall into a torpor and emerge from cocoons a year later as an X (usually a girl) gets a conditional pass, even though the “natural-ness” of the occurence takes away almost all of the comedy potential. It misses most of the evil gags. Being girl-ified has to be a cosmic mishap or it ain’t scary-funny.

[Hachimitsu Hana_wa_Nisemono_c04_15 Web600

It should be noted that the magic change saves the author the trouble of making up new and odd ideas sexuality and gender, so the potential for some really clumsy and insulting depictions are reduced. A full gender-swap avoids issues of gender dysphoria. Overtly nasty institutional and individual oppressive male behaviour will similarly be avoided, because males – we guy readers are good people; there is no profit in making the male readership feel like we are all one step away from being evil scum. And it makes writing in a villain easy. As well, any and all guy author misapprehensions of women can be saved for Buddy-Girl to act out, because she used to be a gormless guy and there’s plenty of uncomfortable joke material to be cycled through playing with this. The usual problems of a guy trying to write female heroes and about female socials are turned from a bug into a feature.

God/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids turning the girl permanently into a boy stories are much rarer. Often the girl is swapped as part of pair and she turns into a jerk.

LATER: Although the “mistaken for a boy” stories generally are more sympathetic: Boku wa Ohime-sama ni Narenai and Ouran Host Club spring to mind.

Why no boy who turns into girl becomes a real be-aytch and causes gossip, drama and comeuppance among the mean girls who deserved it? An ex-guy could never pull it off. Why no stereotype raging drag queen gets turned? Too weird, too insulting, not funny. There is one weird variant where a town full of high school girls are turned into mid-40’s salarymen but I have never been able to wrap my mind around it. A+ for imagination though, even if later I found that there is a small niche of fujoshi who really, really like stories involving steamy romance between mid-40’s rumpled males – but why start with high school girl raw materials? Instead of first menstruation horrors, will the fujoshi readership get to laugh at the terror of prostate biopsies? (Don’t ask.. ) Come to think of it, none of the Buddy Girl manga I have run into have our hero facing the stirrups and the lady-parts exam. That might be just too much for the male readership, though I dimly recall a Girl Saurus arc that had a young scared protagonist getting drafted into accompanying his mom to a ladies health clinic. The woman mangaka who penned Girl Saurus was ruthless when it came to scaring boys.

As for rotten girls: why no enthusiastic Rika-kun boy-for-a-day/ week/ month?

Turning a fujoshi into a guy would be a natural, one would think, right? Many laffs ensue, much bumbling around, importuning males, trying to find a suitable straight guy to put though heck (we assume she is hardcore and pestering a gay male just wouldn’t be enough fun). I suppose that rotten girl dojinkas wont do it and mangakas that want to lob a few stink bombs at fujoshi have easier targets.

Insensitivities aside, the reason we keep getting these stock weenie-vanish tales is because they ARE funny. Easy funny. Plenty of laff material. Lots of uncomfortable-enough that can be mined for whew!

There is even one scan group that seems to specialize only in m2f gender benders. What oh what do their loyal readers get from the stuff? I wonder what the demographic is? They practically have a lock on the back catalogue of m2f mischief stories, which make up a subset of the gender bender opus. How long does the genre goes back?

Mishima tried it in his Sea of Fertility with re-incarnation. Heinlein did a medico-supernatural m2f tale how many decades ago(?) complete with a spanking fetish (one of RAH’s minor embarrassing faves, whatever…) John Varley went overboard with his exiled-from-earth by alien dolphins humans getting sex changes whenever they felt like it in a number of his short stories and in his Popular Mechanics Guide to Suicidal Depression; Steel Beach. His characters remain essentially male, even when they suffer miscarriages. Virginia Wolf’s Orlando [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando:_A_Biography] seems to find few modern analogues in CJVC, or they aren’t filtering down through the grey reaches of the world-wide intertubes;

Aren’t we inventive? We guys have been making up our own ideas of the feminine for eons.I have always considered Wolf’s detached treatment far superior to the way us guys go about it. No spanking kinks needed.

Why oh Why?

Magical castration is funny.

Mild ecchi/ service/ auto-sekuhara. Wow, I finally get to fondle boobs and what’s-all-this-now down here? Wheeeeeeeeeee! As the goddess said to Tireseus: STFU!

Curiosity/ tourism/ girl’s locker room. Ex-guy finally learns how to make friends.

Rom-com to 11 ending in reassurance.

A few pokes at what constitutes identity formation in the modernist subject.

“It immediately raises the question of what is expected, or anticipated, of a man.
It immediately raises the question of what is expected, or anticipated, of a woman.”
https://1000paperwishes.wordpress.com/2015/07/15/miscellaneous-musings-on-gender-bender-and-transgender-manga/

Well, duh… Cut to the manga.

Hana Wa Nisemono by Hiroko Sengoku (love that pen-name)

At first glance, this little manga looks a bit too thin to build an essay on. Its quirks redeem it. God-swapping the sex of one of the guys in a tentative young gay male couple at first seems cruel, but it is all handled tastefully enough. The young University-going couple is just getting over their shyness enough to think about… Then Blam! Kami is an iron (Doddering Kami-sama is just trying to help) This one is a pure shoujo variant, which makes it very big on thinking about the relationship that just got messed with. And it doesn’t shy away from physical considerations. New girl gets cramps, her period and blood leakage on her new white skirt. Oh Heck! More to the shoujo is the obsessive over thinking about relationship etiquette; what would the beloved want/ need as best for him, blah blah blah. Finally they nerve up enough to “try it” just as kami- sama intervenes again and switches both of their sexes. BLAM! Virtual Yaoi-us interruptus. Boyfriend is even more shocked than MC was, even though he gets a ZOMG girl body. Next day kami-sama throws up its (his) hands and restores all. Do the lads finally make the rotten girl readership happy with tubs of lotion (if you try to find sex-lube for sale in Japan you will come up rather dry until you look for “lotion”) and pages of weird positions? Not that kind of manga! The now-restored to guy-ness couple spends a few more days talking it out. They consider things a lot, they are very consider-ate. (The Jane Austin effect) One would think they will eventually retire to a hotel to discuss environmental policy ethics and play euchre. S-class BL.

A look at the discussion forums for the scans shows a lot of folks wondering why the MC doesn’t go with Y or dump X or whether the relationship can continue because of the self, vs the societally dictated and hormone driven preference: in short, relationshippy discussion ensues, as it should for a relationshippy story. I will not try to guess the genders and sexualities of the correspondents, but the whole discussion gives off a very shojo-ish vibe. It is interesting how the tiny questions that pop up with the vanilla grade transformation story get a more considered airing when the couple are young gay males rather than the shocked straight boy and his crush. We really need rule 3 above, plus eventually rule 2 to keep a straight boy transformation on track, otherwise kami-sama is just creating a whole bunch of bifauxnen lesbians and/or soon to be trans-men (no, I really am a guy trapped …)

At this point, one can also point out that rule 3 needs to be expanded or even given a subsection. Rule 3.1 should mention that god/magic/aliens/drugs/radiation/triffids do not create ugly or even plain girls. The unfortunate MC may be a bit androgynous, may not get a D-cup, but she won’t be fugly, overweight, gonk-ish or deformed in any manner. She will not be a female body builder or even a plain girl who has to load on the make-up, like Genshiken’s Keiko, in order to properly present as a good-looking female. A rule 4 would be useful too, as previous, that nasty realistic catastrophes do not intrude into the story.

What one could miss if one zipped through the manga is how our hero misses his male homosocial. Sure he’s gay but his male social isn’t sexualized, his buds just want to hang out and do guy things. The girls hang out and do girl things, but that’s part of the usual welcome to the world of girls thing. The focus on the guy’s social is good storytelling. Losing that hurts the MC almost as much as the cramps. Also, given the oddity of the gender swap, the attraction between the two young guys calls out for a sympathetic and respectful treatment (even if a bit of Jane Austin effect creeps in). As the baseline that needs to be returned to, it is what is normal and what needs to be put right. Well and tastefully played by the mangaka!

So yeah; not getting this kind of odd in western comics, or maybe you do now, at least in webcomics.. Ok, yup, some activist comics by folks who are making some point or doing the make visible thing might be doing something like it, but vanilla grade straight boy and girl mangakas doing a well-worn trope up for gags and a reassuring happy ending???

I don’t see it and have not heard of it.

Maybe they stuck it in GLEE. I have been scolded into thinking that they put everything queer-lite in GLEE and that I should be off to the re-education camps, yet I have somehow refrained from downloading and marathoning GLEE from grey sites. I avoided it too while it was on tv, not out of phobosity, but out of Fox-loathing. The last thing I tolerated on the local Fox affiliate was the Stargate franchise and even then I felt dirty. Even if our local Fox station is considered the one damn commie outpost of the Fox Empire and they keep it local and only sneak a teeny bit of wingnut bullshit into the feed… Fox has much to answer for.

But I digress. Back to OMG where’s my phallic signifier.

Compare Nisemomo to Boku Girl, by Akiro Sugito, https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=105986 see also http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Manga/BokuGirl

…where our hero wakes up to find that his guyhood has literally fallen off (or did it bounce out of the bed sheets and across the room?). No menses gags yet. A brief, early bit of idiocy on how to piss like a girl using a western style toilet. A maliciously juvenile rather than a stodgy confused deity. The new transfer student is named Loki Asgard, really? Well I hope she behaves better than last years The Joker Murderous Psychopath-chan. Having to deal with the family and then friends rather than a magic “nobody remembers me as a boy except my crush” situation presents its own plot mojo.

Where Nisemomo trades on pseudo BL for a shoujo vibe, Boku Girl presents the dilemma as a shonen-ish challenge to be overcome, like a video game. Both are somewhat oblivious to any notions of inadvertent hurt/ annoy they might cause to folks who are out collecting micro-grudges and position themselves as light comedy; Boku Girl goes for a bigger side helping of titillation. Readers get to see the better-than-an-otokonoko character in gravure magazine poses and watch everyone squirm as best bud becomes more and more “aware” of the sweet young thing that used to be his ‘bro. Meanwhile our hero sees his crush slip from his-now-her sights to become their new BFF, while they wonder what the proper frame of mind is for navigating the girl’s side of the onsen.

Nisemomo at least has “love”. The characters did long for each other a bit, or were cautiously, tentatively trying to work through the beginnings of love.

A digression on romance:

Boku, like the majority of younger character stories has everyone ticking off the gotta do this to grow up list while dealing with hormones. Desire is a biological effect/ curse that suddenly makes one notice someone like that when they had never before. The crush on the girl is because she is superficially pretty and personable, she might as well be a car. The girl’s crush on the cool boy is similarly superficial.

Like Genshiken with Mada getting bent out of shape because he worked up enough booze fueled courage to try a man-smooch after falling on Hato, he jumps around a lot but he doesn’t get sick to his heart over wanting his one true love. It’s all about me self-consciousness rather than “fuck! why does this hurt so much? This is making me sick in the head and the guts and I can’t stop because I really, really want (her, him, ze)!”

Nobody stops coming to school because they are lovesick. Sometimes shoujo girls stop when embarrassment as a side effect of a crush kicks in but otherwise it is all zoo animal maintenance and husbandry. You need to get into Shinso old-school Yuri to get pining. Or BL. Heart of Thomas starts with a school-boy suicide born out of unrequited pining. Come to think of it, the only time really heavy melodramatic romance-hurt manifested in Genshiken was in the anime’s BL parody sequence. Ogiue and Sas come close, with Ogiue tearfully running off into the woods, but no collapsed on the street in the rain sobbing “I’ve lost you, I’m tainted” shows up in the “real” Genshiken-verse. Window jumping does not count, that was also self-conscious shame, like the run in the woods, rather than pining.

Rom-com teens are considered too shallow to really get severely bent out of shape by love. That makes the mangaka’s job easier too.

Again, I want to emphasise that I am not working through the permutations to amass a collection of meaningless complaints either. I am just winnowing out the obvious non-essentials. The thing about the genre is that it remains dependably funny and new variations still seem to find un-mined veins of hah-hah while reprocessing the tailings for even more yuks. The formula works and it works well. Even if we groan when we see the same gag one more time, we will still let slip a smile. Reassurance is reassuring.

Jeebus and his saggy eared flatmate! Buddy Girl can’t figure out how to sit on a pot and piss? Duh!

At this point, I want to add Tomo-chan wa OnnanoKo! by Yanagida Fumita,
https://www.mangaupdates.com/series.html?id=120945 into the mix, for purposes of triangulation. It is very simple and funny and no has need to tipy-toe around potentially insulting misrepresentations of anyone. No one has to have their gender changed for laughs. Tomo-chan is just a run-of-the-mill strong tomboy girl who gives a rats ass about girly stuff, relationship stuff and couldn’t read a tense high-school girl’s clique-battle-vibe to save her life. Why bother. “Buddy boy is my childhood friend, who else can I scrap with if he ain’t around?

It is refreshing. Tomo, the ultimate tomboy friend (that name) is too dense to notice the mean girls who want to snag her ‘bud, (and strong enough to scare them off any ideas of bullying her) or the sweet dumb blonde who isn’t really all that sweet or dumb and wants to snag… Or that her one female frienemy confidant has mixed feelings about giving her advice but thinks that watching Tomo-chan try to figure out her teeny tiny developing feelings for her friend (as well as his growing, hard-to-suppress feelings for her) is great entertainment…

I really want to see her work up her concern and resolve and declare to her buddy that “when the time comes, and he starts to get uncomfortable feelings for girls, that she will volunteer to be his girlfriend to protect him, because he is too pure and as a girl, she understands these things and she could not stand to see him getting his heart-broken.” Meanwhile, much blood will slowly drip out of his mouth from his bitten tongue. Aesop for guys: More dudes have found happiness by keeping quiet at the right moment than by opening their yaps. I’m just playset-ing, but if I nail it, I expect to win an internets for my Cpt Obvious insights.

Back to curiosity/ gender tourism/ girl’s locker room/ make friends the hard way

“In all three stories, the only way that the male protagonist is able to get near the girl he likes is to become a girl himself. All three boys have difficulty with dealing with the opposite sex. They, like most men, simply fear rejection. Hazumo confessed his feelings to his love, and was crushed when she couldn’t love him back. Akira and Rando are too timid to even try, so they just sit on the sidelines and dream about the relationship they can be having. This is a fear that many teenage otaku know all too well.
[later…]
This feminine kinship gives the hero, as well as the reader, a voyeuristic opportunity to catch girls off guard doing things they wouldn’t do with men around. Most of the time, this just involves nudity. As the girls change their clothes in the locker room, or bath[e] together, the men get a front row view without ever getting in trouble or punish[ed] for it.
Sophomoric? Maybe. Pathetic? Highly likely. However, it does provide some nice fan service. When you’re going for a romantic story aimed at young men, sex is a necessity because it is a very dominate [oh fer spellcheck puh-lease!] urge for the audience. And by making the other girls completely comfortable with (though still ignorant of) being naked around the male protagonist, this somewhat lessens the shame of voyeurism.”
http://animealmanac.com/2008/02/20/androgyny-and-gender-bending-part-iii-boys-become-girls/

As well the new-girl cheesecake gives the readers an extra perv-lite thrill. Somewhat like cross-dressing or gender-dysphoria stories, the readership gets the “but she’s really a boy” frisson from otherwise gratuitous service scenes. Suddenly they are not just plotless displays of female flesh. Admittedly, the readership we are talking about here is presumed male, which is why the POV catered to in Nisemomo is interesting – theorists have long gone on that BL males, nominally gay or not, very easily slip into being “upgraded males” in the sense that while they lust like guys, they consider and do romance in a way more enjoyable for the female fans. If this gets confusing, just think of it as if one kami already got to Nisemomo’s couple before the kami in the story messed about.

Oh heck, brain beginning to hurt!

In some ways the (male-gaze) readership also gets a funny-light version of all the horrible fear-mongering levelled at transfolk and to a lesser degree at those who have same-sex desire; bathrooms, change rooms, peeking, voyeurism, improper glances, the potential for assault and the disturbance of the division and enforcement of gender and desire norms within the social order. Recall that some variants of world religions consider male locker rooms full of nominally straight males immodest.

Wanna really stretch out this line of inquiry? Perhaps the comedy of such situations lies even deeper than gender separation in Japan’s sacred nekkid spaces and derives from the breaking of unspoken norms of societal cohesiveness, japanese-ness and same-ness. A skinny middle-aged gaijin guy with a stooped back and no tattoos is tolerated in the men’s side at a resort onsen, but shunned at the neighborhood sento. He gets into the pool, all else leave. He goes into the steam room, all else leave. Didn’t he make a show of scrubbing himself 3 times clean all over? It is not like he is hung like a horse or anything. How uncomfortable. I wonder if he should complain bitterly about the experience over on some outlander blog? Better to warn those who would follow that Japanese sentos do not believe in chlorine. Keep your head above water unless you want a nasty ear infection. I am sure that the neighbourhood old dudes would get used to him eventually. The MC’s new body sets up a same-ok/ not-same uncomfortable oscillation in the readership that could go deeper than gender or sexuality. We outlanders might be missing something during the Genshiken sento scenes; a correspondent who taught in Korea notes that her breasts were often a subject of curiosity in the women’s bath, which now must be looked at not as envy or curiosity but a ritual excuse to welcome her into the social.

Too much speculative pop sociology!

Note as well that all of these gender-swap stories also assume that women are for all practical purposes, by guy standards, mostly asexual. Even freaky pushy harem girls who want to catch a boy are not really sexual per se, as their desires are really for societal scripts of marriage, fulfilment, love capitalism or at best romantic love as a precondition to bedroom antics. The idea that a female character would want to just DO the guy because say, his fingers are sexy and he elicits physical desire in her makes Genshiken’s Angela a bit rarer than first glance suggests. Usually such forward sexuality is the realm of the scary older woman or plain plotless smut. Fortunately the busty blonde outlander girls are incomprehensible trick can cover the lapse in Genshiken. The guys, even the guy who got zapped is assumed to still harbor a jack-rabbit libido, held only in check by crushing shyness.

Worse, if the shoujo ever evinces desire, it is towards the aloof or asshole alpha and not the loser guy (now girl) pining in the background. More disappointment. No wonder guys like Yuri; the girls at least show desire that we can somewhat understand, while we cheer on any directness – although the better variants handle it in a far more classy way than we would try. In the case of the gender-swapped MC he-now-she ends up dealing not only with his leftover male want-now sexuality, but with the new normal of how girls are supposed to desire, plus the it feels gay effect if his new body’s hormones find his attention wandering towards his best buddy. It would all be easier if he-now-she just became a lesbian, but that never works either and the girl of his ex-dreams is not about to encourage it. She will never suddenly up and declare that the change is wonderful, because she always thought he was girly-cute, but never cute enough for her to bother with, due to her own quietly bubbling away preferences, but now…

In a cheesy and ridiculous way, the nominally straight, nominally male readership gets a chance to vicariously explore gender confusion from a subjective, but safe point of view and perhaps even empathize with real folks caught up in their own non-conforming desires and identities. Because “god”/ unforeseen external random circumstance imposed the change, arguments about tribal ideas of morality fall aside. Buddy Girl didn’t just decide to go queer to act depraved against all scriptural laws. But Buddy Girl is definitely queer in a working sense. She has girl-parts and girl hormones rushing through her brain and body, so it is natural that she would start thinking about that guy. But the “I” is male and to the guy mind that feels “gay”. The “I” also remembers desire for that special girl, and in the locker room it is still embarrassing because It is checking out the other girl’s bodies. Damn, It checks out its new body all the time too. Or the more ambitious obverse is going on, as in Hana Wa Nisemono.
Then there is ex-special girl/ new BFF. The new female-ish special friendship is so intense, almost intimate – is this normal? Does Buddy-Girl’s residual guy mind betray it? and where is all this wimpy proper consideration mull it over, try to figure out all the options stuff coming from? Hormones? A newfound sense of morality? Chickenshit narcissism? A realistic fear of physical and social sanction if she acts too direct and aggressive?

Confusion is accentuated to make a point, but confusion, even if it is the natural state of human existence is BAD. Recall the Book of Leviticus. Don’t mix stuff! This is good, that is bad! Don’t mix them! This behaves this way, that behaves that way or the tribe should kill you! Even wonderfully polytheistic Japan has its elaborate rules of Shinto purity and defilement to keep dangerous categories apart.

A final digression: 25 years ago Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist Hothead Paisan [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hothead_Paisan] was walking down a grotty sidewalk with her new girlfriend when a big drunk guy starts hassling them. Before Hothead can shoot him and cut his nuts off, lanky-thin girlfriend straight-arm punches the fool and leaves him in a pile of bleedy-crushed face. Girlfriend then reveals that she is a post-op transwoman (who has a mean snapping jab of a punch) and apologizes for not yet having the time to mention it. Hothead looks her up and down, shrugs and then takes her hand and they walk off into the sunset (and later to a truly horrific meet her family scene, which would probably be impolitic today, but hey, you got problems, take it up with the author). Proof that you can find some real classy treatments of the same old same old when the author isn’t completely pulling minority sexualities out of their ass and writes from the heart.

hothead paisan collection cover web600

Aside cont: The collected HP works are not really for squeamish guys; the plucky heroine does not like any males at all. It seems we are all prone to unforgivable lapses of rudeness. She doesn’t even tolerate gay males but usually refrains from maiming them. Daphne however is the girl who Hothead likes and everything else is just bullshit. Hooray for romance! It was an interesting read for me, way back when. Straight women friends of university going age seemed to find her adventures hilarious and somewhat cathartic. See also: http://dangerousminds.net/comments/bring_back_hothead_paisan_homicidal_lesbian_terrorist

A romantic comedy with extra low comedy on top.

You can’t avoid the appeal of the comedy bits. The Shazzaam you’re a girl is a step up from plain vanilla rom-coms or teen sex comedies. It is hard enough to figure out who the hell you are during those years. Hard to figure out attraction, dating and romance. Add gender identity confusion (no, not the serious kind) and by inference sexuality and you get a slow motion train wreck. Boku Girl at least has the sense to drop a malicious godling into the stew so as to lampshade the elaborate slapstick setups. Her job is to keep you from groaning over the mangaka’s sleight of hand. Given that the MC will now be a girl-ex-man of constant sorrow, it’s a miracle that any of these magical gender-swap victims ever venture out of their rooms once the whoops takes place. If these stories were more ambitious, each would start with someone being sent to deliver notes to the class hikikomori. All manga and anime hikis should be magical gender-swap victims. (or they think they are.. hmmmm.. story potential! The everyone remembers variant vs the no one remembers variant…)

“I’m now a girl! You always were, No I wasn’t! Well you’re one now. But I still like girls!  Everyone in class knew that you were THAT WAY Keiko, please come to class, no one will bully you… My name is Takeshi! Sure, Takeshi. Keiko, whatever…

Adding gender-role norm screw-ups to a teen romcom is like stuffing extra scoops of ice cream into a too-small cone. If there was a way to then cram all of this fun into a harem grinder as well the otaku population of Japan and then that of the rest of the world would go into a state of catatonic bliss, except for the folks at studio SHAFT who would have to pull all-nighters to make an even weirder and more annoying version than the manga. (Hmmmm.. there was a new Nyarko OVA out recently, missed opportunity, diff studio, dratt!)

How about a further variant on the appeal of the new-girl character as lazy otokonoko/josou genre story:

“So setting aside preoccupation with gender, josou shounen anime characters are typically even more feminine and approachable than actual girl characters are. The argument may be made, in this case, that cute is cute, regardless of gender. But if that’s the case, why would heterosexual otaku supplement or even supplant attraction to female characters with josou shounen characters? Some otaku may be partially shifting their interest in cute anime girls onto cute anime boys that look like girls because the later provide the same opportunity for moé obsession without the need to respect conventional masculine and feminine gender roles.”
http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

Well, that might play a bit to the popularity of the genre, even if all the surface action is the MC’s “new confusing plight”. It also serves as a good intro to one final take on the popularity of the genre: it is admittedly a bit of a stretch, but whothteheck!

For Science!

The pop-lacanian trauma re-visited. Note the assumed gender of the readership:

“Even though these characters are still male inside, their outward female appearance allows the reader to fully accept them as girls at times. This presents a very unique experience for the reader that is very rarely felt with other types of comics. When the reader focuses on the hero’s motives and personality, he identifies the character as purely male. The reader relates with the hero’s desire for love and sex when being around so many beautiful women, and this creates an empathic admiration from the reader to the hero. But when the reader focuses on the character’s physical appearance, he can’t help but to identify the character as female. Not only female, but a very cute and attractive female. When this happens, the male reader actually becomes sexually attracted to the protagonist.

This switch between platonic admiration towards the boy-side and sexual attraction towards the girl-side happens very quickly when reading these stories. It could even take place while the reader’s eye goes from reading dialog in word bubble to looking at the drawing inside of that panel. This constant toggle between the two feelings eventually merges together until the reader no longer distinguishes the gender of the hero. The reader loses himself into the fantasy of manga and forms a unique feeling towards the hero for being both male and female.

Is this the same kind of unique feeling that girl get when reading yaoi? I’m not sure. But as we can see, androgyny and gender bending in anime and manga is a pretty interesting experience for both male and female otaku.

Just another example of why I love this medium so much.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 20th, 2008 at 8:04 pm by Scott .”
http://animealmanac.com/2008/02/20/androgyny-and-gender-bending-part-iii-boys-become-girls/

Which, despite the naive presentation is a damn fine bit of testimony that tries to tease out a very subjective take on reading the stuff. It is also a good approach, with suitable tweaking, to toss on the “why do the rotten girls?” pile as well.

Of course it leaves out the next step, the Dr. Tamaki post-lacanian ‘wound”; the “Holy shit! What did I just do to my desiring wiring?” feeling as well as the “Why do I feel like this about a cartoon character?” hysterical (hah! nice word choice) trauma that must then be mastered, reproduced and shared.

It might well be that a taste for this kind of jolt is what fuels the essential pervy-ness of Japanese visual culture fandom. The flip side of “iki” is the wide range of virtual walk(s) on the wild side(s) available to the readership. Even without the cult of Lacan messing things up, one can at least say that the gender-swap genre is a fine trick for feeding boy readers some warmed over shoujo leftovers.

Of course the things can be read as modern fables and just for laughs as well. Ambitious storytellers will spin out profitable tales.

As alluded to above, the main engine of continuing fun is our newly minted heroine’s quest to get back his manhood. Of course he also wants the girl he was crushing on before the change, and then there is the problem of his friend looking at him that way, but if he were to give up and accept shoujo-dom the game ends (rule 2 is kept around if you need a quick wrap-up). The story needs the treadmill to keep buddy-girl running. Unlike stock rom-coms that trade on insecurity and shared recognition of the absurdity of desire/ dating fail, but then give us a happy ending to confirm that it is all worth it, the gender swap tale can go on for an absurdly long run. Few rom-coms alone can work on such a stoic note.. All fail, all the time but the journey is worth it for the absurd yuks. The MC will end up ronery no matter what, so forward, make like an idiot and enjoy! MC must somehow not give up and throw self off the school roof.

Quit not thine day job!

What else can be said about the fantasy nature of the genre? All of the charas are destined for penury if they don’t get their priorities straight. Capital knows very little compassion. Any lifestyle is a commodity you will pay for it, one way or another. If however, they get their priorities in line with contemporary economic trends, the story ends. I would venture that even the most conservative Japanese parents would put aside concerns over their child’s sexuality and gender expression if the child was a super swot and looked like they could snag a full scholarship at Tokai.

“Heh Keiko, you back at school?”
“Yeah, and cram school after until 10pm, every night and all day Saturday. English lessons Sunday all day. Fine! I’m a girl, whatever… Boy or girl, what I am not going to be is dirt poor. What about you Takeshi, how’s the top surgery?”
“Doesn’t hurt so much now. Shit, I wish I could have gotten some of your magical swap stuff, but I still will be a man, even if I have to do it the hard way. See you at cram school.”
“Yeah, getting settled with your gender and sexuality is great, but unless you learn how to be a software engineer with a side interest in start-up financing or a math wizard into international currency markets and A.I. modelling how’s a girl or boy to eat? Japan economy ichiban clusterfuck! I figure whatever I want will be a lot easier after I make my first billion.”
“Yup! Money first! Money is sexuality! Money is gender! Money is freedom!”

LATER: Random intrusions from nasty reality

(1) Blacklisted for life? It’s happened before in Japan, Some SEALDs consider the possibilities today:
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2015/08/30/issues/sealds-student-activists-worry-not-getting-hired/#.VgxonuxVikr

SEALDs (Students Emergency Action for Liberal Democracy): Research Note on Contemporary Youth Politics in Japan by David H. Slater, Robin O’Day, Satsuki Uno, Love Kindstrand, Chiharu Takano, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 37, No. 1, September 14, 2015
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Chiharu-Takano/4375/article.html

How pop music sneaks into Japanese activism: Music in Japanese Antinuclear Demonstrations: The Evolution of a Contentious Performance Model by Noriko Manabe, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 42, No. 3, October 21, 2013.
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Noriko-MANABE/4015/article.html

Differentiating SEALDs from Freeters, and Precariats: the politics of youth movements in contemporary Japan by Robin O’Day, The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 13, Issue. 37, No. 2, September 14, 2015
http://www.japanfocus.org/-Robin-O_Day/4376/article.html

A cat is fine too

Mada almost lost his shirt

Harunobu Madarame almost lost his t-shirt

(mild ch 111 spoilers follow…)

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

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

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

I will not be forever denied!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lust und figurines

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

the louche couple

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

Ogiue bliss

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

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

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

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

I am beginning to miss the Stands.

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

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

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

Wait, order now and we’ll include:

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

…Until…

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

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

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

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

Read powerful manga web

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

hormones gekikun web

Risa! Wheeeeerrrrre arrre youuuuuuuuu?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Must I mention freight trains again?

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

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

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

tainted web

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

On the other hand…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or did he? 

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

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

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

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

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

BoooWaaah!

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

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

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

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

So yeah, missed this convincing take on the harem:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t go there…

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

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

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

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

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

Braaaaaiiiins !!!

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

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

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

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

Legends of the fall, conditions of the fall

The fall Genshiken web

Spoiler lamp ON for Genshiken Ch 110.

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

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

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

Qualia clench web

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

tomodochi get goggles real bad web

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

typical otokonoko fall web

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

thomas_fall web

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

Thomas web

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

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

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

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

HSDXD clench fall web

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But then…

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

3 pages later…

Trip and fall accomplished!

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

Resume game.

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

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

…but nooooooooooo….

sherlock-john-drunk

Holmes and Watson are friends.

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

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

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

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

“This sucks!”

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

Hmmmmph!

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

Nawwwww… Don’t tell me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Back to our steamy hotel room scene:

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

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

BULLSHIT!

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

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

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

BULLSHIT!

“Hato-kun, no, Kenjiro, really…”

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

“Pantsu!”

“Ufu Fu Ufu…”

“You read waaaaaaaaay too much BL!

Don’t I get to prepare my heart?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The situation was funny; now it is getting heavy.

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

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

How is Kio Shimoku going to play this?

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

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

The kid only falls for sempais?

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

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

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

How Marxian of the mangaka.

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

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

Genshiken 104: The Fire Sermon

“Oh the moon shone bright on Mrs. Porter and on her daughter. They wash their feet in soda water” – Slavoj Žižek

C104p4 no BL this time

Behold Hato-chan V2 as she decides to create a full manga narrative.

c104p14 discouraged

And then behold the setback. The look of disappointment on her face is shocking, verging on tragic even though we are diverted by the greater shock of finding out the Yajima can plot out very effectively funny 4-koma works. We are used to seeing Hato succeed effortlessly in pretty much everything he or she tries, so of course a lapse is telling.

Previous failures were always presented more in the manner of a two-sided quirky “super power”: he cannot draw well unless crossdressed, and then she can only draw steamy m/m clench scenes. This both bolsters the arguments for becoming Hato-chan within a fujoshi social and gives Hato something to exchange with the rest of the members.

Drawing work-safe manga stories is in no way central to fitting into the magic circle, so getting it perfect the first time does not push the usual compulsion buttons. Of course it is going to be a bit of a slog. It is almost as if Hato’s disappointment stems not from the failure, or from the failure to realise in advance that the manga she drew was a failure but from the fact that this failure that offers no tactical advantage. Perhaps this is too recursive but Hato is nothing if not immensely skilled at fooling his and her self into action. But there is shock on her face as well as disappointment. Could it be that the biggest surprise of the afternoon has been that Hato has just discovered how much she (and he) really, really wanted to be able to tell a story?

c104p22 blank look

Hato is failing at his (and her) first attempt as a mangaka/”auteur”. Hanging out with the fujoshi and exchanging odd smut was supposed to be the promised land. Oh sure, Hato-chan always wanted to be able to draw her (and Hato-kun’s suppressed) fantasies, but that was what the clench scenes were for. Now a new desire is stirring, and failure to easily snag it has left the Hato continuum deeply unsettled. “We did not know that we wanted it!”

What a set-up!

As the creation of a very successful mangaka/ auteur, one who has put in his time and paid his dues creating emotionally dense realistic, dramatic manga (Kagerou Nikki (陽炎日記?) (1995), Yonensei (四年生?) (1997), Gonensei (五年生?) (1998)) Hato is not going to get off easy.

The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka is still very much in its first chapters. We have yet to make it even to the church retreat chapter. We have Hato with a pop-post-Lacanian wound, when he learned of yaoi dojins and that they did something (not -for- but) to him. We have the reinforcing trauma of the high school Art club- his first disastrous attempt at infiltrating a fujoshi social. We have hir debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of hir tiny, limited super-power. Finally we have his stands urging him to ship himself with Madarame and the progression from the fantasy of a classic BL m/m seduction as Hato x Mada to the project of attempting a newer hybrid otokonoko/ otomeyaku Mada x Hato “something”. What mischief will our plucky hero(ine) get up to next?

Unreal City
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn…

The Lacanian-ish wound/ shock/ trauma idea is worth reviewing: In Saito Tamaki’s analysis, what defines the Otaku is the disconcerting libidinous charge or cathexis, the desire that a cartoon female character evokes in the male reader. This desire is traumatic because the poor guy knows that it is only a cartoon character and experiences all manner of dissonance and distress over finding himself so stimulated by a crude 2D fiction. I mean, what’s next? Getting a woody from a math equation? Surely this is the path to madness! (Don’t call me…) There is something wrong with my wiring! Must take steps to master and comprehend these unnatural urges! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

Saito Tamaki’s moment of unresolvable Otaku desire is spun as an origin myth starring none other than a young Hayao Miyazaki:

“…Saito hypothesizes that the young Miyazaki was caught off guard by a sexual attraction to the film’s heroine. The girl (actually the spirit of a white serpent named Bai-Nang) was an impossible object, a fictional creature who therefore “contained already within her the occasion for loss” [emp. mine] – yet Miyazaki desired her. This experience of being made to experience pleasure against his will by a fictional construct” constituted a trauma for Miyazaki. Because unresolved traumas can only be repeated, for Miyazaki this meant the creation of a whole string of beautiful fighting girls in his own works. While Miyazaki tends to insist on the wholesomeness of his works and disavow any sexual component, in Saito’s analysis the appeal of Miyazaki’s beautiful fighting girls has everything to do with sexuality. Insofar as their repetition perpetuates a libidinal attachment to a fictional construct, they also challenge us to rethink our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register.”

-Making it Real: Fiction, Desire, and the Queerness of the Beautiful Fighting Girl by J. Keith Vincent, Introduction to his co-translation of Saito Tamaki’s ‘Beautiful Fighting Girl’ University of Minnesota Press, 2011
https://www.academia.edu/3682539/Making_it_Real_Fiction_Desire_and_the_Queerness_of_the_Beautiful_Fighting_Girl

Ch4 p13 stick figures

rethinking our understanding of the ontological status of fiction in the visual register – that’s what we are doing!

By the way, the Bard of Studio Ghibli has not even deigned to dignify Tamaki’s speculation with a response. His disdain for low otaku culture however is legendary.

Note as well the direct Tamaki quote: “contained already within her the occasion for loss” (!) If that doesn’t pretty well describe the way that Madarame looks at all 3D women. The inversion that the otaku performs on the weighted potentials for loss between 2D and 3D fixations is one of the great double-think sacraments of his tribe.

“No matter what you do, no matter what you say,
the only real perfect love is one that gets away”.

-The Residents

And so the Otaku becomes a connaisseur of the effect and the great range of possible character deployments that cause his trauma and in doing so endlessly repeats and encourages the replication, distribution and elaboration of this traumatic artifact. Yet like a flanneur on the streets of last century’s Paris, he is now a somewhat distanced expert observer of the spectacle of excess.

“Seriality is the difference in repetition”
Some pomo guy, was it Jimbo? Google draws a blank. If not, then – moi! (win!)
“Screw you Muda, If I didn’t say it, I said it now, so talk to my lawyers”
– Slavoj Žižek.
Ah! Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!” – Wash…

We now return to our regularly scheduled theory block-quotes:

“What seems different about otaku for Saito is that this formerly relatively private or even secret (if also widespread) practice has in the past few decades become an increasingly mass-mediated social role with an unprecedented amount of public visibility. Saito denies that the female partners of his (perverse) straight male otaku are in any sense “substitutes” for the heroines of anime that the otaku may (also?) adore and desire, and opines, “My personal impression is that marriage to another otaku of the opposite sex tends to be seen as the perfect ending to life as an otaku”. Vincent defends Saito from the charge of heteronormativity by arguing that while “Saito may describe the real-life sexuality of the otaku he knows as tending toward the heterosexual and the vanilla, . . . he never prescribes that it be so”. For Vincent, what gives Saito’s work its considerable interest to queer theorists is its theoretical tendency neither to privilege nor pathologize the otaku’s enjoyment of “the reality-producing charge [that] . . . the beautiful fighting girl sparks across the gap between” his outward performance of sexual “normality” (xx) and his sustained commitment to both his perverse imaginary pleasures and the media- saturated collective context that enables and sustains these pleasures.”

-Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory by Michael Moon
A review of Beautiful Fighting Girl by Saito Tamaki, translated by J. Keith Vincent and Dawn Lawson.
http://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=16379&context=criticism

Wow, the word queer keeps popping up; scary, scary, scary. No big deal; we are talking the mechanics of desire here, not the specifics. Besides, it works across all boundaries (and none). You doubt that Kio Shimoku had heard of Tamaki and his original year 2000 Japanese treatise on the BFG? See Mada’s little lecture with the stick figure lines above…

To Carthage then I came
Burning burning burning burning
O Lord Thou pluckest me out
O Lord Thou pluckest
burning

There is still the matter of fujoshi trauma:

“And what about those relatively understudied (at least in this book)
female otaku? Saito offers no substantive consideration of them and
their practices; in his introduction, Vincent informs us that the author
has written about female otaku elsewhere, and that what Saito
seems to mean by “female otaku” are female fans of yaoi, another
huge subset of manga that, in contrast with girl-warrior narratives,
features beautiful schoolboys falling in love and (in many cases) having sex with each other—narratives that are mostly written and drawn by women authors for a largely female audience. (gay men my age might have found yaoi disturbing but fascinating when we were adolescents, but made do with Archie comics instead.)[3] In one of his few direct references to female otaku, Saito mentions not only yaoi but also shotakon, a manga and anime genre that features prepubescent or pubescent boys in romantic and sometimes erotic contexts (29).”
Otaku for Queer Theory And Media Theory, Moon, Ibid

Fat chance! Tamaki ventures only a tiny bit of post- Lacanian fluff on fujoshi desire in his 2006 essay Otaku Sexuality. Then he drops in the shota stuff! Gehhhh! Oh well; that explains Risa.

The folks who took issue with the blatant libidinization of Otaku desire, Azuma et al, with their Foucault/ Kojève approach are even more blind to the lack of the desiring female. As they erase desire within male Otaku moe, they seem to feel no need to give mention to fen desire at all.

A Japanese cultural critic with a background in the fine arts weighs in:

“The biggest problem of the book by Azuma lies in the fact that he has no view on female Otaku.”Of these discontents, the former means that aesthetics of “Moe” is not a comprehensive nature but only one aspect of the Otaku culture, when the latter refers to the gender problem within the Otaku culture.

This latter is my own discontent, too.

Indeed, it’s known there are a lot of female Otaku – of course, in my classroom in Japan – , but they have not been fully discussed. What kind of differences are there between male and female Otaku, then? Briefly speaking,(1)the gaze of female Otaku sometimes involves moments of homosexuality whether her interest goes to boys or girls:(1-a)Female Otaku who fall into the former category, gazing at relationships between beautiful male characters, are sometimes called “Yaoi,” while(1-b)those who fall into the latter category, develop interest in relationships between she herself(=subject)and female characters(=object).
However, the most important difference, I think, is that(2)the female Otaku sometimes has a specific aspect of transforming the body of herself: i.e. through costume play. In this phase, she tries to transform herself from the motive of doubting her identity, when male Otaku gazes and fetishizes a female figure composed of his favorite parts according to his “needs.”

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.”

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-queerbut-with-no-queerness-as-its-essence.

INTELECTUALS’ RESPONSIBILITY

In any case, I really think it’s anachronistic that such alleged (sub)culture of Otaku is promoted even by a governmental project. Otaku Culture and Its Discontents Or, why on earth do feminists in Japan hesitate to criticize such a male-centered movement?  By the similar argument, Azuma’s book is not only useless, but also harmful. Of course it would be like asking for the moon, if Azuma’s book dealt with the specific aspects of our age. But the subtitle of the book reads “Japanese Society from the View Point of Otaku.” Moreover the catch copy by the publisher reads “We cannot discuss Japan in 2000s without this book.” These remarks announce that the book presents a general theory.

The responsibility for this unhappy situation should be laid on the intellectuals who have not blamed such anachronistic male Otaku on the ground that they don’t know the Otaku well. Critique of Otaku culture can and should be made even by the people who have little or a little knowledge about Otaku culture even from Kantian transcendental point of view.
Of course, modernist must assume this responsibility, too. And that’s why I called today’s talk a little tentative.”

-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

Wow, it is either all queer theory all the way down, or (sometimes somewhat feminist) post-Lacanian stuff (or both). Cue Rio Otomo, who has recently published a fine essay on “Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love”:

“Viewed as irony, a seemingly monological pornographic text turns into a dialogical space, in which, as a reader, I extract, through a negotiation of distance, a pleasure of my own. This act of reading is an expression of my personal sexual fantasy, and I perform it in my own private space. Although it is my private practice, it is not a simple reflection of my private desire. I purchase the material to read, participating in public consumption, and at the same time my choice is to a large extent formed by the selection available to me in the market. Thus, what I believe to be my taste may not be truly mine, or rather, I may have been directed to prefer one thing to another by the socially constructed notions of what is desirable. Indeed, it can be said that the way I dress, the way I walk, and the way I speak, all are my learned choice, and that my desire itself is largely what I learned to want. And yet, once I am aware that I embody and act out socially constructed desire through my reading, I can choose to be a critical and creative participant. A reader is, in this context, a public performer. In the following sections I look into different modes of reading in attempt to clarify particularities of BL reading.
[…]
When I read BL texts, I first identify different bodies, which are codes for different positions in the networks of human relations. The recognition of their differences provokes desire in multiple directions. I then re-enact the difference playing multiple roles in my single body—and, thus, reading (and writing) BL I am able to play with gender itself—a point also discussed by Fujimoto Yukari in her chapter in this volume. I am, thus, autoerotic, but my (female) body is erased in this process. Fantasy in its broad sense tells me a story in which I am everywhere. In BL texts I am simultaneously the character’s downcast eyes; the texture of the velvet couch he lounges on; the windows that fling open; and the wind that blows his curly locks. When his lover enters the room, I am also that lover who looks at him with heated desire. In reading like this, no single identification takes place, since the “I” is multiplied to govern each detail of the scene. The subject “I” as the unified centre no longer exists in this activity. Unlike Mishima’s narrator, I do not consolidate the subject “I” but instead lose sight of it in the landscape.
[…]
The distance that I thought existed between fantasy and myself does not seem reliable any more because I am now becoming my fantasy, writing the script, acting the roles, and capturing the scenes. I am efficient in creating pictures and narratives since my focus is on acquiring the utmost pleasure through the fantasy I am making. In the process, however, the “I” who is making disappears, a consequence that Mishima’s narrator could not afford   despite the happiness he knew it was offering. The disappearance of the “I” is the ultimate goal of fantasy making; I forget where I am and what I am. I do not remember whether I have even existed, when I am in a phantasmatic space. At that very moment of happiness I do not care how I appear to others; I am back in my childlike innocence. I have forgotten my gendered body. The reading subject is not born there, but disappears, as my autoerotic pleasure peculiarly excludes myself along with my body.
[…]
In the mid-1990s Nakajima Azusa made her feminist position clear, describing what she calls the “world of JUNE”:
{{The standing position for these girls has already been removed from the world they create… there is no “opposite” sex as the object of love. Turning themselves into shadow, the girls can play to their hearts content with materials unfamiliar to them, connecting one person to another, or making someone fall in love with another, without fear of being made to enter the “ring” where she is on display to be purchased by men.}}
[22 – JUNE magazine (1978–1979, 1981–1996), a popular BL-focused periodical, was during its time the hub for BL enthusiasts.]”

-The Politics of Utopia: Fantasy, Pornography, and Boys Love by Rio Otomo http://rio-otomo.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/2013.11.3FantasyPornographyBoyslove.pdf

Note that Otomo follows a fairly orthodox post-Lacanian script herein, when dealing with female desire as free-floating and un-fettered by a limiting phallic subjectivity.

And of course, once again from Saito Tamaki himself:

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

The word moe is used by male otaku to locate the agent of that desire. On the other hand, in women that fear for one’s subject position is less acute. When a woman desires something, her own position is not important: she immerses herself completely in the object, and by emptying herself, she is able to take it in. The versatility of this subject position is clear when we consider how she identifies with the object. In the gay sex depicted by yaoi texts, a reader or creator can identify with both the seme (“active”) and uke (“passive”) characters.14 This is why her attraction to a text surpasses that of the male otaku.””

Otaku Sexuality by Saitō Tamaki , in “Robot Ghosts and Wired Dreams : Japanese science fiction from origins to anime” – Christopher Bolton, Istvan Csicsery-Ronay Jr., and Takayuki Tatsumi, editors. Ch 11 pps 222-249.

It appears that Tamaki and those with rejoinders to his brief mention of the fujoshi experience gloss over the initiatial Lacanian trauma/ shock/ wound of discovering yaoish desires (“Holy Shit !!! Are you serious ??? Where can I get… ?” – as one real life correspondent once exclaimed to me) in favor of the vertiginous pleasures of the shifting POV’s within these dangerous texts. Recall that Tamaki glosses over the fine details of the male experience of the “trauma” as well; which lead me in an earlier review to suggest a rude and simple flowchart.

Only Kio Shimoko, through Kanako Ohno makes any direct mention of the grotty details of any direct erotic use of the material, and what does he know? There is no law that requires that all erotic material must be consumed in “one hand play mode” either for guys or girls and any taxonomy of “appreciation” would probably be both pointless and corporatist-fascist; mega-corporations, as well as the state have no business in the bedrooms of the nation. Academic researchers should consult ethics boards and then ask very, very politely.

The initial question however remains and seems to be only fleetingly addressed in materials available to the English-language-limited researcher. Mizoguchi (Akiko) mentions an initial discovery of early 49’er -style shoujo manga (fantasy European) boys romance tales as support and inspiration to her, as her lesbian identity awakened  –  This effect seems far more important than any fleeting erotic charge these texts may or may not have provoked. Only Kazumi Nagaike in her doctoral thesis- “Japanese women writers watch a boy being beaten by his father: Male homosexual fantasies, female sexuality and desire” [https://circle.ubc.ca/handle/2429/16962] and her later (unfortunately titled) expanded work on the subject- “Fantasies of Cross-Dressing: Japanese Women Write Male-Male Erotica” [ http://www.amazon.ca/Fantasies-Cross-Dressing-Japanese-Male-Male-Erotica/dp/9004216952] gets down and dirty on early and mid-twentieth century Japanese literature that serves as the direct ancestor to the genre. I have previously reviewed these; the source material, which Nagaike translates in some length is not for the squeamish but is more than sufficient to provoke a Lacanian “trauma” and subsequent cathexis – if that kind of stuff turns your crank.

The disconnect, or asymmetry of the experience of libidinised popular visual cultural material between the boys and the girls seems to grow the more one examines it and yet if the differences cannot be laid at the foot of some crude biological determinism, they must then be ascribed to societally gendered codes of behaviour and consumption.

No wonder the entire gender-sexuality-queer-theory-whatnot theory brigades are swarming all over the crash scene! (Be grateful they are; good work is being done there!)

I made no comment.
What should I resent?”
“On Margate Sands.
I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken finger-nails of dirty hands.
My people humble people who expect
Nothing.”

Perhaps a simpler solution would be for someone to swipe a time machine, go back to France after the war, feed Lacan some mind-altering pharmaceuticals and drag him to a whole lot of movie theatres.

As critical-theory inclined film essayists have long pointed out, a floating, decentered subjectivity is not merely a matter of who has a delusion between their legs. The camera can do all kinds of tricky things, even if the majority of film makers stick to simple tried and true omniscient “male gaze” visual narrative conventions. Remember the multiple/split screen effects in the Woodstock music documentary were breathtakingly avant-garde and daring for 1970. Such innocent days… We have better cameras and computers now, so we can go crazy in the head and perhaps vicariously enjoy the perspective of the -gasp- Lacanian autre (read: female inscribed by lack) with special effects.

Or Lacan was a bit full of it and we can trash the whole line of inquiry…

Whatever the case, Kio Shimoku’s character mechanics tack quite close to post Lacanian shores. Note the scene in which a sworn-off BL Hato-kun experiences the classic shock that Tamaki has grounded his approach on:

Ch88p17 still works

Of course Hato’s big trauma/ shock/ wound was meant to lie in wait for unsuspecting young women. The Beautiful Bonking Bishie(s) is supposed to be the female counterpart to the Beautiful Fighting Girl. I have probably burnt too much powder on this one already, but a few other fine distinctions can be teased out of the tangle of 2D desire. Tamaki’s BFG in her purest state is a thinly drawn character, a nominally female cypher that lives to fight, requiring little or no back story or motivation and possessed of a sexuality that is sublimated toward battle. She is the phallic, or non-female female, There is a world of difference between such a character –almost a one person clench scene– and a fully written fictional female, heroic or not. Similarly, the Bonking Bishies of a BL tableau are far removed from even the minimal characterizations of parody yaoi dojins. You still need to do author-thing work to get a working story. And reports have it that the rotten girls seem to want more story/ situation/ relationshippy characterization than the Otaku guys do for their critters.

And I Tiresias have foresuffered all
Enacted on this same divan or bed;

So Hato is suddenly realizing that his grand “fujoshi desire” project must now include becoming the improbable “male crossdressing BL mangaka”.

“How can I win if they keep moving the goalposts???”

Something about Carnegie Hall…

Since the first moment Hato’s (first) Stand appeared, Kio Shimolu has been hiding this card up his sleeve. Hato mirrors (in a distorted form) the original problem faced by Shimoku – how to properly pull off an ensemble manga full of fujoshi charas when you are a guy. The Stand (and later Stands) were all about making Hato act out classic BL scripts. Whether Hato puts on a dress and gets all hot ‘n bothered with yaoi pr0n or whether the mere knowledge that such creatures as fujoshi and such narratives of desire as BL and yoai exist is enough of a trauma to set him on his course, is immaterial. The only real desire he has ever really shown is towards his project and his project involves authorship – whether he knows and/or admits it or not.

Dammit! We cannot completely scrap the Lacanian approach. Implicit in Tamaki’s trauma scheme is Lacan’s idea that all experience is mediated in the imaginary, that the “real” is something that would drive mere mortals crazy, and that in the moment that mad desire is sparked by the seemingly innocuous or ridiculous cartoon image “Sex is broken down within the framework of fiction and then put back together again“.

A Later Aside: Don’t look or listen to closely to the Lacanian ‘real” or you might find that it is a re-tread of Euroethnic Judeo-Christian mysticism. Alanis Morisette explains:

Ok, so reality, the cave, shadows, yadda, yadda, yadda…

Otaku hysteria born out of the trauma is fundamentally a narrative, creative act and therefore in becoming-otaku (or fujoshi) one must inevitably undertake creative acts of secondary production. One must learn to ride the waves of mass mediated images- of- the- imaginary or be swept away to drown in the torrent. You have to hack the spew.

She smoothes her hair with automatic hand
And puts a record on the gramophone.

Genshiken might well be a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shoujo components: shouldn’t we at least get to see Hato ache for Mada? …Or even ache for an idealised phantasm of Mada? Kio Shimoku is great at the timid hesitation of Otaku courtship, and damn fine at the in-relationship and/or in-well-married couple frictions and their minor (sometimes major) discontents but he seldom deploys full-throttle romantic mush. Ohno & Tanaka came the closest when Ohno got hammered at the cosplay shoot, but Shimoku-sensei doesn’t do over-the-top melodramatic longing. Saki had a tiny bit, but it was quickly dealt with. The happy couple kisses and we move on to in-relationship comedy situations. Shimoku’s works appear more realistic or slice-of-life because he plays all his romance-ish notes in a restrained, pragmatic, somewhat disillusioned key. It is the old chestnut about the Japanese courting couple, with the guy who cannot ask the girl to marry him –  so he asks her to be the one to make breakfast miso soup for him for the rest of his life.  Ooooooh! That sets the heart a’ flutter!

Hato-as-chan acting out BL tropes, should be doing the full, overblown shoujo-esue Heart of the Song of the Wind and Trees & Thomas ” I am yours until the earth claims my body vow of undywing trew ruv at a perplexed Madarame. And where are the full-page floral background portraits (dammit!)? Instead Hato is following the timid courtship rules of the Genshiken: potential partners are approached slowly, tentatively, and with a wearying deliberation that recalls the purchase of a major appliance or a used car. This might be funny, but it is not very big on the desire thing. If Hato has gone quasi you-and-only-you gay for Madarame (even if it shocks the hold-over mainstream male Japanese fan-base, as well as the legions of followers across the grey alleys of the world-wide interwebs) there has been scant evidence of friendship, no evidence of love (even one-sided) no evidence of lust (beyond drawn 2D Hato-works) and no evidence of desire. One outburst of loneliness is all that we have seen. That, the prodding of the Stands and a lot of leveling up in Hato’s femme-ish presentation.

Hato you cad !!! You are just toying with Mada for material for your damn comic.

Meanwhile Sue has “had” in one moment, more of Hato – chan and kun, than Mada ever will.

You break it, you buy it

You break it, you buy it

I wonder what she is threatening Mada about in Chapter 105 (the raws are out!), and why the handcuffs ????

(Handcuffs?? masks?? WTF ??)

I am fanning out here, but I am also speculating about what i have long suspected as one of the over-arching plot engines of the whole fujoshi-with-Hato Genshiken. It’s not that you have to do the Anti-Oedipus becoming-woman/ becoming-monster thing to be a successful auteur. Nor is the consideration of decentered subjective multiplicities a feminist (or not) post-Lacanian or queer theory monopoly – though one can understand their interest in the idea. (Hegemony not good!) It’s just that the ability to load and process multiple subjectivities is helpful to the creative process in this day and age. Hato is being used as a slapstick allegory on this theme, as he edges towards being able to tell his stories. He will try all kinds of odd approaches. Like a certain cartoon penguin, He will not fail!

C’mon Hato, as an aspiring mangaka, you need a muse – being your own just isn’t cutting it lately. Sue or Yajimachi: pick one! (Sue best girl!) You can be a male crossdressing virtual lesbian BL mangaka and surpass all your sempais!

Hato-Lily for great dojinshi creating justice!

Thus love betrays us

Warning: plenty of gender role issues and stereotypes are going to be tossed around herein, and some may be handled clumsily in the course of inquiry and exposition. I’m reaching here – cut me a bit of slack…

In chapter 102 of Genshiken Madarame has finally ended up at Keiko’s hostess club and is drowning his confusion in expensive drinks, courtesy of salaryman Kugayama’s (AKA Kugapii) who thinks that what Mada needs is some conventional gender-role’d interaction with women.


Should have tried it this way

While the earlier idea of visiting a soap-land and “losing it” was discarded for something a bit less frightening, there is a strong undercurrent in the previous chapter of Kugapii seeking to fix Madarame’s distress by expanding his horizons in societally approved directions (Kugapii is also looking for a wing-man in his own forays into barely know territories). Madarame’s confusion and discomfort at finding himself happy with Hato-as-chan’s attentions; receiving Hato-chan’s valentines day chocolate; his revisiting of his josou game collection and his attendant male hysteria is all but announced as being the exclusive result of him being only exposed to the feminine through his interactions with the atypical Genshiken females. After Saki, it is all just much-younger rotten girls and one closeted cross dressing boy. Time for some “real” female interaction.

Keiko does not disappoint: Starting off as a proper hostess, she quickly drops her act and becomes the Keiko we all know and lurv, fully entitled to her personal judgements (honne entitled?) about Madarame and exasperated at him. Mada gets an earful and is relegated back to her fave “watermelon-boy “Wantanabe” status. (cue the beach scene – what happens to watermelons at the beach?) But the best part of Keiko’s rant is a full-page (plus a half-page wind-down) blast at Hato:

Bad Karma, a sensual obsession

So… Keiko is a transphobe? Or is this personal?

Before that, consider Keiko the hostess: At one extreme, solicitous and friendly. At another extreme, into direct personal scolding mode – so much so that her co-worker calls her on it. And then a few minutes later, subservient in her job-role; she cannot leave since she was specifically requested, nor politely (pull the other one – this must be a point-of-work-pride thing: the mark buys the drink without being asked) ask Mada to buy a round. Figure that the night’s festivities can easily run well over $500. Dude, you OWE Kugapii big time!

Why she invites Madarame back to her place after all this is a whole ‘nuther thing to be left for Chapter 103…

Aside from the fun possibility that Keiko is being re-written in as the villainous woman trope from a yaoi grinder, why would she “Irae Babylon! Mighty is thy Judgement!”? It makes her look like a bully, or at least someone loading up the howitzer to deal with a fly. As well she tries to make it clear; she cannot condemn Mada if he wishes to go off and find some man-love, but Hato (chan or kun?) is personally suspect and nothing but trouble – he has already done inconsiderate things to Madarame and can be expected to do more and worse.

What things? Where has she gleaned her information from?

Kio Shimoku has just expanded the field strength of his reality-is-reality Vs fantasy-is-fantasy motif, and he is edging into the territory of IRL controversies. After all, Hato-as-chan manifests only in the safe space of the Genshiken social, where Hato has gradually been elevated to VIP member and object of interest by the real (gotta use the polite academic term) cis-females therein. Whenever her fugue states and over-rotten episodes have caused fallout, Hato has been supported by the rotten girls, even as they occasionally essentialise him as a perverted freak behind his back (no, it is not Hato’s buttplug, it is part of Ohno’s costume). But now Hato has cranked Hato-chan up to 11, she is courting Madarame, visiting him, cooking for him and going full metal nadeshiko in his direction. Something about all this has set Keiko off, even to the extent of considering Madarame’s behaviour with Hato as being an injury to Saki.

How could that be?

Gen ch102 p19web

A polite and nuanced explanation that gives Keiko the benefit of the doubt would be that the fallout from Hato’s frustrating can’t decide liminality dance makes him a danger to himself/herself and others, but she doesn’t really have enough knowledge of the fine details of the Hato saga to pull that off. She is going by gut impression and what she knows and has previously frowned at: (in her view) a self-serving ego gratifying indecisiveness, a glimpse of Hato-chan getting much to close to Madarame during the neck-fugue state episode and her sudden enlistment into the harem competition. The combination carries a strong whiff of jealousy and bigotry.

competitionp21web

Getting bested by Angela or even Sue would be bad enough.

Is that the only reason why Keiko considers Hato not just “fake”, but dangerously- defective- as- a- human- being fake?

This sure looks like old-school canon transphobia, springing from the same sources as the derogatory term “trap”, and still a rather heavy bone of contention even within the gender-politics community, even if internal politics has shifted the goalposts a bit over the last 40 years. We humans like our “others” in neatly defined categories and boxes, and sometimes the violation of these categories can provoke a visceral, irrational disgust and over-the-top hate-on, especially when the category violation threatens the boundaries of our own chosen categories. Check your privilege time perhaps… or something closer to the sleep of reason and the monsters that wait beyond it. Checking privilege does little to de-fuse pure post-Lacanian psychobabble horror and that horror is regrettably very real. We need better tools to deal with it.

Amazingly, IRL culture wars surrounding this effect are spilling over into the popular media and even into the manga/anime blog- verse. And there are a lot of raw, exposed nerves on all sides of the arguments. If a few select articles in Slate and other publications are to be relied on, it seems that a small subset of trans-folk, who have worked hard to become the sex that they feel that they are, despite the body dealt to them at birth are viscerally cheesed off with the vulgar, lower-class, commercial behaviour of the drag demi- monde. Bricks are flying back and forth. Meanwhile some folks take the Judith Butler “presentation” paradigm as a gospel of liberation, while others feel that it is a deep insult; “I am not presenting as, I am!

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/05/30/is_tranny_a_slur_or_an_identity_who_decides.html

Bleh(!) say others, transgression as an art form is a good way to shake up fascist hegemonies (you fascist…).

http://www.vox.com/2014/4/22/5639386/why-trans-people-arent-big-fans-of-rupaul-right-now

Well, at least some of them…

http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/07/24/is_drag_a_trans_identity_or_just_a_job_a_queen_explores_her_art.html

A few years ago I would have been scared spit-less to read about any of this stuff, and I am probably pissing off some folks by this clumsy vicarious little excursion into an area of personal politics that all sides hold very close to their core sense of being.

Why can’t everyone just get along?

Because why everyone can’t get along is the core of the problem.

Fictional representations in JVC tropes (and global pop cultures in general) only serve to further muddy the waters; the transgendered vs the trap vs the otokonoko vs the drag queen vs the might be gay – might not, might be trans, might not female impersonator vs the josou game’s better than female charas all serve as imperfect fun-house mirrors to bitterly contested spaces in the 3D ‘verse. And then they upend the problem by encouraging folks to go on little what-if excursions. They are only cartoon characters, right?

“”The culture surrounding “passing” is problematic as it classifies people who don’t or don’t want to fit into two narrow, relatively stagnant categories of male or female as problems themselves while simultaneously discrediting the “authenticity” of people who do have passing privilege. There is no way to win. A person who is not deemed masculine or feminine “enough” is ridiculed and reviled for not having correct body language; for lacking or for possessing body hair in “right” or “wrong” places; for not having hips or chests that are the “correct” shape; for being too tall or short, too broad or too slight; for not having one’s makeup or wig look “right” and so on.

Yet the corollary is that a person who does pass, who looks close enough to “socially acceptable” standards for femininity or masculinity is considered a “trap” or dishonest, which can also lead to that person being outed and attempts to harm or humiliate upon “discovery.” Some times even safe spaces are not entirely safe, as gender policing can also be a problem within the queer community.””
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Gender policing eh? Sounds nasty:
http://bitchmagazine.org/post/the-long-history-of-transgender-exclusion-from-feminism

Yikes!

Perhaps it is time to pull a Schultz…

“I know nothing, I see nothing…”

Later: Ok, It’s not that big of a deal;  the minor fights at the edges of the great project of asserting the rights of all people have been going on for ages. See:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/08/06/the_new_york_post_says_feminism_is_imploding_is_wrong.html

See also for this really neato pre-internet archeology article on AOL and FIDONET and early gay BBS forum activities (wow! Fidonet! that takes me back, never knew…) Looks like folks have been arguing this one for decades

” That policy prompted the Great Trans Debates and the Great Bi Debates every six months or so,” Goodloe recalls, “as everyone weighed in with their opinions of who counted as a ‘woman’ and whether bisexuals should be allowed in ‘lesbian only’ space.” –http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/bitwise/2014/08/lgbtq_nerds_and_the_evolution_of_life_online.single.html

Lookie at the new neighbourhood Kio Shimoku has written himself into.
Nawww, that is all just gaijin weirdness, they make a lot of noise, don’t they?

Come the revolution everyone will walk around wearing a biographical sandwich board stating their personal preferences and outlooks, as well as their personal histories and how they legitimately and authentically arrived at them, at least until we all wear Google Glass. Or perhaps as one really odd sci-fi writer has suggested we will all wear elaborate facial makeup markings to indicate what we feel like being TODAY.

Anything else is the salt-monster from Star Trek or its direct ancestor; CL Moore’s Shambleau 

Read it yourself and tell me it ain’t ‘nuthin more than medusa repackaged… https://archive.org/details/Shambleau19331948

A more reasonable alternative is the path of inclusivety, and a sensitive politically correct essayist should keep an eye on the best practices in the field to add letters as needed.

Extend Shields!

“LGBT: Abbreviation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. An umbrella term that is used to refer to the community as a whole. Our center uses LGBTQIA to intentionally include and visibilize the Queer, Intersex and Asexual communities under our umbrella.” — http://lgbcenter.ucdavis.edu/lgbt-education/words-that-are-transphobic-and-why

Well, that sounds like a more reasonable approach, I hope it works out…

So… Hato is not indecisive or liminal or even suffering from gender-panic induced dissociative personality disorder: the Hatos are genderqueer (stuff your categories, we know what we like!) and since the Hato continuum is still a virgin in 2,5D land, despite having consumed two metric shit-tonnes of distaff pr0n, they are somewhat in the same space as Watamote’s anti-heroine Kuroki Tomoko.

Perhaps Keiko is simply pissed off at Tomoko-ish behaviour in Hato.

Living up to societal sex/ gender role ideals is hard for everyone. Hence the appeal of virtual/ fictional vacation tour packages at greatly reduced rates.. One essayist suggests another take on rotten-girl desire:

“For many girls, the pretty, but unmade-up boys of manga and anime are in fact far more like themselves than the huge busted, bombshell women that are both likely to inhabit anime [and] manga designed for men and boys, and that are a regular part of our western media viewing experience.

Blogger Kerryg (2009), writes about the mere possibility of the female gaze in her Hub entry, ―The Female Gaze. She argues that of course a female gaze exists, but is only beginning to appear in explicit ways (in the work of women filmmakers, such as Sophia Coppola). ―However, she suggests, ―it is much more common for women and girls to subvert the intended gaze of media than to create their own Gaze. For many, this is an unconscious process; for others, it is knowingly revolutionary‖ (2009). She cites the work of fangirls as evidence of this move, offering that they are “Re-cutting the world to match their eyes”.
– Bringing Smexy Back: Fangirl Production, AMVs, and Transgressive Sexuality, Elizabeth Birmingham – http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Bringing-Smexy-Back-by-Elizabeth-Birmingham.pdf

(The referenced Kerryg essay can be found here:  http://kerryg.hubpages.com/hub/The-Female-Gaze)

Which leads to a further weird digression:

I must take back any dismissive asides previously made in the direction of Ouran Host Club, thanks to the elegant exposition at: http://gaggingonsexism.wordpress.com/2012/09/02/what-i-love-about-haruhi-fujioka/
(the earlier cited paper on it  didn’t work for me – too much blah blah, the 3rd party Mizoguchi mis-attribution made the BZZZZZT – Wrong alarm go off and the conflation of Japanese dojinshi parody with western gay male camp is strained. The author would have gained more traction by using a compare and contrast parallel evolution approach. Finally the analysis ignores the centrality of the Haruhi character.)

What an interesting thing; even if it does go on, and on, and on…

The manga is clearly aimed at giving its (presumed) young female readership a lot of eye-candy and some rotten-girl-lite titillation, but it also solves the problem of the female gaze by inserting into the story an androgynous heroine who is unconcerned with her or anyone else’s outward gender presentation. As the series goes on, stereotypes of gender presentation and playful transgression are heaped willy-nilly one on top of another and all Haruhi can do is sigh with mild annoyance and occasionally puncture ego balloons with deadpan snark. And while the boys get weirder and weirder in search of the ultimate host club experience for their “typical” female clientage, they also begin to fixate on her – especially by trying to get her to act as a properly feminine girl during her off-hours.

Meanwhile she gets to (at first reluctantly) enjoy being part of an over-the-top band of guys – what academia charmingly refers to as a “homosocial”. The only whiff of nastiness comes during reoccurring episodes of class-war snobbery and when a central casting nasty lesbian separatist club (who watches over us again???) from a nearby girl’s school decides she could be a perfect Bifauxnen and tries to steal her away from her oddball social club. Tsk tsk! Thou shalt not use “lesbian” as a pejorative, to do so is insensitive and low-class! Sensible, polite and serious Haruhi gets 2 points on the set-up.

Not quite an obverse of Hato, but close enough for 3-chord rock and roll.

Except that even such a manga-verse comparison can be fraught with complications. The word-of-the-day is transmisogyny, and is best illustrated by the following exposition on Wandering Son: (note that pronoun usage follows presentation and Deemed X At Birth acronymage is used)

“In junior high school, Takatsuki and Nitori meet Sarashina Chizuru, a cis-identified girl who just enjoys wearing a boy’s uniform because she feels like it fits with her cool persona. She turns up to school a few times in it and also tends to wear non-regulation ties with her girls’ uniform. Sarashina’s blatant disregard for the rules gives Takatsuki courage to wear the boys’ uniform that was given to him by Yuki, a transwoman who acts as mentor and confidant to Takatsuki and Sarashina. (In the manga, the uniforms belonged to Takatsuki’s older brother and sister.)

When Takatsuki wears a boys’ uniform to school, everyone thinks that he is cool and edgy like Sarashina. Part of this fairly positive reaction stems from his peers are viewing Takatsuki as a tomboy engaging in temporary cross-dressing instead of a transgender boy trying to dress toward how he wants to be perceived. Although the administration is annoyed with Takatsuki for breaking the dress code, the other students’ misreading of Takatsuki’s actions as fun and temporary largely protect him from transphobic reactions, although their reaction causes a sense of discomfort for him, as it plays upon the disconnect between how one sees their own gender presentation and how others see them. This discomfort also occurs earlier in the manga when Takatsuki gets his first period and is teased by the other boys because it “proves” that he’s “really a girl.”

Like Takatsuki with his androgynous clothes and binder, Nitori also wears clothes that make her comfortable in her gender expression in her free time. Outside of school, she wears a long wig and skirts at home with friends in public in disguise, often with Takatsuki, and is delighted when she “passes” (more on this later). Her success in passing in public, her friends’ admiration of how good she looks in girls’ clothes, and Takatsuki’s wearing of a boy’s uniform at school leads Nitori to follow Takatsuki’s example and to come to school in her girl’s uniform. However, Nitori is immediately recognized by the teachers and then mocked mercilessly by her peers. She is sent to the school nurse and then sent home from school. In the anime version, the characters sometimes talk to the camera, and after this incident, they discuss how differently everyone reacted to Nitori’s and Takatsuki’s perceived cross-dressing, noting that girls’ fashion offers more options for gender expression in clothing, and that Takatsuki’s interest in androgynous and masculine clothes is treated as more normal than Nitori’s interest in feminine wear. Few anime are this deliberate about how the masculine is prioritized and deemed culturally cool but the feminine is reviled, and how DMAB people who embrace culturally feminine clothing and pursuits often face greater social consequences, from ridicule to violence.”
http://odorunara.com/2014/06/19/revealing-and-concealing-identities-cross-dressing-in-anime-and-manga-part-5/

Back to why exactly is Keiko so pissed off at Hato? Are we back in the old days of a trans-gendered individual who seeks to realize their subjective gender racking up more authenticity points than a cross-dresser, who is a “mere tourist or hobbyist”?  Is it the old cant that passing imposes a certain burden upon forthright behaviour for individuals during transition (which is even more insulting than the “trap” acusation). Or is it a Japanese don’t rock the boat thing? Is Hato’s gender-switching suspect only because it disturbed the wa and breaches honne? Can a Westerner ever even begin to understand all of the baggage contained in her outburst?

To paraphrase Master Sorceror Sean O’Lochlainn
“Magic is a matter of symbolism and intent.”

We can only guess at either. Confused yet?

It’s complicated…

Or… I am just using this Genshiken mise-en-scene as an excuse for a quick n nasty survey of the common arguments surrounding the gender politics of trans* characters.  Pay no attention to the blogger behind the curtain.

Other stuff of note happened upon of late…

How the Philippines does rotten girl:

Appropriating Yaoi and Boys Love in the Philippines, Conflict, Resistance and Imaginations Through and Beyond Japan – Tricia Abigail Santos Fermin, Osaka University, Volume 13, Issue 3 (Article 13 in 2013). First published in ejcjs on 6 October 2013.  http://www.japanesestudies.org.uk/ejcjs/vol13/iss3/fermin.html

“My research largely confirms the point McLelland made in his comparison of Japanese and English-language yaoi and BL websites: we will witness many groups of women around the world sharing similar sexual fantasies, yet the rhetorical space they occupy in their transgressions could never be more different.”

Has a very big section on Genshiken, Ogiue and Hato and yup, I like the mirror conceit too:

The Great Mirror of Fandom: Reflections of (and on) Otaku and Fujoshi in Anime and Manga by Clarissa Graffeo, MA English Thesis, 2014
http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFE0005172/Graffeo_-_Thesis_-_Great_Mirror_of_Fandom.pdf

Incidentally a fine usage guide for tyro translators: 

Hey, you’re a girl?: Gendered expressions in the popular anime, Cowboy Bebop – Mie Hiramoto http://profile.nus.edu.sg/fass/ellmh/Hiramoto_2013_Hey%20youre%20a%20girl.pdf

The Genshiken girls (and Hato) are written as reading this stuff? Warning – NSFW images, purple prose and rape fiction apologia/ triggers:

https://www.academia.edu/3993649/Forbidden_Love_and_Forbidden_Desire_Themes_in_the_WWII_Yaoi_Manga_of_Fusanosuke_Inariya

Yaoi is destroying Japanese families. Warning – cum hoc ergo propter hoc  fallacies, errant bullshit and possible trolling:

https://www.academia.edu/2368322/Explanations_for_Japanese_Population_Decline

Get rich at Comiket?

http://fanhackers.transformativeworks.org/2012/06/how-much-money-do-doujinshi-creators-actually-make-some-statistics-from-comiket/

“”Lost 50000 yen or more (lost $638-more): male 14%, female 16%
Lost between 0 and 50000 yen (lost $0-$638): male 53%, female 50%
Earned between 0 and 50000 yen (earned $0-$638): male 15%, female 17%
Earned between 50000 and 200000 yen (earned $638-$2553): male 8%, female 10%
Earned more than 200000 yen (earned $2553-more): male 10%, female 6%

the circles who lose money are clearly in the majority, with 67% (male) and 66% (female) in the red. Earnings of less than 50000 yen are probably negligible in a lot of cases: this would barely cover transportation and hotel costs for a circle that has to come from outside of Tokyo.”

Stop writing to Margaret mangakas before release date, or send a pic of you holding the mag, bought in NY:

http://moromi.tumblr.com/post/87934810142/important-for-the-hnr-fandom-please-read

Heavy Fujoshi studies of the year bibliography:

Annual Bibliography of Anime and Manga Studies, 2013 Ed.
http://animemangastudies.wordpress.com/2014/03/25/342/#more-342

Another fan studies resource:

The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 1
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=269
and
The Phoenix Papers, Vol. 1, No. 2
http://fansconf.a-kon.com/dRuZ33A/?p=333

Good news on the guy front; The kids are all right. All that pre-judging is just us old baby boomers’ violent expectations.

http://freethoughtblogs.com/hetpat/2014/07/18/its-time-to-stop-defaming-our-boys/

And finally:

I was beginning to fear that the rather expensive Routledge anthology PERVERSION AND MODERN JAPAN addressed neither when at last I hit upon “Packaging desires: The unmentionables of Japanese film” by Jonathan Abel. Yup, it’s all about PANTSU in soft-core Japanese porno films, and its a rollicking great hoot of a theory-moe ride – which is to be expected of a paper that grew out of a joke presentation titled “Die Zizek, Die!

Sooner or later I must review the whole thing here. Abel is the translator of Azuma’s Database etc., while Nina Cornyetz and J. Keith Vincent (translator of Tamaki’s BFG) as editors are both very agreeable reads in their own rights. It is just that collection is a bit of a slog unless you are really, really into post-Lacanian detritus and its use in critical writings on Japanese cultural stuff.

…And you manage (as I do) to find some of it amusing.