What, and give up show business?

Wherein I get tangential and subjective (again) while considering the not-quite intersections of real life, work, fiction and fandom. Not too much about Genshiken this time. Caution: weird digressions on leaving town, sewer clearing and car repair ensue.

15 years ago I was dreaming of being a band manager of a post-punk novelty band, trapped in Hong Kong and pursued by angry gangsters. All because I really, really needed to get out the town I lived in.

Continue reading

Speak like a child

It’s that time of the year again!

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Nothing quite sets the mood for the holidays like a a bit of Scrooge and his 3 ghosts. While I have given up on my conceit that Kio Shimoku should just drop everything and do a Hato- is- visited- by- his- 3- stands (or two stands plus “Where should I go?” guy), I still appreciate an innovative retelling of a classic, especially if it can serve as an excuse to forgo the original.

And since I am Canadian, I might as well hold out for an anime-esgue retelling of Forsyth’s The Shepherd, done by studio SHAFT and the Bakemonogatari team:

dawn

“He held station alongside me for a few seconds, down moon of me, half invisible, then banked gently to the left. I followed, keeping formation with him, for he was obviously the shepherd sent up to bring me down, and he had the compass and the radio, not I…”

I need more silly stories to displace the previous silly stories that got stuck in my wetware.

The blame for A Klingon Christmas Story and the whole Klingon language thing that turned STTOS Klingons from cold-war artifacts into flawed yet noble alien-furreign “others” can be laid at the feet of the scriptwriters and fans (and fan scriptwriters) who took the sneaky, duplicitous evil commie Russian/ Chinese enemy late cold-war stand-ins of the 1960’s (the Romulans were “good” German WWII submarine captains) and turned them into Japanese Cat Samurai in the manner of Larry Niven’s Kzinti. The present-day appeal of cosplay Klingon is obvious from the theater clip: you get to be loud, speak in short, harsh, spat out syllables and posture heroically. A Klingon warrior does everything loud and heroically – except when they are heroically trying to control themselves and remain silent, for a few moments, before exploding in a loud and heroic manner.

“It is not a victory unless you say `Jumanji´.” – Slavoj Žižek

There are more reasons to create imagined others and stories for them then there are readers and viewers to consume them, so perhaps it is a fool’s errand to try to hunt down some of the tastier similarities and make wild guesses about them.

“It’s the slightly late brain-eating fungus from beyond the colours of time that gets the Doritos!” – Slavoj Žižek

While trolling around Academia.edu I saw a paper listed by James Welker, I like his writings, so when I found that the actual essay had yet to be uploaded, I emailed him a request for it and found out that it was developed for a conference talk and was not available, but that a related essay on the manga Yuri Danshi (aka Yuri Boys), in Japanese and part of a current special edition on Yuri as a genre by the Japanese pop culture magazine Eureka.would soon pop up.

Those of you who follow such things might remember what Eureka did back in 2006 with fujoshi and their fiction. Short answer: No Eureka yaoi issue, no Genshiken Nidaime as we know it. I wonder if they did an issue on popular misrepresentations of the “trans*” spectrum? They do seem to have the gift of grabbing fringe enthusiasms and dragging them out into the light of pop culture critique and commerce.

I was a bit surprised when James Welker wrote back to fill me in on the above details and to add that the latter work would eventually show up on Erica-sensei’s great yuricon project/ web domain, as part of a translation of the entire issue, along with the section by Erica Friedman herself.

Dec 2014 issue of Eureka, Japan

So Yuri about to try for another breakout in Japan, neh?

This prompted a rabbit hunt for a look-see at Yuri Danshi, the manga. First stop; the Okazu review. Executive summary: odd premise, creepy male gaze. Doesn’t seem to function as intended. Further blog reviews; file under the Ring-tailed Roarer heading: Apparently it parades BL style cartoon bishies around while they act like male flip-side versions of rotten girls and try to ship any and all females who come into their view.. 4Chan /u -style LFB yuri goggles… In a Japanese high school.

Time for a drinking game where all sentences have to have the phrase “In a Japanese High School” appended to them.

yuri-danshi

It seems that the Yuri Danshi manga wanted to both swim and fly, so it grew scales and feathers and thereafter found that it could do neither.

Further digging turned up four volumes of raws and the listing of the series on the “dropped projects” pile of a major scanlation group. Also a bit of title disambiguation: Yuri Danshi is also the name of a photo-book of Japanese otokonoko / otomeyaku cross-dressing guys who dress up as Japanese school girls and pose with longing glances at each other.

The other yuri danshi

.. In a Japanese high school.

You see they look like Japanese pop culture style faux schoolgirls doing the yuri titillation thing, but they are really….

.. In a Japanese high school.

Which is a quick and messy way of summarizing the complaint and the project of people who want to see real (istic) lesbian experiences reflected in their lesbian characters and what they are striving to change. Past Yuri was for the most part always a bunch of guys making up the whole “lesbian” thing for their (our) own prurient (and / or other) reasons. Kinda like the boys in drag from the other Yuri Danshi. Real women who happened to like other real women felt a bit left out, if not righteously cheesed off at some of the distortions that crept into the stories. Undoubtedly it was and remains complicated. I am sure some Japanese people find Belushi’s Samurai Deli skit a hoot.

Unlike the rotten girl tribes of Japan and their Euro-ethnic slash cousins, male heterosexual enthusiasts of hawt rezbian pwp pr0n have yet to adopt apologetic tones along the lines of the “these characters are in no way meant to depict real… and exist only for our own sadly rotten tastes and enthusiasms” warnings that preface so many slash/ BL/ yaoi fan archives. Dominant cultures seldom apologize for their excesses; we just kind of kick the embarrassing old stuff to the curb and make pleasant noises about the new, more sensitive and inclusive (and curiously hawt in its more truthy-ness -ness) stuff.

hideaki-kobayashi-japan-cosplay-old-guy-sailor-school-uniform-3

“To know your Asian girlfriend, you must become your Asian girlfriend.” -Slavoj Žižek, apres Sun-Tzu

And there are always reasons beyond the solitary vice why such exercises continue to hold such appeal. Why on earth is Kio Shimoku investigating “the problems of creativeness” (Google it; it is the title of an acerbic short sci-fi tale) as the “The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Male Crossdressing BL Mangaka” ???

Gimme a bit more time, I’m still working on it…

Why did the author of the light novel series and the SHAFT crew behind the Bakemonogatari franchise feel the need to invent a young athletic monkey-arm-cursed female character who calls herself a lesbian and have her do an exorcism in her own (and IMHO far superior to the gormless male hero’s previous efforts) way? And then drape the story in cheesy Yuri visual motifs and title it apres the signature s-class tale of f/f love and friendship from 1920’s Japan?

.. In a Japanese high school.

One idea presents itself: the Bakemonogatari crew (who I bet are mostly or all male) heard of, or intuited something like Erica -sensei’s rules for commendable female protagonists. She has to have agency, but not be a guy hero in a female skin. Creating an athletic young woman who just happens to desire other women (but has a not-unheard of over-the-top taste for yaoi tales) sets her character apart from the other in-harem female characters and makes her style of direct agency more believable within the context of the tale. Besides, she was too much of a good character to waste after she had given up on beating the crap out of Araragi-kun because she was jealous of his relationship with her longtime crush Senjōgahara.

“Have you ever heard a quote that you were so sure was real? What if the first time you’d heard of that person was from that fake quote? How could you tell the fake quotes from the real quotes?”
– Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The simple mechanics of storytelling sometimes conspire with an odd conceit to create inadvertent feast for the theory hungry.

Why did the author of a relentlessly smutty old-school yuri girls’ school ecchi manga go out of his way to drop little bits of characterization, high romantic melodrama, Japanese isolationist feminist literature references and an over-the-top jealous, manipulative, possessive “bad lesbian” character (who ruins the idyllic everything- can- be- resolved- by- screwing- everybody- immediately “wa” and gets whacked with a fire extinguisher for her misbehaviour) into his otherwise simple smut-fest ??

.. In a Japanese high school.

“Do not try to re-write the blog. That’s impossible. Instead… only try to realize the truth.”
“What truth?”
“There is no blog.”
“There is no blog?”
“Then you’ll see that it is not the blog that you re-write, it is only yourself.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

Aside from a welcome antidote to romantic tales of youthful longing that take virtual angst-filled years and years for the main characters to even hold hands, a certain “sect” had the virtue of getting right to the naughty bits, followed by more naughty bits (did I mention the naughty bits?). But the characters are in no way “lesbians” or even female.. The only way to explain them as a coherent whole is to posit them as a male yuri enthusiast’s recasting of BL /yaoi character tropes into female skins, minus overt seme and uke trope clutter. Ken Kurogane’s signature work is a reworked BL grinder, written for guys.

“Did I mention we’re all going to Hell in big Chinese ovens?”
– Sylvia Plath

.. In a Japanese high school.

And of course there is the elephant in the room; the odd habit of so many women to make up faux-male- homosexual characters that can play out a form of -ahem- romance, along with plenty of incomprehensibly wrong naughty stuff and never-will-issue-forth-from-the-mouths-of-actual-males romantic blather.

Oh shit you read that stuff!

I just love the idea that they exist and have figured out how to ruthlessly pursue what turns their cranks.

Heck, their characters in their most advanced Japanese form of the genre disavow “official” male homosexuality, instead insisting that only mad desire for that one and only other dude has driven their characters to pine for male-ish intimacy. Here is a weird bit of cross-cultural compare and contrast: the Japanese rotten girl will adhere to the “only you” trope, while at least some of the Euroethnic slash-fen tribes will engage in endless speculation as to whether one of both of their pairing is “Bi“.

Huh? So the Archangel Gabriel is a robot cat toaster from the future that poops bus tokens. Whatever…

“I consume human soul-energy for a living, okay? It’s my job. Just shut up and let me do my job.” – Slavoj Žižek

Why do we humans go through all the bother of making up such messy and elaborate campfire stories?

“Tell me, Mr Anderson, what good is a phone call…if you are unable to speak.”
-Slavoj Žižek

I am going to add one more neato layer to the confusion surrounding the whole puppet show of odd gendered presentation in contemporary Japanese visual culture and ask about the nuances of dialogue that we, as outlanders could spend years trying to grasp, by means of this most excellent paper I stumbled across recently:

Insight into Masculinity of the Yakuza from Linguistic Discourse Analysis [https://www.academia.edu/9828558/Insight_into_Masculinity_of_the_Yakuza_from_Linguistic_Discourse_Analysis] by Hidefusa Okabe.

So, as proper leaching outlanders who read scanlated manga and watch fansubbed anime, we all appreciate the little touches like the honorifics, the ores and bokus, chans and kuns, even the margin notes that denote a switch to respect language/ formal language and/or the lapse into a regional accent/ Osaka-ben, etc., But after reading this it becomes painfully obvious how much we are missing.

A bit later: Wow, this area seems to be flavor of the month, if not the year. I caught a reference to a new Japanese publication in Neojaponisme’s year end review [http://neojaponisme.com/2014/12/29/the-year-2014-in-japan/#comment-69204] and hunted down a link for “Role Language – A small Dictionary” [ http://translate.google.ca/translate?hl=en&sl=ja&u=http://yobanashi.seesaa.net/&prev=search ] which is apparently full of current and past pop culture exaggerated uses of the same for effect. Then there is the elusive “Modern Japanese “Role Language” (Yakuwarigo): fictionalised orality in Japanese literature” by Mihoko Teshigawara and Satoshi Kinsui of the aforementioned “small dictionary” ( short bio info here, buy the damn thing (boo hiss!) here) Here is a quick example of the use of, in a paper on Samurai Champloo [http://eaglefeather.honors.unt.edu/2014/article/306#.VKGJ-M4Bg]. 

Since we were looking at visual culture artifacts, we were paying attention to the pretty drawings, neh? Well now the cat’s outta the bag and armed with handy dictionaries and lots of useful research, we shoud probably be paying more attention to “arch” manga and anime dialogue.

I wonder how much of the “drag” that takes place in the construction of yaoi bishies and yuri girls has to do with the modes of speech/ vocabulary and dialogue that are reserved to that mode of gender-ed presentation in Japan and /or how these codes are violated for effect by the characters, for the fun and longing of their authors?

Write BL fanfiction and you get speak of love like a Yakuza tough reciting Sapphic poetry fragments.

... In a Japanese high school.

Looks like fujoshi are not just getting all squee on the parade of cartoon pretty boys and hunks and not just having fun by getting them all tangled up in “the human body can’t do that !!!” throws of passion, but also having the fun of having their puppets speak high romantic melodramatic declarations of mad desire at each other in tough-guy modes of speech that are nominally out of place for their creators..

I begin to understand how medieval Europe got its myths of chivalry, even as I lament my inability to get even the most rudimentary conversational Japanese into my brain-box.

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere. I tried bolt-cutters for a while, but I kept straining my arms, so I went back to the hacksaw. And why do they keep chaining themselves up like that, anyway? Is that some weird sexual thing?” – Slavoj Zizek

It all gets really, really crunchy and tasty when we start hunting for excuses or reasons for the existence of narratives that make a fetish out of innovative “imagined others”. All of our “others” (..and our “selves” for that matter) are imagined constructs in any case, so why not eschew realism and create a bestiary of space aliens, villainous furreigners, sexpot objects of desire, powerful (though endearingly flawed) heroes, gods, demons, sidekicks, schoolgirls (and/ or school boys) vampires, otomeyaku, loli-complex afflicted bad priests, miniskirted nuns, mercenary orphans who pilot giant robots to save girls who dream of weapons from the future, flying monkeys, loaves of bread that are superheroes…

Oh crap I give up – please add your own.

Why bother with the May Sue Overdrive? Are we all stuck with a taste to occasionally revisit our long forgotten imaginary friends and transitional objects? Did the wiring get shorted out and enough of us “need’ our phantasy constructs to jump-start our mundane IRL desires? Isn’t this the sign of some terrible out-of-eden “fall” that we supplant fantasy for real intimacy with a real person, or are we just hunting “lurv secrets” so that we can amaze, amuse and annoy our IRL partners (when and if we have any)?

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all killers are punished, unless of course they do it in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets. By the way, it is also forbidden to have sex with farm animals.” – Voltaire in conversation with Oscar Wilde (and Slavoj Zizek)

Perhaps because the long history of human fantasy has been until recently exclusively devoted toward far bloodier ends:

When W. B. Yeats wrote:

“We had fed the heart on fantasies,
The heart’s grown brutal from the fare;
More substance in our enmities
Than in our love…”

…He was watching as his small patch of Irish soil was doing the local road show of “The Rites of Spring“. Like mass culture’s insane overload of pretty pictures, pleasant music and even pretty colors, the profusion of narrative available to the average citizen of 2014 CE earth dwarfs what was available to even the richest and most powerful of the past. We just have more. It makes us a bit odd. (so sez Dr. Tamaki, Toffler and John Brunner, so it’s gotta be right, neh?) 

Chill out and learn to hack the spew.

“You have a problem with authority, Mr. Anderson. You believe
that you are special, that somehow the rules do not apply to
you. Obviously you are mistaken.” – Slavoj Žižek

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A quick glance at the news feeds reveals that we are all still enthralled with our conventional, accepted, real-life fantasies and that they still make the best excuses for mayhem, torture, neglect, oppression and murder. How else can we explain Dick Cheney? Isis? The Tea Party? Shintaro Ishihara?

“What does not kill you will hurt a lot.” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

So three cheers for escapist reading material, Mary Sues, robot cats from the future, Hato, Madarame and Ogiue, Shinobu Handa and Shinobu Oshino Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade and Kanbaru Suruga, even cartoon rainbow-colored ponies and all the other odd and oddly gender-ed characters invented and/or admired by Alfred Prufrock and his brothers and sisters whenever the pressure at the office gets to be a real effing drag.

Gambatte Kudesai !!!

“I advise you to go on living, solely to enrage those who are paying your salary. ” – Slavoj Žižek

.. In a Japanese high school.

The best of the holiday season to everyone, and I wish you all a Happy New Year!

Chapter 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 in his 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 his debut at the Genshiken as fujoshi and the display of his 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 un-natural 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!” -Walsh…

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 shojou 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 has been called a mutant josei manga with a few hold-over shojou 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 shojou-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 ??)

Ok 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-Lilly for great dojinshi creating justice!

 

Teenage wasteland

Don’t cry, Don’t raise your eye, It’s only teenage wasteland – Slavoj Žižek

Funny how references from the Monogatari franchise (1) sneak into Genshiken. Sue’s initial Shinobu act (btw: my previous Hato- build up logically references Shinobu Handa of Shojou Sect infamy, not Mono’s fallen demiurge.), the “hardware store, pot lid and awl” quote are just for starters.

I stutterd Genshiken_v10_035wb

We know that Kio Shimoku and Kōji Kumeta are friends, and that SHAFT creative light Akiyuki Shinbo [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akiyuki_Shinbo] worked on the SZS animes – anyone care to do a full 6 degrees of… ?

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Wasn’t that supposed to be “My abusive language is alchemized through 40 kg copper, 25 kg of zinc, 15 kg of nickel, 5 kg of ice and 97 kg of spite” ???

Ice pick Genshiken_v10_121crop

What if Genshiken was written as Bake(etc.)monogatari?

A great deal of the story in Genshiken moves along because the characters cannot bring themselves to say what they need to say to their friends, and that they stubbornly refuse to deal with their own internal contradictions. In the Monogatari franchise, everybody gets to talk at length and then some about teen neuroses; as these become the cause of their monstrous “aberrations” /possessions. Everyone eventually gets extremely personal. Sure they take the roundabout route first and look at every freaking angle in nearly endless bouts of dialogue, but they inevitably get painfully intimate as they examine each other’s internal “truths” and “lies”. It is always the lies told to one’s self that power the possession de jour.

capture_10092014_224548

Hato’s stands never grow cat ears or snake hair and set off on murderous late-night sprees.

The Genshiken’s members are isolated monads. The closest Mono-like comments in Genshiken are made by Kousaka on Madarame’s Saki crush. Keiko gets to prod Mada too, but it never goes too deep. It is that honne and tatemae thang again, yawn… but this goofy what-if contrast highlights the seductive appeal of the Monogatari franchise.

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At first it the Monogatari franchise looks like a quirky supernatural high-school harem grinder, with plenty of outre fanservice, weird SHAFT design conceits and annoying pacing. TL:WO&O:DW

Lets take a closer look:

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Welcome to the nightmare that is Chiba/ Kawasaki/ Yokohama Monogatari-Alphaville. Definitely a “new” town with too many wide- open streetscapes, big parks, empty pedestrian malls, industry on the edges, a beach/ waterfront and woodlands in the hills surrounding it.

deco bunk bed NiseMon e4web

An affluent burg; a three child family with both parents working in the police force can afford an amazingly spacious modernist/ art-nouveau deco house. Check out the bath room (Japanese homes traditionally put the john in a seperate water closet room) that looks like it is a cross between a spa and a church loft:

isanely large bath web

(Aside: A nice consideration of Degas and bath scenes and loli fanservice in the show can be read here:  http://karice.wordpress.com/2012/04/15/p239/ 
And while I’m at it, a tips of the hat to “Entravity” http://www.entravity.com/monogatari-series-second-season/  for its episodic reviews, and to “Wrong Every Time” http://wrongeverytime.com/?s=monogatari&submit=Search for the considered essays on the series !!!)

The young rich monkey-armed fujoshi lives in a huge old-money walled and gated Japanese style mansion: it comes complete with the requisite tippy bamboo water gong. Her bedroom is the size of a banquet hall and is filled to her height with BL books.

uH7EeqI

Another of the female characters has a spacious bedroom with a balcony and a huge closet for hiding her deepest secrets within.

monogatari-5-38

Still another heroine has a terrible family situation and sleeps in the hall of her un-parent’s house, but it is a big hall. She will eventually get a good-sized bedroom of her own.

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Even the tsundere heroine’s cartoon poverty digs are not too bad for an incomplete  construction site turned into a home.

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The school grounds are massive and fitted out with finishing design touches that would make a freshly built regional university drool. Sometimes the classrooms look like they could seat 200 students. Other times they are a bit more reasonably sized.

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And then there is that donut shop on the edge of “town”: did SHAFT get a product placement deal? Western franchise style donut shops are rather scarce in the parts of Japan that I have visited. Equally scarce are highways out of town leading to Nevada-esque plains.

monogatari-8-17 (1)

These visual quirks and contradictions are there for a reason. Unlike the close, confined, safe and often claustrophobic social of a “real” Japan, Monogatari-Alphaville is a late-bubble economy, somewhat west-coast USA -like nowhere-ville. There is no “here” here. And it offers a cautionary frisson of danger to the Japanese reader: you want more space, more privacy, more autonomy?

vlcsnap-2014-10-14-23h57m46s238

Be careful what you wish for!

The distance between buildings and structures is mirrored by the distance between people.

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One interesting way around this is the notion of “the character lens” brought out in this blog; http://surprisinglycomplex.blogspot.ca/2013/05/bakemonogatari-behind-summer-triangle.html . Definitely one of the go-to resources for the series, the reviews and essays on the franchise are excellent fun reading! You should visit! The idea behind the lens is that the exaggerations we see are the point of view of the main character.

To restate for clarity: most of the first Mono (Bakemonogatari) is from the POV of the recovering teen vampire Koyomi Araragi. Buddy-boy’s brush with the supernatural has brought on a bit of maturity and he is now a bit less of a rebellious slacker and a bit more thoughtful, introspective and tyro- superhero- “responsible” – especially if the problem involves a girl in distress. He is good-hearted, tries to control his impulsiveness and ecchi urges and is in the process of learning how to negotiate his first serious romance with a formidable girlfriend.

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Because he IS THE POV, we get to see his world in a slightly distorted way; sometimes through his eyes, mostly from tracking perspectives but always exaggerated by his perceptual leanings and state of mind at the time. The gory fight scenes were used as the primary example in the Surprisingly Complex essay. He might have extra ex-vampire strength and healing powers, but the violent stuff still hurts like heck; hence the over the top blood and gore.

monogatari-4-25-tsukihi-karen

His two younger sisters have become strong skilled brawlers and his chances for brotherly skinship and good-natured harassment – which often descend into borderline lolicon excess are limited…

dont wake me like that web

…so they are for the most part transferred to lost snail-cow ghost girl. The rest of the over the top fanservice can be similarly situated. Along with a trademark SHAFT ironic presentation, we get our pantsu shots and bath scenes but we can say that we are just laughing at the excess.

monogatari-8-19-koyomi-mayoi

As well they can be read as subjective exaggerations to highlight the residual character flaws of our slowly maturing male hero. He may have Ecchi urges, but he is controlling himself. He and his lady-love are even saving their virtue for after high school graduation. Even if they are almost “engaged” complete with meet the parents, they dont do the teenage lust make-out thing. It is a wonder that they had one good romantic kiss on the night of Tanabata. (D’awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!)

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 Just ignore all the loli pantsu stuff…

Yup, tell that to the customs officers. Oh well, that’s what streaming sites are for.

Let us return to those wide open spaces. The character lens effect from buddy-boy’s POV can only explain so much of the expo/ world’s fair post-modern design nature of Mono-Alphaville. Time to drop a note over to the folks at Neojaponism – they understand commercial design trends, typography and layout a whole lot better than moi. They would have a lot better idea of what “era” is being referenced: I will stick with “bubble economy” because it is easy and vague.

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Aside from freeing the SHAFT animators from the expense of detailed backgrounds by allowing for a clever reworking of CGI savings (dial DOWN the rendering quality from 2.9D to “superflat” then overdo perspective and colour shift for mood. Sell your production economies as style!) the design-conceit heavy spatialized mood of the setting emphasises the social ISOLATION of the characters and strengthens the bonds that form between them. The crowded, visually cluttered, complex and sometimes suffocating modern Japan that gives rise to rigid codes of honne and tatemae, honne and giri, uchi and soto, etc., are blown away like dust in the sterile, wide empty streets.

Cold Equations:

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Aside from the superflat treatment, another inescapable characteristic of the background treatments are their linearity, their hard angles and the use of only the simplest geometric operations for curves. The streetscapes and the city may be jumbled, but it is a jumble born out a dropped geometry set, perhaps an echo of one of the heroine’s school supply weaponry. There are not a lot of complex, natural curves in Monogatari-Alphaville: everything looks like it came out of a 40-year-old street furniture supply company catalogue.

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Even ruins are linear, hard horizontal and vertical strokes, as in the derelict cram school, set off by the one organic oddity that marks it as a magical space – a giant tree that has grown up through its roof.

Life goes on despite, rather than with the help of such a setting.

“To yourself be true. Don’t stress out. Don’t lie to yourself. If the truth of your life is unacceptable you can change that truth but you must change it through deeds not words. Skill suffers if practiced from a personal agenda. The kids are all right. Travel broadens one’s horizons. You can’t choose your family, but they are still your family. There’s no place like home”. These are the commonplaces of coming-of-age tales, and can be expected in a young adult story. Mono has got all these o’ plenty, but the supernatural focus on lies, especially lies told to one’s self verges into almost un-Japanese extremes and in doing so offers a Japanese audience the chance to vicariously experience the shedding of a claustrophobic tatemae in parallel to the experience of the anomic wide-open spaces of Monogatari-Alphaville.

You also get donuts!

And you get frenetic production-fourth-wall black, white, red, whatever transition frames, graphic conceits, text cards, stock illustration fast-cuts and other almost subliminal visual clutter to keep the eyes busy while the platitudes are being endlessly mulled over by the characters.

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Jeesh! All they do is talk talk talk, but seldom has talk been so visually dynamic; except for the Zetsubo Sensei animes which shared the same frantic visual overload to compensate for inane dialogue. The Monogataries seems to have a more consistent style book governing the application of these distractions – as if the producers are trying to stay on a linear storyline, while keeping up the supply of eye-candy. Sometimes it just becomes a bit too much.

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I would guess they are hoping the fans buy the blue ray and endlessly rewind pause-play for hidden extra bits.

This visual clutter adds a certain mood to the story; Shifting POVs, the consideration of multiple subjectivities and multiple, diffuse interpretations of barely understood events. While the roots of this kind of video trickery run deep in Western crime/forensic series, the effect here is to expand “width” of the storytelling and slow it down rather than chivvy the action along.

“How can you make Art out of the internet?” – R.A.Stone
“SLOW… IT… DOWN!!!” – overenthusiastic art student in the audience

Female trouble:

Many late-modern Japanese harem grinders lean toward odd female-centric exercises. The absence of males in the Mono franchise is glaring: the male lead’s dad remains offstage – we see mom do a cameo warning cat-girl not camp over too much, but no dad. The female lead’s dad silently chauffeurs them on a date.

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Guys with agency occasionally make an appearance as part of the ghostbuster irregulars: Hawaii shirt and the con man form a good uncle/ bad uncle tag team that in the end perform similar functions. Of the two, the con-man Kaiki is far more nuanced. Supernaturally limited, he first appears as a Ray Bradbury Carnival devil and finally evolves into a flawed tough-love destroyer of delusions and a hopelessly romantic old dude who still cannot resist playing puppeteer.

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It is fitting that he gets his head severely whacked after saving the day at the end of one arc, reassuring that he pops up again sadder and perhaps a bit more of a shady uncle in a later storyline.

Otherwise it is the girls that get themselves possessed by gods, demons and other aberrations and the girls that eventually solve their own problems. Unfortunately they only seem to be able to solve their problems after being provoked, prodded, questioned, challenged and talked at by buddy boy and his uncle substitutes. At least they usually get to use buddy boy as a punching bag during the exercise, so fair is fair. When buddy boy has to go up against the women members of the ghostbusters, he again gets to both lecture them and get the stuffing beaten out of him.

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The loli vampire Shinobu ex- ridiculously long fake English name heart-under-blade occasionally helps out a bit, but usually buddy boy has to take a beating in order to underline the seriousness of his statements. And of course he then finally gets listened to, the woman/ girl in question goes Eureka, Duh! The problem is solved.

Humph!

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At least in one of the last story arcs (considered chronologically) Hanamonagatori‘s tomboy gets to take on a problem herself. Free-er of outre fanservice than the rest of stories, it resolves as an odd tale of suspicion, respect, affection and regret between two young women who had once been rivals on the basketball court.

Suruga Kanbaru self-identifies matter-of-fact-ly as a lesbian, has a ridiculously excessive taste for BL books, (Note to Ogiuemaniax: Found another one for you!) and is getting used to not being able to hang around with Hitagi Senjōgahara (her first idealized “sempai” crush) and the once-rival for the affections thereof and now only male friend buddy-boy. Her demon monkey arm is still with her and slated to keep her away from sports (and soul-selling wishes) for another two years.

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Up until this tale, she had been the quirky athletic fanservice lesbian almost-member of the Araragi harem, but Hanamonagatori is her tale and she takes what she has learned from her sempais and her own possession experiences and acquits herself and her once rival with honor and dignity. Kaiki buys her Korean barbecue and drop vague hints (see bad uncle above) but leaves her to figure things out. We know he will treat her half fair-and-square because he owes a debt of respect and unrequited love to her deceased mom – who also just happened to be one of the most powerful ghostbusters ever. Another quasi-relative, a sex-shifting cypher with a face that recalls the mask of Darker than Black’s Hei pops up to prod things along, but his (currently) advice is always fraught with danger.

spooky hei close

When earlier story arcs needed a menacing bit of set-the-disaster-in-motion, mask face always appeared as a girl. It was a spooky touch to genderswap her for Kambaru.

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Araragi pops up too, but declines to meddle or ask too much until all is well and done. Friends, not so much sempai and kouhai (or dearest sempai’s tolerable boyfriend) any more; a distance has also grown between them.

Maybe we are getting fed a yurified retread of an old shonen-ai story. Jeesh, the name (!) (a famous early 20th C Japanese f/f romance tale), the lily motifs in the credits, trolling, trolling, trolling… but still remarkably restrained. The previous arcs were not exactly a shining model of empowerment for young women. This time a reluctant girl apprentice takes on the task and does it in a way that only she could manage.

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Of course there will be a duel on the basketball court – which goes down a lot faster than the talk, talk, talk on the court that proceeds it. The basketballs were a nice touch.

So Monogatari(s) for the win…

But just think how much fun could be had if Genshiken had a Monogatari-ish cameo episode:

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Rika chiding Yajima over the Hato-crush, their voices echoing through a deserted Tokyo Big Sight as the winter afternoon sun sets…(cue shining music)

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Ogiue haunting a strangely derelict club-block (cue shining music) as a cat-eared monster that jumps out of windows, kicking Sasahara around until Ohno and Saki prevail upon her to heal herself.

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Hato turning into gawd knows what with the stands, Kicking around Mada along campus plazas that seem to stretch on for miles (cue shining music).

University empty

Sue as Shinobu getting to beat the Hato continuum up, while telling them to heal themselves in fractured anime quotes.

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Saki turning into a busty moe-blob fire starter Maid, kicking Madarame and Kuchiki around a a strangely deserted mall-scapes (cue shining music) until Kousaka gets her to calm down and heal herself.

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Ohno turning into something Bayonetta-esque, or better; a demonized Murcielago knock-off and ripping apart the entire damn Genshiken membership male and female in a deserted onsen (that seems to stretch out for miles – cue shining music) until the batteries give out on Tanaka’s camera. She then reasons with her many alter-egos and heals herself. Some magical bullshit treats everyone’s injuries and they complain about too much cosplay in the Genshiken during a mixed bath scene.

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Rika turning into a mean cartoon drunk (cue Tom Waits music) kicking nobody, nobody really caring enough to tell her to snap out of it and heal herself.

Nawwwww, that probably wouldn’t work.

Random Endnotes:

1) Yes, the word monogatari is just the bad romanization of the Japanese term for “tale” or “story”, so of course this refers to the SHAFT produced anime franchise and the light novels by that they are based on. See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogatari_(series). Excerpt: “.. A series of Japanese light novels written by Japanese novelist Nisio Isin and illustrated by Taiwanese illustrator Vofan. Kodansha has published 18 novels since November 2006 under their Kodansha Box imprint, with at least one more novel planned.

One fan’s listing of the anime so far:

Story’s Chronological Order
1. Kizumonogatari -Movie Prequel (in perpetual post-production)
2. Nekomonogatari: Kuro
3. Bakemonogatari
4. Nisemonogatari
5. Monogatari Series Second Season
-Nekomonogatari: Shiro
-Kabukimonogatari
-Otorimonogatari
-Onimonogatari
-Koimonogatari
6. Hanamonogatari should be between Kabuki and Otori  (no, it happens after, Duh!)

And unreleased parts are:  
7.Tsukimonogatari
8. Koyomimonogatari
9. Owarimonogatari
10.Zokuowarimonogatari

Dreams are sacred

Ok, I reconsider. I made a mistake. I went back and read more and I like it. I was wrong, it is funny and has a heart. No more snark about Kuragehime (Princess Jellyfish) shall be allowed in this blog. Two things lead me to change my mind. First, I let slip a rash judgmental dismissal of it at a certain conference while in conversation with one of its (possibly strongest) fans, and I saw the hurt on her face. I shit-heel! If it can cause such a reaction, It must have something to love within it. I don’t make fun of love. It is pretty well the only thing we have going for us as a species.

Reason numero two: I last looked at it some 2 years ago, and I never clued in that the later-appearing wonderful autobiographical manga about art school and becoming a pro mangaka; Kakukaku Shikajika was drawn by the same person. Then I hit an author’s comment section and HEY WAIT A SECOND! this looks familiar! Duh! The mangaka is Akiko Higashimura… I love that manga!  I had a couple of excellent teachers at art school. I felt a twinge of nostalgia and guilt when I read Kakukaku. What have I done to justify all the extra effort they put into teaching me?

Besides, now that Jellyfish is well into 70 something chapters and 14 volumes, it must be recognised as a force majeur in the depiction of female otaku/ collector maniacs/ social isolates/ fujoshi. I note that they, like the Genshiken fujoshi, come in a variety of body types and over-subscribed enthusiasms. This series pretty well holds the patent on the trope. The crossdressing male lead initially raised suspicions with me for two reasons: The crossdressing male who would teach females how to present as females is an annoying cliché and the magic rich kid (the rich are different from us) is frequently used to excuse all manner of plot holes, while the implications of a growing class divide in Japanese society are papered over. I should have read more. Perhaps he is more of a “positive subversion of the patriarchy” as some bloggers who burn powder about such things suggested.

Like the series’ advocate at the conference, the male lead is a theatre fan, as well as a fashion fan, and the mangaka seems to have done enough research (and/or shares in his enthusiasms – wait; she reveals that she has re-married into the cloth trade!) to pull off his devotion convincingly. As well, clunky social class tropes get better use as the series progresses; the treatment of inequalities grow more important, sharper and more central to the plot and the comedy. When Kuranosuke Koibuchi explains away his family calling him “son” as a family tradition of being raised as a boy to be groomed for politics (a fast bit of bullshit to avoid being reveled as a guy to the other “amars” aka; buddhist nuns), the Rose of Versailles idiocy that follows is great low comedy.

As for the crossdressing: well, he still has “reasons” other than professed issues of sexuality. He absolutely wants to avoid the family business (national politics), he enjoys the company of women, and he really likes fashionable women’s clothes; he is an extreme fashionista. It’s his hobby – any problem with that? He still is a bit of a magic rich boy, complete with chauffeur, connections and a generous allowance and will do the stock magic- rich- boy- starts- a- business- on- the- fly- to- make- a- fortune- and- save- the- day routine, but so far the trope is being handled with enough detail and commotion as to move the story forward without jumping the shark. That plot was good enough for Sophia Loren some 50 years ago (minus any gender dysphoria) so who am I to complain? Add to this that both the boy and jellyfish girl have “lost mother” syndromes that fuel their devotions; to jellyfish, the theatre and high fashion, then add a ruthless fashion empire mogul who grew up an orphan and the characterizations grow to Dickensian proportions.

The brother's secret imagined

Jellyfish is not shy about hiding its shojo/ josei manga roots either. Because it is shojo (and/or josei) it is remarkably free of service for guys, which is curiously refreshing. Instead there are ironic floral panels and other rom-con tropes pushed to absurd lengths and service for the girls; a drunk cross-dressing boy collapses butt nekkid in our heroine’s hotel room before she is about to be whisked away to Singapore. Then there are the more josei-ish plot lines: the brother’s romantic side-story is a wonderful mess of bad-girl seduction going awry and pure innocent goodness triumphing (or tested and soon to triumph – but I didn’t like the plot turning on a slap – I will assume that it is a mouldy true- romance chestnut) It only serves to highlight the main trick most of the comedy and 3/4 of the characterization that drives the story forward: none of the characters are really up to their schemes (except perhaps the once-orphan clothing mfg tycoon – just wait, he’ll get his too!)

Then there is the fun with the amars: They and their social isolate friends seem to just be waiting until that pig Dr. Mallion gets his mitts on them and bends them to productive ends. (apologies to Dr. Ralph Von Wauwau). Well, sort of… The faults of the amars run very deep and so they will screw up even the simplest of operations. It is a miracle that they can feed themselves, except that they need some survival skills for the perpetually meat-starved ronin/ neet trope that also pops up a bit too often. Perhaps they should have tried opening a restaurant?

Hello? Work?

Finally, it is hard to avoid noticing that Jellyfish refuses to shy away from the economic and social malaise in Tokyo that has crushed down young, middle-aged and old alike, hollowing out the economy, the city and the lives of people. Nor does it hide the profound fear that is very much a part of our heroine’s shyness; the turn to stone thing is funny, but our heroine about to go on a date is whole other level of realistic, raw trauma. The comedy has an edge to it.  What saves it from being mean and depressing isn’t that the characters; the girls and the boy are so odd, but that they love their enthusiasms and have begun to dream.

So, Kuragehime for the win.

Dreams are sacred.

On that note, Genshiken 104 raws are out! Both Hato-chan and Yajima get their  newest works examined by Ogiue. Much blushing ensues.

and righteousness like a mighty stream…

Congratulations to the 2014 Hugo winners, with special congratulations to John Chu for his short story: The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, which can be read at  http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/02/the-water-that-falls-on-you-from-nowhere.

I am highlighting this story for a few reasons. First there was a bit of a trolling controversy set up in the nominations this year and it looks like the fans who voted for the Hugos were less than impressed by the trick. The sci-fi community has had plenty of similar controversies in the past, including entire religions trying to game the system.

Good try, nice of you all to drop a high school debating club gambit into the fandom… Not!

More importantly, more stories like John Chu’s The Water… are exactly what are needed to again show that the entire opening up of the field of narrative, of story-telling by voices that have previously kept (or been kept) silent is a great, honorable, beautiful and needed thing. And it was done with such heart; the minimum of sci-fi tricks; no scaring the horses; a real class act! Damn! What a sweet love story, with guys… (1)

And because this is a blog about Genshiken, manga, anime and games – mostly from Japan, I hope that some Japanese rotten girls get a translated copy of this story, find it boring and then realize that while they can still make their own personal hawt fantasies, something that is closer to “authentic” and “not-other” is sitting off to the side waiting for them whenever they are ready for it. Some of them already are. Heck, this one should be emailed to a whole bunch of -insert your fave ass-hat bigot- for- profit here- but they would ignore it and/or just use it as proof of some damned conspiracy or another.  That’s what they do to put food on the table; it is the banality of evil made even more stupid and banal.

Oh K-rist must stop now…

As for a whole bunch of the rest of us; including a middle age cis-gendered het guy like me who is still working on getting the stupid bogie-men of all manner of different prejudices learned in my youth out of my wetware, stories like this are a relief from the aforementioned bullshit that makes up “the culture wars” (2).

Glad I developed the sci-fi habit way back when – It helps a bit.

Well done and well done!

Thank you John Chu.

PS: Yup; the majority of fans who voted really meant to prove that heartfelt writing, even if dealing with history, gender politics and stories deserved applause, hence the award for “Best Related Work” / Best Fan Writer essay: We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative by Kameron Hurley  http://www.sfwa.org/2013/05/guest-post-we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative/ …Just in case the high school debating club team didn’t get the message: -FLICK- on de ole forehead… (And not in any way to say the essay won for controversy and not quality – dammit everything goes sideways when the little politiks games intrude.)

 Meanwhile in the non-controversy department, Equoid by Charles Stross http://www.tor.com/stories/2013/09/equoid  (Wow thats 3 winners all free and legal for the web-reading!) Is buckets of Lovecraftian fun, with 3 more freely available “Laundry” tales out there as well.  

Thanks and congrats to these writers and their web enablers/ crew/ co-conspirators for the fine reading materials! Guess I can stay off the manga aggregator sites tonight,

Random Endnotes:

1) Later: Zeitgeist time? The fans voting for the Hugos had no way of knowing that the gentle “Love is Strange” movie was about to be released. see:  http://www.slate.com/blogs/outward/2014/08/22/love_is_strange_anti_lgbtq_workplace_discrimination_happens_in_real_life.html

2) Later again: So I gushed enthusiastically about this story to a married lesbian friend and she shivered when the “meet the parents” theme came up. I then made a few noises about how painless it was for a stick- in- the- mud- straight- guy to read a m-m gay romance story. Her very gentle rejoinder: “Don’t worry, a lifetime of reading het stuff hasn’t turned me straight”. Extreme Duhhh!-on- me moment!

Gogatsu-byou

Well, this is annoying! I have had to trash three different posts because they all ended up boring fail. It must be the change of seasons, or the weather.

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Here instead is a quote I found on some forum. I think it might be by Slavoj Zizek, but then again, who cares…

“The real issue here is that chickens are obviously inferior to Formula 409 All-Purpose Cleaner, and yet certain critics on both the extreme right and left continue to insist that is not so – although these men and women are thankfully outside the academic mainstream, if not outright on the fringes of radical discourse and propaganda.

This is obviously a mistake. The sensual curves and strong edges of Formula 409’s world-famous spray bottle technology, together with its patented formula that Cuts Through Tough Grease And Grime, produce a powerful erotic sensation of the first painful and pleasurable sweet nothings of youthful sexual awakening. I first experienced this revelation when, one summer long ago in Tuscany, Julia Child rubbed butter all over my naked virgin body. It was then that she sprayed Formula 409’s patented bleach-free formula all over her powerful forearms, and performed a Scandinavian Corkscrew. In no time, all of my tough stains and chicken grease were gone, leaving me sweaty, panting, and totally spotless.”

PS: Hato X Hato or GFTO !!!

On heroes and hero worship

Wherein I try to balance speculation about character mechanics with a slightly self-indulgent fan-out, in order to make up for dropping cryptic comments into other blogs when suddenly struck by insight…

“…Within a somewhat socially repressive environment, in which citizens are expected to conform and contribute to the social good, anime is a temporary escape from reality and crossdressing serves as an outlet for personal expression. Dressing as a girl allows Japanese boys and men (such as Haruhi Fujioka’s crossdressing father in Ouran High School Host Club and the countless “okama” in One Piece) to not just express their softer, feminine side, but to temporarily drop their burden of male responsibility. Attraction to these characters may also be tied to a sense of ease. Male viewers that like josou shounen characters may feel more comfortable relating to a boy that looks like a girl than an actual girl because jousou shonen anime characters consistently seem more compassionate, receptive, and considerate than female anime characters that expect normal boys to act like boys. Josou shounen themselves don’t look or act like boys and don’t demand that other boys live up to the stereotypical male characteristics that girls expect.

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. [July 23rd, 2010.]”

-http://www.animenation.net/blog/2010/07/23/john-asks-why-is-josou-shounen-becoming-a-mainstream-trend/

The above quoted explanation for the boys-in-skirts genre has a superficial ring of truthiness about it; lets take it apart and see if there is anything that can be teased out of it to illuminate Mada’s Genshiken harem and Hato-chan’s dilemma.

The burden of responsibility for the male role: here we are already into slip. It is assumed in this explanation that the attractiveness of a crossdressing male character comes in part from the vicarious admiration of the freedom that the role affords. The passage reads almost as it was noting the attraction of 3D crossdressing as hobby rather than simply noting that certain characters are attractive. This is not only the freedom to hang out with girls and do girly stuff, but to avoid the unpleasant, difficult and perhaps bankrupt male role. Note that there is no mention of “born in the wrong body”, This is gender tourism. The models for this twinned explanation are newspaper reports of “herbivore males” and the rich kid from Princess Jellyfish. The catchphrase for the effect would be “It’s my hobby!

The next suggestion – that conventional female manga, game and anime characters mirror real life females who make too many demands upon the broken male; either to be a stoic, silent male hero or to be successful, forceful, romantic and so perfect that almost all suitors are doomed to failure from the start. This is an analogue of the “she won’t date anyone who makes under X per year” news items from the first few years of the millennium. While this explanation has some plausibility a similar attraction is part of what drives lolicon desire, the full implications of it are horrific. Does this mean that a certain subset of otaku cannot even handle spunky girl characters? Passive-aggressive cultural blowback!

More could have been offered as explanation. The power relations hinted at in more dramatic versions of the otokonoko genre play with an implicit bargain between the otokonoko character and the almost- smitten boy object of desire. The otokonoko character plays an exaggerated, supportive, understanding feminine role and the boy character agrees to take her presentation as suitably feminine and desirable. flattery is exchanged for flattery. This means that for the first time, the nerd boy can be the one who gets to play coy, and both can place themselves above vanilla relationships. Raiju winner-types of both sexes, long used to getting what they want would turn out to be too rigid, lazy or spoiled to give such a relationship a try, so the nerd and the crossdresser rise above them as harbingers of the cultural vanguard. This is the virtual Jack Kerouac Beat Generation redux effect.  Verily, there is nuthin new under the sun…

With the lights off, it’s less dangerous…

What kind of male main character is best to draw in male readership into a particular story? Is it an average guy, like Genshiken’s Sasahara? Does he have to worse than average; a clumsy horn dog or an ill-socialized nerd? Extremely shy around girls? Clueless? Perhaps the slightly melancholic normal guy with family troubles that leave him somewhat orphaned? Slightly unhinged? Bat-shit crazy?

One of the familiar tropes of high school romantic comedies and harem grinders gives us a somewhat shy, well-behaved guy with blond hair and/ or a “scary face” which means that everyone avoids him as a dangerous delinquent. Then the quirky girls flock around him. Then an otokonoko “page-boy”, a few lolis and at least one scheming over-sexed older woman.

If he is going to be socially awkward around girls, he can’t be too much of a freak; How is it that Madarame is on the outer edge of the limit while Kuchiki is beyond it? Is it that Kuchiki has too many weaknesses? Does Madarame only look acceptable because Kuchiki is worse? It looks like the limit is one interesting, forgivable life-effecting weakness per average young guy.

Perhaps we have a male analogue to one of the reasons why women populate BL tales with extreme male characters: to escape the power dynamics that are set in place before the story starts (power dynamics set up within the story are fair ball).

My limited exposure to North American female aspirational fiction- the kind where the bright young heroine comes to New York for her exciting new job, splurges on name brand crap and navigates the attention of the good guy and the dangerous guy, notes that the setting, the brand name props, the relentless consumption pattern name-dropping and the cookie cutter suitors all serve to create a theme park romance-ish experience to be binged upon by female readers who do not live in New York and cannot access bling or exciting suitors. It is almost allegorical, in the sense that the characters, setting and props have only to be named and remain barely described, fleshed out or given any “reality” within the story. Very lazy writing, but still popular. Sorry Azuma-san, your database looks like a 1950’s automat cafeteria.

I was really bored and stuck without any other reading material when I read that one centuries ago, so perhaps I over-generalize, but if this kind of thing is what women are supposed to be reading, then I can understand why some of them ruthlessly excise the annoying plucky heroine in favour of banging the guys together for some outre fun. The only alternative would be to peel the plastic wrap off the entire setting and expose what lies beneath as some murderous horror-show; which explains the appeal of the Buffy-verse. (both variants seem to posit the bad- boy- on- a- leash as an answer to the old Freudian question of female desire, which again makes the rotten girl response amusingly innovative.)

The relative newness of the otokonoko genre makes it easier to recycle all manner of hackneyed old romance chestnuts: Perfect girl falling for schlep buddy boy is too hard to believe, so Otoko! Otoko! Otoko! is just the newest way of giving the perfect girl character another hidden “flaw”/ back story to explain her odd tastes; ex-gang leader, alien, magic girl, time-traveller, angel, esper, reality shifter, teen prostitute, hidden royalty, riches, psychotic kitten-killer, etc., etc., After all, it’s all just grist for a galge and a few manga and anime spin-offs right?

Low res is best res

Behold Hato-chan V2. All the faults enumerated in the Rame is a loser session translate into some odd form of moe for Mada-and-only-Mada Hato. Moe enough to finally get Hato level up the femininity presentation and to use the cooking skills he practiced to return the meal that Mada made for him a half a year (almost five years real-time) ago. The “what the heck does she see in him?” effect works even if the perfect girl ain’t one.

Oh no I said a dirty word…

Of course since this is all part of a harem dating-sim game, it is natural and expected. Natural too is that Madarame can now interact with Hato-chan as feminine, but can feel a bit safer: Clumsy flirting with a genre situation Hato is less threatening than clumsy flirting with a raiju cis-female. If Mada screws up, Hato will forgive or at least understand where the stupid guy tricks are coming from. If he goes too far, Hato will judo-throw him. With ironic genre quoting any goofy gesture or statement can be made as long as it is put in harem +/or josou genre quotation marks.

The excerpt’s writer suggests that the josou genre is not just a flight from/ beyond traditional gender roles in contemporary Japan but the making of new diffuse ones. This one gets a bit strained; if only because the characteristics of the “ideal” accepting otokonoko are as traditional as they come. In the raiju world of fantasy cis-females they are represented by the geisha, the hostess and the floozie with a heart of gold who has retired from the trade and now runs a late-night izakaya. Strange how Keiko’s night job is to act something like her: it might be reading too much into her off-screen character to yell LAMPSHADE! yet.

Because they are presented in ironic quotes, they become trans(*)gressive. This is Judith Butler territory, but even she must be ready to refine her initial theories, as the nasty ole patriarchal society seems to have an almost infinite appetite for gobbling up the transgressive and excreting the co-opted useable. Chomp! Urrrrrp! Substitute you for my mum, At least I’ll get my washing done…

A far bigger question looms: why is Kio Shimoku is turning shy, crossdresses-to-be- a-fujoshi, imagines his BL male self to be a forceful seme Hato into a paragon of supportive accepting, inviting femininity and throwing her at Madarame?

To put it simply, because it won’t work!

It’s fun to lose and to pretend…

The problem is not simple gender/ sexuality prejudice. That would be low-class.

Hato-chan might be completely accepting of Madarame’s faults, and a future Madarame could be completely accepting of an intimate relationship with a trans girl-boy, but Hato’s current brand of feminine just doesn’t turn Mada’s crank. It does something else entirely.

It came to me in a flash while reading the detailed comments in a senior blogger’s notes on Chapter 98, when the reader discussion moved on to “What does Mada want?” The usual response is “he doesn’t know!”, but this is slightly disingenuous. We already know who he wanted, the question should be “when?” and “why“. To put it simply, Saki would never act like Hato is acting.

Madarame was fascinated by the raiju Saki who invaded the Genshiken in search of her boy-next-door. Soon enough he was doing his usual Madarame fugue state creepy geek-out that he always does to keep himself safe from social mistakes (by pre-emptive strike) and the heartbreak of a crush on someone who is miles out of his league (which is pretty well how Madarame views almost all females).

Later Saki was dragged into cosplaying as the chairman from “Unbalance“- That was cute, but it was fap fodder at best. Only when she busts the upskirt camera creep and publicly “becomes” the avatar of Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad, does she become irresistible. At that moment, a small fierce flame is lit in the heart of Harunobu Madarame and his comfortable self is forever shattered.

Falling for an avatar

You poor shmuck! You have conflated a real girl as the incarnation of your favourite moe-blob heroine! Bakka! Bakka! Bakka!

He will go on to take Saki’s advice on how to dress better, tone down the creepy avoidance behaviour, get a job, and try to hold down a graduated almost- raiju life, all in the forlorn hope…

What he thinks he wants is immaterial. We know what he will change his life for.

The boy only falls for girl heroes.

Best to frame “her” as a “heroic female”, or “the heroic feminine”. We are not talking Beautiful Fighting Girl here. Strong female lead or Heroine might be a bit too vague and/or shaded wrong. For all of my imprecision, she is a fairly conventional character in the many varieties of geek fiction. For geeky guy romantics the lure of the heroic female is almost irresistible; another face of the many ideas of the feminine constructed mostly, again by guys.

When she is created out of female desire, she looks a bit different, but similarities remain:

“Citing traditional European fairy tales such as Cinderella, Snow White,
and Briar Rose, Marilyn Farwell demonstrates the extent to which
Bildungsromane include “the same seemingly natural elements—problem, complication, resolution—that define all narratives and at the same time [trap] the female in a fatalistic apparatus.” Any adventure story dealing with the seemingly innocuous migration from girlhood to adulthood potentially “demands that woman be muted, silenced, and violated when she enters the time-line that forces her into the sexual story. By portraying the female’s adherence to traditional sexual and gendered conduct as proper and correct, such stories funnel women into one of two endings: heterosexual marriage, or death. Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin concludes that in western fairy tales, “There are two definitions of woman.
… The good woman must be possessed. The bad woman must be killed,
or punished. Both must be nullified.” Obedient women who succumb to
the “natural” progression from bashful virgin to sexual object to doting wife and selfless mother are rewarded, while those who disrupt the “order” of these events are met with contempt and disgust. (Women who resist 210 Catherine E. Bailey) dominant social scripts, being labelled sexual or gender “outlaws,” are thus often symbolically represented in adventure stories as monsters, vampires, and other threatening figures of the grotesque.

A more socially just narrative formula, then, would eliminate the conflict between a character’s status as a “nontraditional” woman and her status as a hero, which both Sailor Moon and Utena do.
[…]
From the very start, Utena is introduced as a character who
subverts commonly-held cultural assumptions about her sex. Utena
“should” jump at the chance of marrying the noble prince, yet instead of
falling in love with him, as we have been culturally conditioned to expect
her to do, she looks up to him as a role model. As a high school student,
she rebelliously wears a derivative of the male uniform and competes
alongside exclusively male peers in a variety of athletic activities.

She is generally regarded as a tomboy, and another character even affectionately refers to Utena as her “boyfriend.” Most importantly, in the spirit of becoming more “princely” and traditionally heroic, Utena prides herself on looking after the underdogs of the school and frequently intervening on their behalf. Yet it is important to clarify that Utena does not want to “become” a prince in the literal sense of the word. She does not want to relinquish her female body, she is not trying to “pass” as a man, and she resents it when people imply that she is somehow less of a woman simply because of her more performatively masculine behaviours. When she says she wants to become a prince, Utena is referring to her desire to exhibit the qualities her hero reflected: courage, compassion, strength. The “prince” becomes, then, a body of ideas, connoting a heroic agency that is unfixed from gender. Utena contrasts this to the idea of the “princess”—a  passive, helpless, and objectified entity.

Non-freudian approaches, Hero mythology, bildungsroman, and the problem of Euroethnic cultural traditions
http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/colloquy/download/colloquy_issue_twenty-four_/bailey.pdf

 

She’s overboard, she’s self-assured…

Whether pitched at males or females, she has something that both feel they need. The male-purposed heroic female character may look retrograde compared to Utena, but a few things are similar:

Consider the fantasy-world extreme version in the Maoyuu Maou Yuusha franchise: Hero might be the named hero, but he is at best a sidekick. All he does is cartoon fighting. The real hero is the voluptuous Demon Lord. Hero is doomed to fall for her, if not by her buxom charms, then by her fierce determination to bring peace to the world and if not by this project, then by blinding him with science, or 2 hour lectures on agriculture and economics. She will save the world for demons and humans, end famine, disease, serfdom and ignorance and she will get her guy, Dammit! I wonder if any of the Lord Kalvan series even made it over to Japan in translation? No matter, she is a better iteration of the character type than he could ever be. While she goes about sowing the seeds of an other-world renaissance, her Hero will knock heads as directed. He might even finally figure out that she was sweet on him. Whew! lotsa work being a heroic female.

The pont is that both Utena and the Demon Lord require and attract followers to their character and their project.

Mada could never see himself as the hero; but as a sidekick? Sure thing! He could imagine himself as able to do a slightly stumbling Rock Okajima if he could only find a Revy from Black Lagoon. Call him her “Knight” or some such other cheat, a hot girl hero needs a nebbish side-kick who can reload her spent clips while he grows a backbone.

In the end there is no such thing as leadership…

Heroes, especially the female kind attract allegiance, friendship and love: it doesn’t matter if it is unrequited. They burn so damn bright. It is pure charisma, the fires of which are usually stoked by the sheer desire to act with purposeful agency to create her reality. You see her pop up in plenty of shonen “girl with super powers/ alien powers” works, and from the start in yuri-ish works. Both shy boys and shy girls can crush on girl heroes. And even the boy hero is weak in the knees before a girl hero. She can even be a bit psychotic…

And now for my next trick..

A Genshiken girl-hero doesn’t have to be a super-powered action hero or keter-class reality shifter to be desirable, but she does need a few hero-like characteristics:

Her personality is shaped by her determination and agency in pursuit of a goal or project.

She has to suffer inner conflict about the price she has paid and remains willing to pay for pursuing it.

She displays an internal “moral” code.

Her past and present tribulations dispose her towards concern and empathy towards people, at least towards the members of her “band”.

Her flaws make her human, require struggle and personal growth to overcome and give the sidekick something to fuss over.

Ok, girl hero is heroic, so why pine for her?

When you become the secretly crushed-out sidekick to hero girl, you get motivated to become better, so as to support and be worthy of her. You become able to change yourself.

Don't worry dude, it'll work out..

So what if this sounds “beta as all fuck“; it is a primary and fundamentally social act in comparison to the solitary, sociopathic traits of the self-proclaimed objectivist alpha (one would think that if they are so alpha, they should just STFU and enjoy it). Often it provides the motivation for the sidekick to (re-) join a larger community. At the very least, heroes are interesting to hang out with.

Mada’s fantasy Saki is of course both more and less than the real Saki, but even the comfortably self-sufficient Kousaka would admit that “his” Saki compels him to be a better human being. Without Saki, Kousaka would be a mutant genius freak and would eventually fall prey to some manner of excess.

Mada wants!

Unfortunately, the current Genshiken is bereft of any spares. They seem to be all paired off already. Besides Saki, Ogiue can muster a good show of heroism, but she has made her choice. Ohno has her heroic moments, it takes single-minded courage to pursue her hobby -which when you get right down to it, is dressing up as girl heroes. I am sure that Tanaka-san considers her his hero.

I wonder how Hato looked at Kaminaga back in high school. Bad example. Hero fail. I have always suspected that more happened to Hato after he was outed than he has shared. I am sure that Shimoku sensei will provide us with a few more nasty flashbacks as needed, but Hato’s looking for a sempai habit must play no small part in his Mada fixation.

Why we have not been treated to a warming his hero’s sandals with his body gag yet is perplexing to me.

Between Keiko, Yajima, Rika, Risa and Sue we have very little hero material. Each could become “heroic”, but currently have no reason to try. They are all too busy just trying to figure their current lives and identities out . Hato, as kun or chan could become heroic: some would argue that his acceptance of the desires manifested by his Stands, and his crossdressing to become fujoshi are heroic enough, but so far he is his own greatest follower. It is getting a bit lonely now that the Stands are off on a bus tour.

His strong desire to “blend in”, to become-fujoshi (and in his mind fujoshi is an egalitarian community of exchange) keeps him from acting out and or acting out. Even his prodigious drawing abilities are hobbled by the need to fit in. The shock that Yajima feels when she hears that he must crossdress to draw properly is defused by his inability to control his talent. The steamy yaoi clench scenes that he can only produce are the perfect exchange gift to the rotten girl social, but his second biggest gift is needing their help to integrate these into a larger narrative structure. And Hato x Mada x Hato is supposed to be the third gift…

I’m worse at what I do best…

Hato has decided that along with being-fujoshi, what he-as-she wants is a steamy BL-ish otokonoko fusion cooking romance with Mada. To this end she becomes Nadeshiko no Genshiken. Mada when confronted by Hato’s hyper compliant femininity can bounce back and forth between obliviousness, creep fugue state and “ooops- I forgot you’re a guy”, and “I was only making a trope reference joke, but I’m still embarrassed”. “Noooooo… I’m more embarrassed…” replies Hato. Rinse and repeat.

Is this some new form of manzai?

Mada has already gone for a pantsu peek! It no longer matters that Hato is a crossdressing male, or whether or not Mada could accept him – Mada can upskirt, creep out, bring out the cat ears, drop harem lines ironically and live up to his part as an ill-socialised otaku over-responding to female-ish attention, but he won’t change his life for anyone less than a hero and neither Hato-chan or Hato-kun is one.

Hato is doing it wrong; pushing Mada to play “the prince” to Nadeshiko no Genshiken is too much, so the more perfectly hime s/he becomes, the more Mada will be overwhelmed by what he imagines should be the only response available to him. Mada will shy away and try to prove himself wrong for the part. No homophobia or transphobia need rear its ugly head.

And comedy of fail is maintained.

It is almost as if Genshiken is borrowing from the Yankee Girlfriend genre, at least for the parts when the atypical female tries to get feminine for her guy: even if she doesn’t screw up the hand-made valentines day chocolates, the boy is shocked at her out-of-character behaviour.

Can Hato drop the hime act become a fudanshi/fujoshi hero? How to do it? He or she needs to start doing something again, as in secondary production; drawing, creating again or he becomes a pitiable figure. If he is only defined by his sexuality/ gender performative-ness then he no more than a presenter of that sexuality/ gender. This is heroic enough during the consciousness-raising phase of the public politics of sexuality and gender, but is wearisome during subsequent phases which strive for recognition, rights, respect and equal treatment.

You have to be good at something else too otherwise you get to be a crossdressing trans* fudanshi neet. Then you hiki-out up in your dingy apartment day and night and wait until you get to star in a remake of Welcome to the NHK.

Of course this places an unfair burden on the individual member of a sexual minority group, but society is a work-in-progress, with the operative emphasis on work. The two gay guys and the one lesbian I knew back in my University days, who were drafted into “spokesperson” roles all had occasion to roll their eyes at the extra work they got stuck with, but they never gave up on their passions for their art, their journalism, their sports, their music, etc. They were fun, interesting people to work with. Perhaps I show my age here…

Best to make the best of all of your talents. Pity the Genshiken seems to require melodramatic foolhardiness and defenestrations before redemption:

Hato, standing in front of the Manken club window, exasperated and waving his wig at its members:

“You lazy cowards all of you.
You got the most in you, and you use the least.
You hear me, you?

Got a million in you and spend pennies.
Got a genius in you and think crazies.
Got a heart in you and feel empties.
All of you.
Every one of you…

Take a war to make you spend.
Take a jam to make you think.
Take a challenge to make you great.
Rest of the time you sit around lazy,
You. Pigs, You!

All right, God damn you! I challenge you,

Me!
Hato Kejiro!
Cross-dressing girly-boy fudanshi BL dojin artist!

Rot or live your dreams!
Come and find me and I make you dojinshi-creating heroes.
I make you great…

I give you a wall table at Comiket !!!

That would be overdoing it even for the Genshiken…

I feel stupid and contagious…

Perhaps if he joined Ogiue, in a public large-format drawing demonstration at the next cultural festival and drew something work-safe but rotten… That would be a start. Sue should join in too, I’m sure she can draw; she can do everything else.

Then he could stop acting like a doormat shojou character and start acting more like a self-possessed adult: male, female, or a personal best of both. A crush on Mada is an odd first step for him to get him out of his own head, but he needs to go a lot further. He should think long and hard about that perfect imaginary sempai he wanted (definitely not Kaminaga!) and try dressing as that. Something might rub off on him.

Would a heroic Hato-chan or kun be more appealing to Madarame? At least it would make both variants a better friend. The Nidaime anime did have Hato asking Madarame to contribute to Mebaetame. Something has got to draw Mada out of his slump. And Genshiken might be one of the few manga out there that could get away with a respected serious, hero-in-daily-life otokonoko hybrid character. Usually you wouldn’t expect the two genres to mix well. The minute the otokonoko stops being seductive, s/he is usually deployed for comic relief.

Oh Heck, I wanted to drop this in somewhere..

The other possibility is that Hato is planning a double campaign, and that after a round of harem trope fun he will drop in on Mada in guy-format and act slightly sheepish for overdoing the femme stuff. “Sorry I got carried away, I wanted to do something special to make up for all the trouble I caused you with Angela and the sou-uke thing and the broken wrist. I’m an idiot, whatever… sorry ‘Bro. Did I turn gay? I don’t really know? Guess I read too much BL, but it never made me do anything like this before. If you are uncomfortable with it, I’ll stop it…” Yadda yadda yadda…

That would be sneaky… And/ or a real ass-backwards way of learning how to navigate male friendship.

Meanwhile, I swear that Sue is looking like she is looking closer and closer at Hato. (Ok, I am hobby-horsing here…) Of note is that she does not appear to distinguish between kun and chan; she interacts with the entire Hato, to the extent that her trademark stare seems to tunnel into the core of his being. What is holding her back, besides fangirling over any potential Hato x Mada x Hato is a respect and a tender concern for his silly dreams and for both his and Mada’s fragile mental stability. Or perhaps she views the unfolding Hato pursuit of Madarame like a slow-motion train wreck. She may prod and poke at Hato for over-girly-girly-ing, but she really likes the soup! If she was competing against him for Mada’s attention she would be doing more. She might make a complete fool out of herself in the process, but the fact remains that she is hanging back, waiting to see what happens. Something is off with this harem.

Or something else is going on: With all the yuri teasing that Kio Shimoku has been dropping onto Sue, could she be watching, pining away as the girly-boy of her dreams dotes on an inappropriate guy? Heartbreaking! Nawwww… Sue too cool for that… But if she likes the soup, she should demand cooking lessons.

If circumstances force Sue into doing something heroic we are more likely to get one smitten Mada and a full circular triangle; field strength %98 and holding.. We need a crisis, something that threatens the entire Genshiken. Saki was able to “save” the Genshiken from the stuco last time, Could a V.2 Sue do the same?

Hero or not, Sue will not glomp onto Mada. Sue already has a more or less platonic hero fixation with Ogiue, and what Ogiue represents to her cannot be found (yet) in anyone else. Neither Mada or Hato can claim to have gone from shameful abject yaoi fiend to successful circle leader, dojin artist and semi-pro mangaka who won over the boy she once shipped, and who supports and protects her kouhais (– heh! Wait a second! Could Hato also be stuck in a loop of Ogiue worship ???) If Sue becomes heroic, she will do so in emulation of Ogiue and the needle of Hato’s heart will swing to her as to a lodestone. Madarame can’t do that. Then again if Hato becomes Ogiue-ish heroic, Sue would fixate on the new Hato. They would make one heck of a mutual admiration society.

We have too many Sancho Panzas! Someone has to be Quixote!

Once again the question arises: who and how is Sue shipping? Does she secretly draw? Is she writing fan-fiction, perhaps on english-language rotten-girl blog sites? What, beyond cosplay is her secondary fan production? If she is to emulate her hero, she must make something of her desires.

If Sue ascends to heroic mode then Kio Shimoku can bump Hato over from otokonoko to one of the more conventional variants of the crossdressing genre: desire to get close to the girl hero who is surrounded by an isolationist female social. That is going to take a bit of leveling-up as well

What of Keiko?

Keiko will never be the girl hero: within the strange fantasy-verse of the Genshiken dating sim, she is always going to be the temptress. She lives at the edges of the floating world, not the fan world. She would get Mada “dirty”, drain his funds, play with him and then slap him down. He might give it a try, but more likely he will avoid her like rat poison. He can talk to her, but only because he is in opponent mode. It all reminds me of polite Edwardian Anglican theology-talk that referred to Satan as The Adversary. Keiko would also turn up her nose at any real-life harem scene; she would get itchy after one minute of Hato’s dinner party at Mada’s apartment. She might play against the girls at the bath resort, but she won’t play harem with Madarame. She might be as raiju as Saki, but she lacks the spark that would make Madarame crush on her and she realizes it. For this reason alone, his stupid, doomed otaku romanticism annoys her to no end. In the mirror of his eyes, she would always be less than what he desired and that is unforgivable.

This is one of the small hidden tragedies of the Genshiken, because Keiko X Mada would probably straighten her out as she cleaned up Madarame. Unfortunately both would have to get real and the Genshiken is all about finding a way to avoid getting real, abandoning your dreams, desires and odd hobbies and graduating on to grey raiju drone-hood. Keiko represents the ultimate bad ending. Keiko x Mada would buy how-to-be-normal books and religiously follow them. Keiko x Mada would stop going to comiket.

What of the rest of the Genshiken girls?

Yajima has backbone, but needs another year before she would ever try something as dangerous as taking her own desires seriously,crushing seriously on Hato or assuming a leadership role. That Hato-kun can even draw a tiny spark from her is gift enough. With a bit of time however she will grow to be a formidable person. How long is Kio Shimoku planning to do the Genshiken?

Rika remains a cypher. She is more of a Peter Pan character than even Sue. Aside from her Reki-jo taste for historical BL fantasies and her thirst for booze she is as paper-thin as a shikigami, though her meddlesome antics mask this.

Angela could fit the heroic female role, but currently she is just a happy wandering Amazon. She is remarkably free of heroic angst. She doesn’t have any humanizing weaknesses. She is a tourist; Zeetha, the warrior princess, not Agatha Hetrodyne. Because she needs to display some weakness, her assumption that Sue is after Mada leads me to further discount Sue x Mada. After all, even Saki could flub an insight now and then. If she were ever to tone down the ZOMG and just communicate with Madarame she would own him in a day. Has Ohno not provided the fine details about Mada’s crush on Saki? Perhaps it is because she has never met Saki that she cannot figure Mada out. Cosplay a reluctantly sympathetic raiju woman up-with-putting to win an otaku boyfriend? No problem! Or does she have to unearth and do a quick study on Unbalance to become Chairman-ish?

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

Ritsuko Kübel Kettenkrad-sama watches over us

The big question remains: how much Madarame does she desire? Mada is an old-fashioned boy, he needs to be courted, or at least given the illusion of doing some courting. He would need to fall in love. She would have to demonstrate that she was willing to take responsibility.

Language need not be an impediment forever. Someone give her Mada’s email address. Google translate romance! Now that Shimoku-sensei has slipped in smartphones there’s an app for that. Even before this, cell phones in Japan could access live translation services for moderate charges, she did not have to rely on Ohno. Crossing vast distances to pursue your dreams is inherently heroic too. Sue got better at Japanese, Angela can as well. Long distance romances can strain the heart, but they can be wonderful. [1]

My bets are Sue x Hato, with Hato the rising fudanshi BL dojin star protegé of Ogiue and the next Genshiken president; Angela x Mada in a long distance relationship with Yajima and Rika as amused chorus watching the fun.

And then we would have room for some new characters.

Now I will wait a few months for Kio Shimoku to up-end this.

 

[1] Works for me, Ditto on the other thing too. 

Everything that rises must converge

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

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

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

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

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

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

Set the Way-back Sherman…

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

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

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

otokonoko argument on 4chn web600

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

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

or per TV tropes:

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

You sure ’bout that?

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

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

Depsair  broken scanlate fail c8p13 web600

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

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

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

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

Don’t call me daughter…

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

Job confronts_fudanshismch2.11 web600

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Confederacy of Dunces…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston we have double box-office!

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

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

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

Welcome to the desert of the real

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

Sin+Copyright fujoshi_rumi c47p66 web600

Or both.
And of course there will be consequences…

 

 

Genshiken ch 95-97 … as a symptom of man

Or rather she exists, but as a “symptom of man” created for his ontological consistency” – Slavoj Žižek (1)

Drag 'em to the transporter, Spock!

Drag ’em to the transporter, Spock!

 

Hooray! Chapters 95 through 97 are finally available to us illiterate leeches and the wait was well worth it. Running various other efforts through Google xlate left giant holes in the story line, and posted synopses omitted the fine details – I assume out of a wish not to spoil our eventual enjoyment of the full version. Such a feast of goings on! Where to start?

— Warning! many theory-ish digressions and block-quotes ahead!
Proceed at your own risk! (The first section is just me fanning out on the aforementioned chapters, then the theory hits the impeller and things get odd! Give it a try if you are in the mood for some light reading…) Continue reading